Pronoun

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Examples
  • I love you.
  • That reminds me of something.
  • He looked at them.
  • Take it or leave it.
  • Who would say such a thing?

In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun (abbreviated PRO) has been theorized to be a word that substitutes for a noun or noun phrase. It is a particular case of a pro-form.

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. It involves analysing language form, language meaning, and language in context. The earliest activities in the documentation and description of language have been attributed to the 6th-century-BC Indian grammarian Pāṇini who wrote a formal description of the Sanskrit language in his Aṣṭādhyāyī.

In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules governing the composition of clauses, phrases and words in a natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules and this field includes phonology, morphology and syntax, often complemented by phonetics, semantics and pragmatics.

Noun part of speech in grammar denoting a figurative or real thing or person

A noun is a word that functions as the name of some specific thing or set of things, such as living creatures, objects, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas. However, noun is not a semantic category, so that it cannot be characterized in terms of its meaning. Thus, actions and states of existence can also be expressed by verbs, qualities by adjectives, and places by adverbs. Linguistically, a noun is a member of a large, open part of speech whose members can occur as the main word in the subject of a clause, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition.

Contents

Pronouns have traditionally been regarded as one of the parts of speech, but some modern theorists would not consider them to form a single class, in view of the variety of functions they perform cross-linguistically. An example of a pronoun is "their", which is both plural and singular. Subtypes include personal and possessive pronouns, reflexive and reciprocal pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, relative and interrogative pronouns, and indefinite pronouns. [1] :1–34 [2]

In traditional grammar, a part of speech is a category of words that have similar grammatical properties. Words that are assigned to the same part of speech generally display similar syntactic behavior—they play similar roles within the grammatical structure of sentences—and sometimes similar morphology in that they undergo inflection for similar properties.

Personal pronouns are pronouns that are associated primarily with a particular grammatical person – first person, second person, or third person. Personal pronouns may also take different forms depending on number, grammatical or natural gender, case, and formality. The term "personal" is used here purely to signify the grammatical sense; personal pronouns are not limited to people and can also refer to animals and objects.

In general linguistics, a reflexive pronoun, sometimes simply called a reflexive, is an anaphoric pronoun that must be coreferential with another nominal within the same clause.

The use of pronouns often involves anaphora, where the meaning of the pronoun is dependent on an antecedent. For example, in the sentence That poor man looks as if he needs a new coat, the antecedent of the pronoun he is dependent on that poor man.

In linguistics, anaphora is the use of an expression whose interpretation depends upon another expression in context. In a narrower sense, anaphora is the use of an expression that depends specifically upon an antecedent expression and thus is contrasted with cataphora, which is the use of an expression that depends upon a postcedent expression. The anaphoric (referring) term is called an anaphor. For example, in the sentence Sally arrived, but nobody saw her, the pronoun her is an anaphor, referring back to the antecedent Sally. In the sentence Before her arrival, nobody saw Sally, the pronoun her refers forward to the postcedent Sally, so her is now a cataphor. Usually, an anaphoric expression is a proform or some other kind of deictic (contextually-dependent) expression. Both anaphora and cataphora are species of endophora, referring to something mentioned elsewhere in a dialog or text.

In grammar, an antecedent is an expression that gives its meaning to a proform. A proform takes its meaning from its antecedent, e.g. "John arrived late because traffic held him up". The pronoun him refers to and takes its meaning from John, so John is the antecedent of him. Proforms usually follow their antecedents, but sometimes they precede them, in which case one is, technically, dealing with postcedents instead of antecedents. The prefix ante- means "before" or "in front of", and post- means "after" or "behind". The term antecedent stems from traditional grammar. The linguistic term that is closely related to antecedent and proform is anaphora. Theories of syntax explore the distinction between antecedents and postcedents in terms of binding.

The adjective associated with pronoun is pronominal. [upper-alpha 1] A pronominal is also a word or phrase that acts as a pronoun. For example, in That's not the one I wanted, the phrase the one (containing the prop-word one) is a pronominal. [3]

Adjective part of speech that describes a noun or pronoun

In linguistics, an adjective is word whose main syntactic role is to modify a noun or noun phrase. Its semantic role is to change information given by the noun.

A prop-word is a word with little or no semantic content used where grammar dictates a certain sentence member, e.g., to provide a "support" on which to hang a modifier. The word most commonly considered as a prop-word in English is one.

Theoretical considerations

In grammar

Pronouns (antōnymía) are listed as one of eight parts of speech in The Art of Grammar , a treatise on Greek grammar attributed to Dionysius Thrax and dating from the 2nd century BC. The pronoun is described there as "a part of speech substitutable for a noun and marked for a person." Pronouns continued to be regarded as a part of speech in Latin grammar (the Latin term being pronomen, from which the English name – through Middle French – ultimately derives), and thus in the European tradition generally.

The Art of Grammar is a treatise on Greek grammar, attributed to Dionysius Thrax, who wrote in the 2nd century BC. It is the first work on grammar in Greek, and also the first concerning a Western language; it sought mainly to help speakers of Koine Greek understand the language of Homer and other great poets of the past.

Dionysius Thrax was a Hellenistic grammarian and a pupil of Aristarchus of Samothrace. He was long considered to be the author of the earliest grammatical text on the Greek language, one that was used as a standard manual for perhaps some 1,500 years, and which was until recently regarded as the groundwork of the entire Western grammatical tradition.

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

In more modern approaches, pronouns are less likely to be considered to be a single word class, because of the many different syntactic roles that they play, as represented by the various different types of pronouns listed in the previous sections. [4]

PronounDeterminer
Possessive oursour freedom
Demonstrativethisthis gentleman
Indefinitesomesome frogs
Negativenoneno information
Interrogativewhichwhich option

In linguistics

Examples of "our" as a determiner or a noun. Our as a pronoun or determiner.png
Examples of "our" as a determiner or a noun.

Linguists in particular have trouble classifying pronouns in a single category, and some do not agree that pronouns substitute nouns or noun categories [1] . Certain types of pronouns are often identical or similar in form to determiners with related meaning; some English examples are given in the table on the right. This observation has led some linguists, such as Paul Postal, to regard pronouns as determiners that have had their following noun or noun phrase deleted. [5] (Such patterning can even be claimed for certain personal pronouns; for example, we and you might be analyzed as determiners in phrases like we Brits and you tennis players.) Other linguists have taken a similar view, uniting pronouns and determiners into a single class, sometimes called "determiner-pronoun", or regarding determiners as a subclass of pronouns or vice versa. The distinction may be considered to be one of subcategorization or valency, rather like the distinction between transitive and intransitive verbs – determiners take a noun phrase complement like transitive verbs do, while pronouns do not. [6] This is consistent with the determiner phrase viewpoint, whereby a determiner, rather than the noun that follows it, is taken to be the head of the phrase. Cross-linguistically, it seems as though pronouns share 3 distinct categories: point of view, person, and number. The breadth of each subcategory however tends to differ among languages. [7]

Binding theory and antecedents

The use of pronouns often involves anaphora, where the meaning of the pronoun is dependent on another referential element. The referent of the pronoun is often the same as that of a preceding (or sometimes following) noun phrase, called the antecedent of the pronoun. The grammatical behavior of certain types of pronouns, and in particular their possible relationship with their antecedents, has been the focus of studies in binding, notably in the Chomskyan government and binding theory. In this binding context, reflexive and reciprocal pronouns in English (such as himself and each other) are referred to as anaphors (in a specialized restricted sense) rather than as pronominal elements. Under binding theory, specific principles apply to different sets of pronouns.

Example reflexive structure. Since "himself" is immediately dominated by "John", Principle A is satisfied. Reflexive.png
Example reflexive structure. Since "himself" is immediately dominated by "John", Principle A is satisfied.

In English, reflexive and reciprocal pronouns must adhere to Principle A: an anaphor (reflexive or reciprocal, such as "each other") must be bound in its governing category (roughly, the clause). Therefore in syntactic structure it must be lower in structure (it must have an antecedant) and have a direct relationship with its referent. This is called a C-command relationship. For instance, we see that John cut himself is grammatical, but Himself cut John is not, despite having identical arguments, since himself, the reflexive, must be lower in structure to John, its referent. Additionally, we see examples like John said that Mary cut himself are not grammatical because there is a intermediary noun, Mary, that disallows the two referents from having a direct relationship.

Example pronoun structure. Since "him" is immediately dominated by "John", Principle B is violated. Pronoun.png
Example pronoun structure. Since "him" is immediately dominated by "John", Principle B is violated.

On the other hand, personal pronouns (such as him or them) must adhere to Principle B: a pronoun must be free (i.e., not bound) within its governing category (roughly, the clause). This means that although the pronouns can have a referent, they cannot have a direct relationship with the referent where the referent selects the pronoun. For instance, John said Mary cut him is grammatical because the two co-referents, John and him are separated structurally by Mary. This is why a sentence like John cut him where him refers to John is ungrammatical.

Binding cross-linguistically

It is important to note however that the type of binding that applies to subsets of pronouns varies cross linguistically. For instance, in German linguistics, pronouns can be split into two distinct categories — personal pronouns and d-pronouns. Although personal pronouns act identically to that of English personal pronouns (i.e. follow Principle A), d-pronouns follow yet another principle, Principle C, and function similarly to nouns in that they cannot have a direct relationship to an antecedent. [7]

Antecedents

The following sentences give examples of particular types of pronouns used with antecedents:

  • Third-person personal pronouns:
    • That poor man looks as if he needs a new coat. (the noun phrase that poor man is the antecedent of he)
    • Julia arrived yesterday. I met her at the station. (Julia is the antecedent of her)
    • When they saw us, the lions began roaring (the lions is the antecedent of they; as it comes after the pronoun it may be called a postcedent)
  • Other personal pronouns in some circumstances:
    • Terry and I were hoping no-one would find us. (Terry and I is the antecedent of us)
    • You and Alice can come if you like. (you and Alice is the antecedent of the second – plural – you)
  • Reflexive and reciprocal pronouns:
    • Jack hurt himself. (Jack is the antecedent of himself)
    • We were teasing each other. (we is the antecedent of each other)
  • Relative pronouns:
    • The woman who looked at you is my sister. (the woman is the antecedent of who)

Some other types, such as indefinite pronouns, are usually used without antecedents. Relative pronouns are used without antecedents in free relative clauses. Even third-person personal pronouns are sometimes used without antecedents ("unprecursed") – this applies to special uses such as dummy pronouns and generic they, as well as cases where the referent is implied by the context.

Inventory of English pronouns

The table below lists English pronouns across a number of different syntactic contexts (Subject, Object, Possessive, Reflexive) according to the following features:

Personal pronouns in standard Modern English
PersonNumber/Gender Subject Object Dependent possessive (determiner) Independent possessive Reflexive
FirstSingular I memyminemyself
Plural we usouroursourselves
SecondSingular you youryoursyourself
Pluralyourselves
ThirdMasculine he himhishimself
Feminine she herhersherself
Neuter it its-itself
Epicene/Plural they themtheirtheirsthemself / themselves

In addition to the personal pronouns exemplified in the above table, English ask has other pronoun types, including demonstrative, relative, indefinite, and interrogative pronouns, as listed in the following table. For more detailed discussion, see the following subsections.

DemonstrativeRelativeIndefiniteInterrogative
thiswho / whom / whoseone / one's / oneselfwho / whom / whose
thesewhatsomething / anything / nothing (things)what
thatwhichsomeone / anyone / no one (people)which
thosethatsomebody / anybody / nobody (people)
former / latter


Personal and possessive

Personal

English personal pronouns [2] :52
PersonNumberCase
SubjectObject
FirstSingularIme
Pluralweus
SecondSingularyou
Plural
ThirdSingularhehim
sheher
it
Pluraltheythem

Personal pronouns may be classified by person, number, gender and case. English has three persons (first, second and third) and two numbers (singular and plural); in the third person singular there are also distinct pronoun forms for male, female and neuter gender. [2] :52–53 Principal forms are shown in the adjacent table (see also English personal pronouns).

English personal pronouns have two cases, subject and object. Subject pronouns are used in subject position (I like to eat chips, but she does not). Object pronouns are used for the object of a verb or preposition (John likes me but not her). [2] :52–53

Other distinct forms found in some languages include:

  • Second person informal and formal pronouns (the T-V distinction), like tu and vous in French. Formal second person pronouns can also signify plurality in many languages. There is no such distinction in standard modern English, though Elizabethan English marked the distinction with thou (singular informal) and you (plural or singular formal). Some dialects of English have developed informal plural second person pronouns, for instance, "y'all" (Southern American English) and you guys (American English).
  • Inclusive and exclusive first person plural pronouns, which indicate whether or not the audience is included, that is, whether "we" means "you and I" or "they and I". There is no such distinction in English.
  • Intensive (emphatic) pronouns, which re-emphasize a noun or pronoun that has already been mentioned. English uses the same forms as the reflexive pronouns; for example: I did it myself (contrast reflexive use, I did it to myself).
  • Direct and indirect object pronouns, such as le and lui in French. English uses the same form for both; for example: Mary loves him (direct object); Mary sent him a letter (indirect object).
  • Prepositional pronouns, used after a preposition. English uses ordinary object pronouns here: Mary looked at him.
  • Disjunctive pronouns, used in isolation or in certain other special grammatical contexts, like moi in French. No distinct forms exist in English; for example: Who does this belong to? Me.
  • Strong and weak forms of certain pronouns, found in some languages such as Polish.

Possessive

Possessive pronouns are used to indicate possession (in a broad sense). Some occur as independent noun phrases: mine, yours, hers, ours, theirs. An example is: Those clothes are mine. Others act as a determiner and must accompany a noun: my, your, her, our, your, their, as in: I lost my wallet. (His and its can fall into either category, although its is nearly always found in the second.) Those of the second type have traditionally also been described as possessive adjectives, and in more modern terminology as possessive determiners. The term "possessive pronoun" is sometimes restricted to the first type. Both types replace possessive noun phrases. As an example, Their crusade to capture our attention could replace The advertisers' crusade to capture our attention. [2] :55–56

Reflexive and reciprocal

Reflexive pronouns are used when a person or thing acts on itself, for example, John cut himself. In English they all end in -self or -selves and must refer to a noun phrase elsewhere in the same clause. [2] :55

Reciprocal pronouns refer to a reciprocal relationship (each other, one another). They must refer to a noun phrase in the same clause. [2] :55 An example in English is: They do not like each other. In some languages, the same forms can be used as both reflexive and reciprocal pronouns.

Demonstrative

Demonstrative pronouns (in English, this, that and their plurals these, those) often distinguish their targets by pointing or some other indication of position; for example, I'll take these. They may also be anaphoric , depending on an earlier expression for context, for example, A kid actor would try to be all sweet, and who needs that? [2] :56

Indefinite

Indefinite pronouns, the largest group of pronouns, refer to one or more unspecified persons or things. One group in English includes compounds of some-, any-, every- and no- with -thing, -one and -body, for example: Anyone can do that. Another group, including many, more, both, and most, can appear alone or followed by of. [2] :54–55 In addition,

Relative and interrogative

Relative

Relative pronouns in English include who, whom, whose, what, which and that). They rely on an antecedent, and refer back to people or things previously mentioned: People who smoke should quit now. They are used in relative clauses. [2] :56 Relative pronouns can also be used as complementizers.

Interrogative

Relative pronouns can be used in an interrogative setting as interrogative pronouns. Interrogative pronouns ask which person or thing is meant. In reference to a person, one may use who (subject), whom (object) or whose (possessive); for example, Who did that? In colloquial speech, whom is generally replaced by who. English non-personal interrogative pronouns (which and what) have only one form. [2] :56–57

In English and many other languages (e.g. French and Czech), the sets of relative and interrogative pronouns are nearly identical. Compare English: Who is that? (interrogative) and I know the woman who came (relative). In some other languages, interrogative pronouns and indefinite pronouns are frequently identical; for example, Standard Chinese 什么shénme means "what?" as well as "something" or "anything".

Archaic forms

Archaic personal pronouns [2] :52
PersonNumberCase
SubjectObject
SecondSingularthouthee
Pluralyeyou

Though the personal pronouns described above are the contemporary English pronouns, older forms of modern English (as used by Shakespeare, for example) use a slightly different set of personal pronouns as shown in the table. The difference is entirely in the second person. Though one would rarely find these older forms used in literature from recent centuries, they are nevertheless considered modern.

Special uses of English pronouns

Some special uses of personal pronouns include:

See also

General

Personal pronouns in various languages

In English

In other languages


Notes

  1. Not to be confused with prenominal, which means "before the noun". English adjectives are prenominal – the blue house — and most of the French adjectives are postnominal — la maison bleue.

Related Research Articles

English grammar body of rules that describe the structure of expressions in the English language

English grammar is the way in which meanings are encoded into wordings in the [English language]. This includes the structure of words, phrases, clauses, and sentences, right up to the structure of whole texts.

A relative clause is a kind of subordinate clause that contains the element whose interpretation is provided by an antecedent on which the subordinate clause is grammatically dependent; that is, there is an anaphoric relation between the relativized element in the relative clause and antecedent on which it depends.

A possessive form is a word or grammatical construction used to indicate a relationship of possession in a broad sense. This can include strict ownership, or a number of other types of relation to a greater or lesser degree analogous to it.

English personal pronouns personal pronoun in English

The personal pronouns in English take various forms according to number, person, case and natural gender. Modern English has very little inflection of nouns or adjectives, to the point where some authors describe it as an analytic language, but the Modern English system of personal pronouns has preserved some of the inflectional complexity of Old English and Middle English.

French personal pronouns reflect the person and number of their referent, and in the case of the third person, its gender as well. They also reflect the role they play in their clause: subject, direct object, indirect object, or other.

Romanian grammar is the body of rules that describe the structure of expressions in the Romanian language. Standard Romanian shares largely the same grammar and most of the vocabulary and phonological processes with the other three surviving varieties of Balkan Romance, viz. Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, and Istro-Romanian.

In linguistics, a pro-form is a type of function word or expression that stands in for another word, phrase, clause or sentence where the meaning is recoverable from the context. They are used either to avoid repetitive expressions or in quantification.

English relative clauses English grammatical clause type

Relative clauses in the English language are formed principally by means of relative pronouns. The basic relative pronouns are who, which, and that; who also has the derived forms whom and whose. Various grammatical rules and style guides determine which relative pronouns may be suitable in various situations, especially for formal settings. In some cases the relative pronoun may be omitted and merely implied.

Possessive determiners constitute a sub-class of determiners which modify a noun by attributing possession to someone or something. They are also known as possessive adjectives, although the latter term is sometimes used with a wider meaning.

French pronouns are inflected to indicate their role in the sentence, as well as to reflect the person, gender, and number of their referents.

The grammar of the Polish language is characterized by a high degree of inflection, and has relatively free word order, although the dominant arrangement is subject–verb–object (SVO). There are no articles, and there is frequent dropping of subject pronouns. Distinctive features include the different treatment of masculine personal nouns in the plural, and the complex grammar of numerals and quantifiers.

An indefinite pronoun is a pronoun that refers to non-specific beings, objects, or places.

German pronouns describe a set of German words with specific functions. As with other pronouns, they are frequently employed as the subject or object of a clause, acting as substitutes for nouns or noun phrases, but are also used in relative clauses to relate the main clause to a subordinate one.

Bulgarian pronouns vary in gender, number, definiteness and case. They, more than any other part of speech, have preserved the proto-Slavic case system. Pronouns are classified as: personal, possessive, interrogative, demonstrative, reflexive, summative, negative, indefinite and relative.

Determiner part of speech reflecting the reference of a noun or noun phrase

A determiner, also called determinative, is a word, phrase, or affix that occurs together with a noun or noun phrase and serves to express the reference of that noun or noun phrase in the context. That is, a determiner may indicate whether the noun is referring to a definite or indefinite element of a class, to a closer or more distant element, to an element belonging to a specified person or thing, to a particular number or quantity, etc. Common kinds of determiners include definite and indefinite articles, demonstratives, possessive determiners, quantifiers, cardinal numbers, distributive determiners, and interrogative determiners (which).

A reciprocal pronoun is a type of pronoun which is used for one of the participants of a reciprocal construction, i.e. a clause in which two participants are in a mutual relationship. The reciprocal pronouns of English are one another and each other, and they form the category of anaphors along with reflexive pronouns.

Gender in English

A system of grammatical gender, whereby every noun was treated as either masculine, feminine or neuter, existed in Old English, but fell out of use during the Middle English period. Modern English retains features relating to natural gender, namely the use of certain nouns and pronouns to refer specifically to persons or animals of one or other genders and certain others for sexless objects – although feminine pronouns are sometimes used when referring to ships and nation states.

This article deals with the grammar of the Udmurt language.

English determiners

An important role in English grammar is played by determiners – words or phrases that precede a noun or noun phrase and serve to express its reference in the context. The most common of these are the definite and indefinite articles, the and a(n). Other determiners in English include demonstratives such as this and that, possessives such as my and the boy's, and quantifiers such as all, many and three.

References

  1. 1 2 Bhat, Darbhe Narayana Shankara (2007). Pronouns (Paperback ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 1. ISBN   978-0199230242.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Börjars, Kersti; Burridge, Kate (2010). Introducing English grammar (2nd ed.). London: Hodder Education. pp. 50–57. ISBN   978-1444109870.
  3. Loos, Eugene E.; Anderson, Susan; Day, Dwight H. Jr.; Jordan, Paul C.; Wingate, J. Douglas. "What is a pronominal?". Glossary of linguistic terms. SIL International.
  4. For example, Vulf Plotkin (The Language System of English, Universal Publishers, 2006, pp. 82–83) writes: "[...] Pronouns exemplify such a word class, or rather several smaller classes united by an important semantic distinction between them and all the major parts of speech. The latter denote things, phenomena and their properties in the ambient world. [...] Pronouns, on the contrary, do not denote anything, but refer to things, phenomena or properties without involving their peculiar nature."
  5. Postal, Paul (1966). Dinneen, Francis P. (ed.). "On So-Called "Pronouns" in English". Report of the Seventeenth Annual Round Table Meeting on Linguistics and Language Studies. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press: 177–206.
  6. For detailed discussion see George D. Morley, Explorations in Functional Syntax: A New Framework for Lexicogrammatical Analysis, Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2004, pp. 68–73.
  7. 1 2 Simon, Horst J.; Wiese, Heike (2002). Pronouns - Grammar and Representation. Linguistics Today. p. 190. ISBN   9789027227737.
  8. "Yo as a Pronoun". Quick and Dirty Tips. Retrieved 2019-04-05.
  9. "Language Log: Yo". itre.cis.upenn.edu. Retrieved 2019-04-05.

Further reading