Traditional approaches to referring expression generation (REG) have taken as a fundamental requirement the need to distinguish the intended referent from other entities in the context. It seems obvious that this should be a necessary condition for successful reference; but we suggest that a number of recent investigations cast doubt on the significance of this aspect of reference. In the present paper, we look at the role of visual context in determining the content of a referring expression, and come to the conclusion that, at least in the referential scenarios underlying our data, visual context appears not to be a major factor in content determination for reference. We discuss the implications of this surprising finding.
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