Man, en och du: Generiska pronomen i svenskans historia

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)

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This thesis examines the development of three generic pronouns in the history of the Swedish language, from the year of ca. 1225 until today. The analysis focuses on how the former noun man (‘man’), numeral en (‘one’) and personal pronoun du (‘you’) have turned into generic pronouns, thereby referring to one or a number of arbitrarily chosen human individuals. Furthermore, the study maps how the generic functions of the three words have changed over time. Similarities and differences between the changes undergone by the three words are also discussed in the thesis, where the development is related to theories of grammaticalization of generic pronouns in other languages.

From an analysis of the syntactic and semantic properties of occurrences of man, en and du in texts and corpora from a period spanning over almost 800 years (ca. 1225–today), it is concluded that the development of the three words as generic pronouns is probably triggered by factors both internal and external to the language system. In addition, a comparison with the development of generic pronouns in other languages shows several similarities, as well as a few differences.

An important outcome of the study is the conclusion that over time, man, en and du have come not only to be used as generic pronouns but also to have definite reference, used by speakers to refer to themselves. Similar changes are also reported with generic pronouns in other languages. Thus, it is concluded that the process of subjectification is a significant aspect of the development of generic pronouns: these pronouns are often employed by the speaker/writer to express own experiences and points of view. In the thesis, it is hypothesised that this tendency towards subjectification in generic pronouns could well be universal.
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
  • Swedish
  • Delsing, Lars-Olof, Supervisor
  • Rosenkvist, Henrik, Supervisor
Award date2017 Nov 17
Place of PublicationLund
ISBN (Print)978-91-88473-44-8
ISBN (electronic) 978-91-88473-45-5
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Oct 17

Bibliographical note

Series: Lundastudier i nordisk språkvetenskap. Serie A, 0347-8971 ; 75

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Specific Languages


  • generic pronouns
  • language change
  • grammaticalization
  • subjectification
  • Swedish
  • man
  • en
  • du
  • Old Swedish
  • semantic change
  • syntactic change

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