[PS-2.77] The processing of anaphoric and cataphoric explanations in popular science texts

Silveira, M. & Konieczny, L.

Center for Cognitive Science, Friedrichstr.50, 79098 Freiburg, Germany

Popular science texts contain many technical terms that need to be explained. The following study investigates the influence the order of term and explanation has concerning the processing and associated potential difficulties.

Previous research focuses mainly on the handling of technical terms generally or investigates the appearance of technical terms in specific disciplines qualitatively. They do not take into account the interaction between terms and explanations.

We used 16 German popular science texts taken from the PopSci Corpus. They contain linguistic annotations (POS, dependency structures, rhetorical structures) and the results of a comprehensibility rating. In addition, the corpus contains extensive eye tracking data that was collected from 65 participants.

In order to investigate the question of processing differences between anaphoric explanations (that follow the terms) and cataphoric explanations (preceding the terms), 41 technical terms and their related explanations were annotated (21 anaphoric and 20 cataphoric).

The linear mixed models analysis of the eyetracking data shows that cataphoric explanations compared to anaphoric explanations of technical terms lead to higher gaze durations suggesting processing difficulties across the whole text.