In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun (abbreviated PRO) is a word that substitutes for a noun or noun phrase. It is a particular case of a pro-form.
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 "you", 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. 1–34:
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.
The adjective associated with "pronoun" is "pronominal".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.
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.
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.
Linguists in particular have trouble classifying pronouns in a single category, and some do not agree that pronouns substitute nouns or noun categories.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. (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. 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.
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.
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 antecedent) 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 an intermediary noun, Mary, that disallows the two referents from having a direct relationship.
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.
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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 B), d-pronouns follow yet another principle, Principle C, and function similarly to nouns in that they cannot have a direct relationship to an antecedent.
The following sentences give examples of particular types of pronouns used with antecedents:
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.
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The table below lists English pronouns across a number of different syntactic contexts (Subject, Object, Possessive, Reflexive) according to the following features:
|Person||Number/Gender||Subject||Object||Dependent possessive (determiner)||Independent possessive||Reflexive|
|Plural/Epicene||they||them||their||theirs||themself / themselves|
In addition to the personal pronouns exemplified in the above table, English also 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.
|this||who / whom / whose||one / one's / oneself||who / whom / whose|
|these||what||something / anything / nothing (things)||what|
|that||which||someone / anyone / no one (people)||which|
|those||that||somebody / anybody / nobody (people)|
|former / latter|
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. 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). 52–53:
Other distinct forms found in some languages include:
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. 55–56:
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. 55:
Reciprocal pronouns refer to a reciprocal relationship (each other, one another). They must refer to a noun phrase in the same clause. 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 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? 56:
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. 54–55 In addition,:
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. 56 Relative pronouns can also be used as complementizers.:
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. 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".
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.
In English, kin terms like "mother," "uncle," "cousin" are a distinct word class from pronouns; however many Australian Aboriginal languages have more elaborated systems of encoding kinship in language including special kin forms of pronouns. In Murrinh-patha, for example, when selecting a nonsingular exclusive pronoun to refer to a group, the speaker will assess whether or not the members of the group belong to a common class of gender or kinship. If all of the members of the referent group are male, the MASCULINE form will be selected; if at least one is female, the FEMININE is selected, but if all the members are in a sibling-like kinship relation, a third SIBLING form is selected.In Arabana-Wangkangurru, the speaker will use entirely different sets of pronouns depending on whether the speaker and the referent are or are not in a common moiety. See the following example:
They two [who are in the classificatory relationship of father and son] are fighting. (The people involved were a man and his wife's sister's son.)
See Australian Aboriginal kinship for more details.
Some special uses of personal pronouns include:
In linguistics, grammatical gender is a specific form of noun class system in which the division of noun classes forms an agreement system with another aspect of the language, such as adjectives, articles, pronouns, or verbs. This system is used in approximately one quarter of the world's languages. In these languages, most or all nouns inherently carry one value of the grammatical category called gender; the values present in a given language are called the genders of that language. According to one definition: "Genders are classes of nouns reflected in the behaviour of associated words."
Singular they is the use in English of the pronoun they or its inflected or derivative forms, them, their, theirs, and themselves, as an epicene (gender-neutral) singular pronoun. It typically occurs with an unspecified antecedent, as in sentences such as:
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 third-person pronoun is a pronoun that refers to an entity other than the speaker or listener. The English pronouns he and she are third-person personal pronouns specific to the gender of the person . The English pronoun they is an epicene (gender-neutral) third-person pronoun that can refer to plural antecedents of any gender and, informally, to a singular antecedent that refers to a person, the "singular they".
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.
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.
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.
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.
Agreement or concord happens when a word changes form depending on the other words to which it relates. It is an instance of inflection, and usually involves making the value of some grammatical category "agree" between varied words or parts of the sentence.
French pronouns are inflected to indicate their role in the sentence, as well as to reflect the person, gender, and number of their referents.
An indefinite pronoun is a pronoun that refers to non-specific beings, objects, or places.
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.
German pronouns are German words that function as pronouns. As with pronouns in other languages, 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.
One is an English language, gender-neutral, indefinite pronoun that means, roughly, "a person." For purposes of verb agreement it is a third-person singular pronoun, though it sometimes appears with first or second-person reference. It is sometimes called an impersonal pronoun. It is more or less equivalent to the Scots "a body," the French pronoun on, the German/Scandinavian man, and the Spanish uno. It has the possessive form one's and the reflexive form oneself.
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.
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.
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 sexes and certain others for sexless objects – although feminine pronouns are sometimes used when referring to ships, to churches, and to nation states.
In English, possessive words or phrases exist for nouns and most pronouns, as well as some noun phrases. These can play the roles of determiners or of nouns.
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.
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