Darbhe Narayana Shankara Bhat

Published in print November 2007 | ISBN: 9780199230242
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191710124 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Typology and Linguistic Theory


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On the basis of a cross-linguistic study of about 350 languages, this book brings to light several fascinating characteristics of pronouns. It shows that the word ‘pronoun’ represents two kinds of words, called ‘personal pronouns’ and ‘proforms’, with distinct characteristics that derive from their having distinct functions. Personal pronouns denote speech roles (the speaker and the addressee) and have to function as shifters. Because of this, they need to be dissociated from their referents; they do not take any modifiers and complements whose function is to identify referents; their use involves ambiguity between different sets of speech roles, whose disambiguation needs special markers (logophors) for denoting non-coreference rather than coreference; and they take number markers for denoting conjunction rather than plurality, and gender markers for denoting social distinctions rather than the identity of referents. Proforms, on the other hand, have to function as general terms that belong to different categories like nouns, adjectives, adverbs or verbs, and therefore, they differ from personal pronouns on all these points. They also differ in having two constituent elements, namely a general term and a pronominal element. The book also points out that the notion of indefiniteness that is associated with proforms is quite different from the one that is associated with noun phrases. It shows how this differentiation is helpful in understanding the relation between indefinite and interrogative proforms.

Keywords: cross-linguistic study; personal pronoun; proform; speech role; referent; coreference; number; gender; general term; category

Book.  336 pages. 

Subjects: Semantics

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