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The Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 291–325 | Cite as

How impersonal does one get?

A study of man-pronouns in Germanic
  • Paula Fenger
Original Paper

Abstract

This paper focuses on overt impersonal pronouns such as English one and Dutch men in eight Germanic languages (English, Frisian, Icelandic, Danish, Dutch, German, Norwegian and Swedish). Cinque (Linguist Inq 19:521–581, 1988), Egerland (Work Pap Scand Syntax 71:75–102, 2003), a.o., argued that there are two types of impersonal pronouns: one type that can occur in multiple syntactic positions but can only have a generic reading and another type that can have generic and existential readings but can only occur as an external argument. I show, based on novel data from ECM constructions, passives and unaccusatives, that it is not the syntactic position which restricts the distribution of men-type pronouns, but that it is case. English-type pronouns can occur with multiple cases, but can only have a generic inclusive reading. All Dutch-type pronouns can only occur with nominative case and can have multiple impersonal readings. Moreover, I show that Dutch and Swedish allow an existential reading when the pronoun is a derived subject (contra Cinque 1988; Egerland 2003). I propose a direction for this correlation between the different readings and case by assuming different feature make-ups for the pronouns, following Egerland (2003), Hoekstra (J Comp Ger Linguist 13:31–59, 2010), Ackema and Neeleman (A grammar of person. Linguistic inquiry monographs, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2018): one has \(\phi \)-features and, therefore, always needs to be obligatorily inclusive; men lacks this functional layer and, therefore, has no restriction on its readings. Furthermore, I propose that since men lacks a phi-layer, it is too deficient to project a KP, and thus can only occur with unmarked nominative case.

Keywords

Impersonal pronouns Case Deficiency Generic and existential readings Phi-features 

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Notes

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Suzanne Aalberse, Fenna Bergsma, Jonathan Bobaljik, Hagit Borer, Marijke De Belder, Jan Don, Jon Gajewski, Elly van Gelderen, Lily Kwok, Jason Merchant, Caitlin Meyer, Ad Neeleman, Andrew Nevins, Omer Preminger, Ian Roberts, Susi Wurmbrand, three anonymous reviewers, Jim Wood, and the audiences of LingLunch at UConn 2014, ACLC seminar June 2015, CGSW 30, GLAC 21 and the workshop on R-impersonals 2015 for useful comments and feedback. For data judgements, translations and suggestions I would like thank the following people. Afrikaans: Erin Pretorius. Danish: Katrine Rosendal Carstensen, Line Mikkelsen. Dutch: Hans Broekhuis, Riny Huybregts, Ad Neeleman, Fred Weerman. English: Laura Bailey, Vikki Janke, Ian Roberts. Flemish: Marijke De Belder. Frisian: Ger de Haan, Eric Hoekstra, Arjen Versloot, Willem Visser. German: Klaus Abels, Eva Csipak, Magda Kaufmann, Stefan Kaufmann, Sabine Laszakovitz, Roland Pfau, Philipp Weisser, Susi Wurmbrand. Icelandic: Gísli Rúnar Harðarson. Swedish: Mikael Berger, Anders Holmberg, Sanna Skärlund, Bjørn Lundquist. Norwegian: Kristine Bentzen, Ragnhild Eik, Terje Lohndahl, Maren Berg Grimstad, Brita Ramsevik Riskem.

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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of ConnecticutStorssUSA

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