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Cataphoric Reference

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English

Using a cataphoric reference is a way of pointing forwards in a text to something which appears later. It is common in all kinds of writing.

Cataphoric reference meaning

A cataphoric reference occurs when a word or phrase references a word or a piece of information that will be mentioned later on in the text or discourse. Cataphoric references can be compared to anaphoric references, which are words or phrases that refer back to something that has already been mentioned in a text or other form of discourse.

Whereas anaphoric references use antecedents (a word or phrase that is represented by another word, such as a pronoun), cataphoric references use postcedents.

The ante- in antecedent means 'before' or 'in front of' and the post- in postcedent means 'after'.

Cataphoric Reference Image of an arrow StudySmarterCataphoric references point forwards to words mentioned later on in the text (Pixabay)

Let's take a look at some examples of cataphoric references:

It ran over time. The speech didn't finish until eight.

Here, the pronoun 'it' is being used as a cataphor to refer to 'the speech' which is the postcedent mentioned in the second sentence.

I went to say hello once she arrived. Mary was usually early.

This time, the cataphor is referring to a person. The pronoun 'she' is used to refer to 'Mary'. We can use cataphoric references to refer to people, objects, or other nouns.

What is cataphora?

Cataphora occurs when an expression relies on a later expression in order for the initial statement to make sense.

Cataphora is used to make cataphoric references. These references can be used to:

  • Avoid repetition.
  • Create a sense of mystery.
  • Build anticipation for the information that is going to be revealed (if the cataphor and postcedent expression are further apart).
  • In texts, cataphoric references can be foreboding of future revelations.

How can you identify cataphora?

To determine whether a word or a phrase is an example of a cataphoric reference, we have to decide whether the word or phrase can be understood without the contextual information given later on (the postcedent).

If it can be understood without further context, it is not cataphora, and therefore not a cataphoric reference. If it depends on further context to be understood, then it is cataphora and is an example of a cataphoric reference.

In texts, a cataphoric reference doesn't always have to be a sentence with a cataphor and a postcedent. It can also be an idea foreshadowed early on in the text that is made clearer later in the text.

Cataphoric reference examples

Even though I called him yesterday, Paul didn't answer my questions.

In this cataphoric reference, 'him' is the cataphor that refers to the postcedent expression, 'Paul'. Until we read the second half of the sentence we do not know who the word 'him' is referring to. Once we read the second part of the sentence, it becomes clear and the sentence makes sense.

It doesn't fit. The skirt is too long.

Here, the cataphoric reference is using 'it' as the cataphor to refer to the postcedent expression, 'skirt'. The second sentence informs the listener/reader that the article of clothing that doesn't fit is a skirt.

Cataphoric reference effect

Cataphoric references are typically used to avoid repetition. Below is an example of a sentence without cataphoric reference:

The girl doesn't work, the girl doesn't study, the girl is lazy.

This sentence is full of repetition, if we want to avoid repetition then using a cataphoric reference is a good way to do this.

She doesn't work, she doesn't study, the girl is lazy.

Cataphoric reference is often used to create mystery, but it can also foreshadow events. Cataphoric references don't always contain a cataphor and a postcedent. They can foreshadow something that will be revealed later in the text.

Cataphora linguistic effect

A cataphoric reference can be used for different linguistic effects. Below are a couple of ways that cataphora can be used:

  • Creating suspense and tension for the reader. E.g.:

"I saw him across the room, with a look that could kill. My teacher was always angry if we failed.

  • Rhetorical effect. E.g.:

It's tiny, unnoticeable, and useless. It's my younger sister.

Cataphoric reference vs anaphoric reference

A cataphoric reference is the opposite of an anaphoric reference. An anaphoric reference uses a word/phrase to refer back to an expression already mentioned in the text/discourse.

  • Mary was cold. She put on a coat.

This is an example of an anaphoric reference. 'She' is the anaphor that is used to refer back to the antecedent expression where 'Mary' is mentioned. If this sentence was written as a cataphoric reference we would switch the expressions around.

  • She was cold. Mary put on a coat.

Cataphoric Reference - Key takeaways

  • Cataphoric reference is used when a word or phrase refers to a piece of information mentioned later in the text/discourse.
  • Cataphora is an expression that can only be fully understood by using the context of an expression mentioned later in the text.
  • Cataphoric references use postcedents.
  • You can identify cataphoric references by figuring out whether a word/phrase needs context mentioned in an expression later on to make sense.
  • Cataphora is used to avoid repetition, build mystery, and for other linguistic effects (such as suspense and rhetorical effect).

Cataphoric Reference

A cataphoric reference is when a word/phrase is used to refer to an expression mentioned later on in the text/discourse.

A cataphoric reference can affect language in many different ways. It can have rhetorical effects, be used for suspense and mystery, or used to avoid repetition.

'He had classes all week. Because of this, Mike was very busy.'


Here, ‘he’ is the cataphor that refers to the postcedent expression, ‘Mike’.

Cataphoric references occur when a word/phrase is used to point forwards to a word that will be mentioned later on in the text. Anaphoric references occur when a word/ phrase is used to refer back to a word previously mentioned in the text.

An example of a sentence that uses cataphoric reference is 'Even though I called him yesterday, Paul didn't answer my questions.'


Here, 'him' refers forwards to 'Paul'.

Final Cataphoric Reference Quiz

Question

What is a cataphoric reference?

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Answer

 A cataphoric reference is when a word or phrase references a word/something that will be mentioned later on in the text or discourse.

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Question

How is a cataphoric reference different from an anaphoric reference?

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Answer

A cataphoric reference refers to something mentioned later on in the text, whereas an anaphoric reference refers to something mentioned earlier in the text.

Show question

Question

True or false: A cataphoric reference always contains a cataphor and a postcedent expression.


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Answer

False. In texts, a cataphoric reference can also be in the form of foreshadowing and a revelation later on in the text.

Show question

Question

Which of the following is a linguistic effect created by using cataphoric reference?

  1. Suspense

  2. Reference

  3. Sentimental

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Answer

A, suspense.

Show question

Question

How does cataphoric reference help avoid repetition?


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Answer

Cataphoric reference uses pronouns to refer to nouns mentioned later in the text. This way we can avoid repeating the same words multiple times.

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Question

What is the word used to refer to the expression that the cataphor refers to?


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Answer

Postcedent.

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Question

What does the postcedent expression refer back to?


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Answer

The cataphor.

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Question

How can we use cataphora to create mystery?


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Answer

If a cataphor is being used to refer to something but the reader does not know what that something is, it can create mystery until the point of revelation.

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Question

How are cataphoric expressions used for rhetorical effect?


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Answer

Cataphoric expressions can be used for rhetorical effect as the reader does not know what the cataphor is referring to.

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Question

What does the postcedent expression refer back to?


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Answer

The cataphor.

Show question

Question

Which of the following is not a linguistic effect caused by cataphora?

  1. Rhetorical effect

  2. Suspense

  3. Horror

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Answer

C, Horror.

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Question

True or false: We can use cataphoric references to avoid repetition.


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Answer

True.

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Question

True or false: Cataphoric reference is the same as an anaphoric reference.


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Answer

False, they are opposites. Anaphoric reference is when something refers to a piece of information mentioned earlier in the text.

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Question

True or false: Cataphoric references often contain a cataphor and a postcedent expression.


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Answer

True.

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Question

What is a cataphor?

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Answer

The word that refers to something mentioned later in the text.

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Question

What is a postcedent expression?

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Answer

The expression that explains the cataphoric reference.

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Question

What is a postcedent expression?

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Answer

The expression that explains the cataphoric reference.

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Question

What is a postcedent expression?

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Answer

The expression that explains the cataphoric reference.

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank:


Using a cataphoric reference is a way of pointing _______ in a text.

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Answer

forwards

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Question

What does the 'ante' in 'antecedent' mean?

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Answer

Before


(or in front of)

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Question

What does the 'post' in 'postcedent' mean?

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Answer

After

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Question

Cataphoric references use what?

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Answer

postcedents

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Question

A cataphoric reference cannot be used for rhetorical effect.


True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False

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Question

Fill in the blank:


Cataphoric references are typically used to avoid __________.

Show answer

Answer

repetition

Show question

Question

A cataphoric reference can be used to create ________.

Show answer

Answer

suspense

Show question

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