Personal pronouns

10 Червня, 20122:38 pm


Personal pronouns

The personal pronouns are characterized by quite different values for the language. The first person pronouns — I, we as well as the second person pronoun you do not substitute for anything and do not share their functions with anything, since they represent the speaker and the hearer in commu­nication. The personal pronouns of the third person he, she, it, they replace nouns, may point out any object (it, they) or any person (he, she, they) and are used anaphorically:

Sharply disturbed, he lowered his own gaze and loo hastily started to open a bottle of beer. It frothed violently, spilling down his thighs. (Bates)

Mr. Curry dried his hands, smoothing the towel one finger at a time, as though he were drawing on gloves. (Hill)

The personal pronouns have the grammatical categories of person, case, number and (in the third person singular) gender. The categorical meaning of person and number in the personal pronouns is not morphological but lexical, since there is no morphological way of expressing these meanings. The case category is represented by the two cases – the nominative case and the objective case. The paradigm of the personal pronouns is deficient, as soon as the case form is not discernible in the second person pronoun you and the third person pronoun it.

NOMINATIVE I you he she it we they
OBJECTIVE me you him her it us them


The syntactic functions of case forms are quite distinct: the personal pronouns in the nominative case perform the function of the subject, where­as the personal pronouns in the objective case function as objects. However, there is a collision of these two forms in the predicative position. Accord­ing to the rules of school grammar, only the nominative case is possible when the pronoun is used predicatively. In reality, the first person pronoun singular in the objective case is in fact legalized as predicative (cf. It’s me). Sentences in which the pronoun is modified by a predication are an excep­tion: It’s I who did it. In colloquial speech the objective form of personal pronouns is gaining popularity in the predicative position and as a part of comparative constructions (cf. Jim is more generous than her). One should bear in mind that this use is not sanctioned by the norms of grammar, and the use of me as a predicative was disapproved as ungrammatical in the begin­ning of the 20th century. Yet, the use of the indeclinable pronouns it and you in this function sets the analogy to follow.

It should be mentioned that the nominative case of the pronouns we, you, they may acquire the meaning of generalized reference to some in­definite persons, i.e. these personal pronouns may function as indefinite or generalizing pronouns. Each of these pronouns has its specific features. We is inclusive for the speaker; you may both include and exclude the speaker; they does not imply either the speaker or the imaginary hearer, since it de­notes quite a vast and absolutely indefinite number of people.

Special attention should be drawn to the pronoun it that has quite spe­cific functions besides pointing out a thing. Thus, it may anaphorically de­note a situation:

In court there was his father and mother; that was the worst of it. They’d come down from Scotland and they sat there in the courtroom, looking at me, you did it, you killed him, it was you run over Joey. (Glanville)

In the example above, it conveys the lexical meaning of the already men­tioned situation. This pronoun may also carry out a purely grammatical struc­tural function, having nothing to do with any particular lexical meaning. This phenomenon is observed with the so-called impersonal it as well as with the introductory it that usually precedes infinitive constructions or objects:

It was night. (Garnett)

It took Mary some time to realize that this was a reference to her mother. (Garnett)

Emma considered it impossible that the wedding might be arranged so quickly. (Austen)

Thus, semantic structure of the personal pronouns is much wider than anaphoric reference to a person or a thing (or, as it the case with it, to a situation). If there is no person or thing to refer to, the pronouns we, you, they acquire a generalizing meaning, whereas the pronoun it under similar conditions functions as a purely grammatical substitute for the subject or the object.

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