This paper presents an account of the use of the demonstrative pronoun that based on an analysis of an informal English conversation. Anaphoric that was found to pattern differently from other pronouns in several interesting ways. Anaphoric that differs from it in the animacy of its referents in that most of the referents of that are non-physical objects, such as claims or propositions. Many of the referents of that must be inferred because they have not previously been introduced into the discourse. Furthermore, some of the referents of that are partially cataphoric. The referent is a complex proposition, part of which is present as given or inferable information in the discourse, and part of which appears in the text after the use of that. Some cases of cataphoric that involves a process of reconstruction of the reference of the anaphor in which the speaker revises the identity of the referent of that after its use. It is argued that an adequate account of these features of anaphoric that must take into account both the text itself and the processes by which speakers and hearers produce and interpret anaphors in real time.
Sparks, Randall B.
"What Does that Refer to? Non-Personal Pronoun Anaphora in English Conversational Discourse,"
Colorado Research in Linguistics: Vol. 13.
Available at: https://scholar.colorado.edu/cril/vol13/iss1/8