A commonsensical guide to commonsense reasoning in pronoun resolution problems

Consider this example – John banged his head on the rock. It started bleeding.

Here, I attempt to provide a commonsensical guide to the pertinent commonsense-processing (and of the data as a whole), as against a logical one. There is clearly a logical way of deciphering the pronoun – it is a pronoun; stands for noun; 2 nouns – head or rock; rocks cannot bleed; so head. Here is a more commonsensical account of the deciphering, taking into consideration that the mind is already impacted at the end of having consumed the first sentence and has a partial expectant idea of what is about to come, rather than just plain hear the 2 sentences, be absolutely clueless about the ‘it’ and then follow the logical path mentioned above, purely backwards. 

“Started” => wasn’t bleeding before => change of state

Change of state of whose? What’s been affected? If you bang your head on a rock, will your head be affected or the rock? Commonsense says – head. 

(Here, in fact the rock is also affected – it gets “blood-wetted”. So in a certain very loose sense, it can also be said that the rock started bleeding.

This possibility comes in, in the above guided reasoning-module at the stage of asking what is affected (head or rock?), to which one may also say that the rock is also “affected”). 

This module provides a commonsensical explanation for even those pronoun resolution cases which are not clear cut “black or white” cases like the purely commonsensical ones like the one above, but are like the one below – 

Bill pushed John. He fell down.

“fell down” => entity was upright before.

So there is a change of state.

Whose has changed? What’s been affected? The one who is pushed or the one who is pushing? One who is pushed is, obviously, mostly affected.


The reason I use the phrase ‘black or white cases’ is because in the head and rock case, rocks just can’t bleed – brute commonsense. But in the case of Bill having pushed John, there is the more unusual a (logical) possibility of the person pushing falling down (for various possible reasons).

If you insert a pin in a carrot there will be a hole in it. (Black and white case)

The elephant stepped on the dog. It died. (Grey case).

……..

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