Cataphor – What it is, function, examples and differences with anaphora

We explain what the cataphor is in linguistics, its function in a text and various examples. Also, differences with an anaphora.

The cataphor is a mechanism to give cohesion to the text.

What is the cataphor?

In linguistics, it is called a cataphor or cataphoric reference to the anticipation of an idea or a sentence element that, later, will appear or it will unfold in its fullness.

It is often considered as a type of deixis (that is, the use of language to indicate something), and it is usually studied together with the anaphora or anaphoric reference, which consists of a similar relationship, but with an antecedent, that is, something said previously. Together, cataphora and anaphora, constitute mechanisms to provide cohesion to the text.

The term cataphor comes from the Greek voices kata (“Down”) and pherein (“Carry”), and is commonly used in textual linguistics studies. They can occur in the text from different types of words: pronouns, adverbs, or even sets of them, both in written and oral language, and in both formal and informal.

Differences between cataphor and anaphora

To recognize the cataphor or the anaphora, it is enough to look at where they ask us to look for the missing information: if it promises us that the information will come later, it is a cataphor; while If the information must be rescued from what has been said previously, we are facing an anaphora.

For example: in the sentence “Maria did not do her homework and therefore that He did not want to come “, the pronoun” that “refers to everything previously said, that is, to the fact that” Mary did not do the homework “, which was said at the beginning of the sentence. So this is an anaphoric reference.

Instead, in the sentence “That night I did two friends, which are Pedro and Martín ”, the noun phrase“ two friends ”gives us information that will be clarified or developed later, since we will know who the two friends are towards the end of the sentence.

Examples of cataphora

Here are some examples of cataphoric reference in a sentence:

  • You I told my father that I couldn’t help him ”.
    (the pronoun “him” anticipates the arrival of the noun phrase “my father”)
  • “On that table there are New customers, a family with twin children ”.
    (the phrase “new customers” refers to what follows in the sentence)
  • “Borges was introduced to me twice: one at home and one at a theater ”.
    (the phrase “twice” introduces or prepares the arrival of the information that follows)
  • “Stand up there, next to the statue ”.
    (the pronoun “there” advances the location “next to the statue”)
  • “I like that we are So, totally alone ”.
    (the pronoun “thus” anticipates the way the speaker likes to be)
  • “I’m going to give you a book, an anthology of poems ”.
    (The phrase “a book” advances “an anthology of poems” said later)