First Person Readings of MAN: On semantic and pragmatic restrictions on an impersonal pronoun

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Abstract

Cinque (1988) notices that Italian impersonal si can be interpreted so as to include the speaker and that such a reading is actually mandatory in certain contexts. A similar conclusion holds for impersonal man in a language such as Swedish, with the difference that, in the relevant contexts, man takes on the reading of 1st person singular, hence ‘I’ and not ‘we’. In this paper, I argue that Cinque’s observation can only be understood in a theory explaining how impersonal readings (generic and existential) are restricted, rather than in a general theory of “inclusiveness”. The first part of paper is dedicated to showing how impersonal readings are restricted by the temporal and aspectual specification of the clause. This part summarizes some by now well-known facts concerning the interpretation of man. The second part of the paper discusses a further restriction on impersonal readings, stemming from focus and contrastiveness. The relevant effect is shown in cases of topicalization
of SELF-anaphora in impersonal constructions in some Germanic languages.
To my knowledge, these data have so far gone unobserved in the literature.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOrder and structure in syntax II
Subtitle of host publicationSubjecthood and argument structure
EditorsMichelle Sheehan, Laura Bailey
Place of PublicationBerlin
PublisherLanguage Science Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)978-3-96110-028-6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics

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