An ELT Glossary : Anaphoric, Cataphoric and Exophoric Reference

Anaphoric reference : An item in the text forms a cohesive link with another item which has already occurred - ie it refers back to and replaces that item, thus avoiding the need for repetition. Eg: a) in  I bought a new car yesterday. It was a real bargain. "It" refers back to/replaces  "a new car"; b) in Did you see the book which I left for you? "which" refers back to/replaces "the book"

Cataphoric reference : An item in the text forms a cohesive link with another item which occurs later - ie it refers forward to and replaces that item. Eg : given that the following is the beginning of the text - I walked around the corner and stopped dead.  It was the biggest dog I'd ever seen. - then "It" refers forward to/replaces "the dog".

Exophoric reference : An item in the text refers to something completely outside the text but understandable from the context. Eg  Can you give me those books. NB: Exophoric reference is not a matter of cohesion, as the referring item links to something outside the text.

Anaphoric and cataphoric reference can be practised in the classroom by gapping a text and taking out all of the referring items, then asking the students to replace them.

See also :  deixis, reference and substitution  

Further Reading 

McCarthy, M, Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers CUP


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