In linguistics, cataphora (//; from Greek, καταφορά, kataphora, "a downward motion" from κατά, kata, "downwards" and φέρω, pherō, "I carry") is the use of an expression or word that co-refers with a later, more specific, expression in the discourse. The preceding expression, whose meaning is determined or specified by the later expression, may be called a cataphor. Cataphora is a type of anaphora, although the terms anaphora and anaphor are sometimes used in a stricter sense, denoting only cases where the order of the expressions is the reverse of that found in cataphora.
An example of cataphora in English is the following sentence:
In this sentence, the pronoun he (the cataphor) appears earlier than the noun John (the postcedent) that it refers to. This is the reverse of the more normal pattern, "strict" 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.
Other examples of the same type of cataphora are:
Cataphora across sentences is often used for rhetorical effect. It can build suspense and provide a description. For example:
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:
(The anaphor a little girl co-refers with Jessica.)
(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:
Cataphora of this sort is particularly common in formal contexts, using an anaphoric expression such as this or the following: