- The exceptional loss of the pronoun T
- Journal of Pragmatics
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication (ACLC)
Calculations on lexical stability show that the V-pronoun is variable but the T-pronoun is stable across language families (cf. Swadesh, 2006, Wichmann and Holman, 2009 and Tadmor et al., 2010). In fact, the T-pronoun is in the top 10 of basic vocabulary items. Nevertheless, both English and Dutch have lost their T-pronoun. We suggest that this unexpected loss of T in English and Dutch can be explained via an exceptional combination of circumstances, namely (1) a focus on negative politeness, (2) the possibility of deflection via the loss of the T-pronoun and (3) pressure on the inflectional system due to language contact involving adult second language learners. These factors lead to two predictions: one related to the subject-non-subject ratio, and one related to text style. We test both predictions in a corpus of 13th and 16th century texts.
Address terms; Inflection; Text style; Language contact; Language change
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