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5.2. Pronouns

This section discusses the second group of determiners: the pronouns. Before we embark upon a detailed discussion of the pronominal types, we want to make some general remarks on the classification of the pronouns. In most Dutch traditional grammars, the pronouns are divided into the subclasses given in (279); see Haeseryn et al. (1997: ch.5).

Example 279
a. Personal pronouns, e.g., ik'I' and mij'me'
b. Reflexive/reciprocal pronouns, e.g., zichzelf'himself' and elkaar'each other'
c. Possessive pronouns, e.g., mijn'my'
d. Demonstrative pronouns, e.g., dit'this' and dat'that'
e. Interrogative pronouns, e.g., wie'who', wiens'whose' and welke'which'
f. Relative pronouns, e.g., die'that' and dat'that'
g. Quantificational pronouns, e.g., iemand'someone' and sommige'some'
h. Exclamative pronoun: wat

The classification in (279) is unsatisfactory for the reason that there are various elements that could in principle be part of more than one subclass. This is very clear when we consider the set of interrogative pronouns: this class is assumed to contain the pronouns wie'who', wiens'whose' and welk'which' based on the semantic criterion that they are all interrogative words. However, it seems equally justifiable on formal grounds to say that wie'who' is a personal, wiens'whose' is possessive, and welk'which' is a demonstrative pronoun.
      Of course, making a classification on the basis of semantic considerations is not objectionable, provided that it is done in a consistent way. However, traditional grammar fails in this respect by, e.g., including adverbs like wanneer'when' and hoe'how' not in the class of interrogative elements, but simply in the class of adverbs. This results in a classification in which certain elements could be considered to belong to more than one subclass, and some classes fail to include all relevant elements. Another example is the subclass of “indefinite” pronouns, in which Haeseryn et al. (1997) include not only pronominal quantifiers like iemand, but also quantificational elements like sommige'some' which seem more related to a numeral like drie'three' than to the pronouns.
      It seems that these problems are caused by the fact that traditional classification is based on a mixture of syntactic and semantic criteria; cf. Broekhuis (2002). In order to avoid these problems, or at least to make them visible, it seems better to apply the syntactic and semantic criteria in a more consistent way. A first atempt is given in Table 4.

Table 4: Main types of pronouns
argument: personal pronouns referential Hij is ziek.‘He is ill.’
  interrogative Wie is ziek? ‘Who is ill?’
  quantificational Iedereen is ziek. ‘Everyone is ill.’
  relative de man die ziek is ‘the man who is ill’
  reflexive Jan wast zichzelf. ‘Jan is washing himself.’
  reciprocal Zij wassen elkaar.‘They wash each other.’
modifier: possessive pronouns referential Zijn kat is ziek. ‘His cat is ill.’
  interrogative Wiens kat is ziek?‘Whose cat is ill?
  quantificational Iemands kat is ziek. ‘Someoneʼs cat is ill.’
  relative de jongen wiens kat ziek is
‘the boy whose cat is ill’
  reciprocal Zij verzorgen elkaars kat.
‘They look after each otherʼs cat.’
argument or modifier:
demonstrative pronouns
non-interrogative Die (kat) is ziek.
‘That cat is ill.’
  interrogative Welke (kat) is ziek?
‘Which cat is ill?’

A first division is made on the basis of the syntactic relations that these pronouns enter into: Are they used as independent arguments or as dependent modifiers of the noun phrase? On basis of this formal, syntagmatic criterion the pronouns can be divided into the three main groups in (280). This division seems to be partially reflected by the semantics of the pronouns: whereas the personal and possessive pronouns display a limited amount of descriptive content, such as the ability to express that their referent is human or female, the demonstrative pronouns seem to lack such descriptive content; the latter are mainly deictic elements that enable the addressee to determine the referent of the noun phrase they modify.

Example 280
a. Personal pronouns: pronouns used as arguments
b. Possessive pronouns: pronouns used as modifiers of a noun phrase
c. Demonstrative pronouns: pronouns used either as arguments or as modifiers of a noun phrase

The three groups in (280) can be divided into smaller subcategories based on semantic criteria, such as whether the pronouns are referential, interrogative or quantificational, or whether their reference is dependent on an antecedent, as is the case with the relative, reflexive and reciprocal pronouns. Given that demonstrative pronouns have virtually no descriptive content, it will not come as a surprise that they do not have as many semantic subclasses as the other two main types. Note in passing that these semantic criteria can also be applied to, e.g., adverbial phrases.
      The following sections will discuss the three main classes of pronouns shown in Table 4: the personal pronouns are discussed in Section 5.2.1, the possessive pronouns in Section 5.2.2, and the demonstrative pronouns in Section 5.2.3.

  • Broekhuis, Hans2002Voornaamwoorden: mag het wat helderder en makkelijker?Stroop, Jan (ed.)In verband met Jan LuifCD-Rom University of Amsterdam.
  • Haeseryn, Walter, Romijn, Kirsten, Geerts, Guido, Rooij, Jaap de & Toorn, Maarten C. van den1997Algemene Nederlandse spraakkunstGroningenNijhoff
  • Haeseryn, Walter, Romijn, Kirsten, Geerts, Guido, Rooij, Jaap de & Toorn, Maarten C. van den1997Algemene Nederlandse spraakkunstGroningenNijhoff
This topic is the result of an automatic conversion from Word and may therefore contain errors.
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