The standard preference ordering on the well-known centering transitions Continue, Retain, Shift is argued to be unmotivated: a partial, context-dependent ordering emerges from the interaction between principles dubbed cohesion (maintaining the same center of attention) and salience (realizing the center of attention as the most prominent NP). A new formulation of Rule 2 of centering theory is proposed that incorporates these principles as well as a streamlined version of Strube and Hahn's (1999) notion of cheapness. It is argued that this formulation provides a natural way to handle “topic switches” that appear to violate the canonical preference ordering.

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