According to the definition I read on anaphors, it is an expression, which refers back to a word. As examples what this anaphoras can be I was given a pronoun and adverb:

Anaphor realized by a pronoun:

Teresa caressed the dying tree, her well formed lips were about to kiss it good-bye

Anaphor realized by an adverb:

Chris avoided to hug her, in doing so he made sure there will be nothing left of him once the memories were gone.

How about other realizations? Are there any? Could a whole sentence be an anaphor, if not, why not?

  • 3
    A little technical correction: anaphora is the fact or state of referring, and the term which refers is an anaphor. Relatives, demonstratives, reflexives, reciprocals, and some fused-head determinatives are also anaphors. Sentences may be the referents (antecedents) of anaphors. Mar 20, 2017 at 19:41
  • 2
    Lakoff's anaphoric hierarchy listed, in decreasing order, the following anaphor types: proper names, definite descriptions, epithets, and pronouns. Any anaphor of one type may refer to an antecedent of a higher type. So pronouns can refer to anything, epithets (the bastard) to definite descriptions or proper names, and d. desc to p. names only. At the bottom, after pronouns, is Zero, of course, which is the most common anaphor in many languages.
    – jlawler
    Mar 20, 2017 at 21:05
  • So an anaphors could form a chain, anaphor1 refers back to an expression, this expression is anaphor2 to another expression and so forth as long each anaphor points to an expression within a higher rank? Mar 21, 2017 at 11:15
  • 1
    Higher or same. Pronouns can be repeated indefinitely, for instance, and usually are.
    – jlawler
    Mar 22, 2017 at 16:38

1 Answer 1


Note that there are 2 ways of defining anaphors; the narrower definition you're using refers back to an antecedent; the broader definition includes cataphors, which refer forward to a later word or phrase, and exophors, which refer to something outside of the text (e.g. when you point and say "There it is!", "it" is an exophor).

Anaphors can include:

  • Pronouns (he, she, her, it, this, etc., as in your example)
  • Adverbs (like "so", as in your example)
  • Nouns (like "thing", "place", etc., or any kind of hypernym):

    The rat crawled up Martha's leg. She cried out when she saw the creature.

  • Verbs (like "do"):

    "I can play this song pretty well, but Sam does it better."

  • Phrases:

    [After long explanation of a method] "This way of doing things is unnecessarily complicated. Let's look at an easier method."

  • So, the phrase level is the limit, there is no way a clause could serve as an anaphor? Mar 21, 2017 at 12:48
  • I don't see why it shouldn't. Just have to think of an example.
    – gaeguri
    Mar 21, 2017 at 13:04

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