In linguistics, cataphora (//; from Greek, καταφορά, kataphora, “a downward motion” from κατά, kata, “downwards” and φέρω, pherō, “I carry”) is used to first insert an expression or word that co-refers with a later expression in the discourse. An example of strict, sentence-internal cataphora in English is the following sentence:
- When he arrived home, John went to sleep.
In this sentence, the pronoun he (the anaphor) appears earlier than the noun John (the postcedent) that it refers to, the reverse of the normal pattern (anaphora), where a referring expression such as John or the soldier appears before any pronouns that reference it. Both cataphora and anaphora are types of endophora. As a general rule, cataphora is much less frequent cross-linguistically than anaphora.
Other examples of the same type of cataphora are:
- If you want some, here's some parmesan cheese.
- After he had received his orders, the soldier left the barracks.
- If you want them, there are cookies in the kitchen.
Cataphora across sentences is often used for rhetorical effect. It can build suspense and provide a description. For example:
- He's the biggest slob I know. He's really stupid. He's so cruel. He's my boyfriend Nick.
The examples of cataphora described so far are strict cataphora, because the anaphor is an actual pronoun. Strict within-sentence cataphora is highly restricted in the sorts of structures it can appear within, generally restricted to a preceding subordinate clause. More generally, however, any fairly general noun phrase can be considered an anaphor when it co-refers with a more specific noun phrase (i.e. both refer to the same entity), and if the more general noun phrase comes first, it can be considered an example of cataphora. Non-strict cataphora of this sort can occur in many contexts, for example:
- A little girl, Jessica, was playing on the swings.
('The anaphor a little girl co-refers with Jessica.)
- Finding the right gadget was a real hassle. I finally settled with a digital camera.
(The anaphor the right gadget co-refers with a digital camera.)
Strict cross-sentence cataphora where the antecedent is an entire sentence is fairly common cross-linguistically:
- I should have known it: The task is simply too difficult.
- Ich hätte es wissen müssen: Die Aufgabe ist einfach zu schwer. (Same as previous sentence, in German.)
Cataphora of this sort is particularly common in formal contexts, using an anaphoric expression such as this or the following:
- This is what I believe: that all men were created equal.
- After squaring both sides, we arrive at the following: .
- Joan Cutting (2002). Pragmatics and Discourse: A Resource Book for Students : A, B, C, D. Routledge. pp. 10–. ISBN 978-0-415-25357-4. Retrieved 19 May 2013.