The development of generic maDur/man for the construction of discourse stance in Icelandic and Swedish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The paper compares two lexical items, Icelandic ma@?ur and Swedish man, for the construction of a detached, general discourse stance (Berman, Ragnarsdottir and Stromqvist, 2002). Both forms mean 'man', but they can also be used in a generic sense. In that usage, Icelandic ma@?ur is associated with several semantic, pragmatic, and stylistic constraints, whereas Swedish man is more freely applicable across contexts and genres. Data derived from 632 discourse tokens produced by 158 subjects were analyzed, focusing on frequency distributions of generic usages of ma@?ur/man with respect to age (10-11, 13-14, 16-17 years, adults), genre (narrative, expository), modality (speaking, writing), and language (Icelandic, Swedish). Both Icelandic and Swedish revealed a clear preference for using maDur/man in expository discourse, a finding which validates the assumption that these terms play a role in the construction of a depersonalized, general discourse stance. Further, Swedish man was used considerably more frequently than Icelandic ma@?ur, a finding which is explained as due to the difference in the constraints restricting the domain of use of the apparently equivalent term in the two languages. By and large, two main factors were found to underlie the distributions of maDur/man: general socio-cognitive development and culturally specific stylistic constraints.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics


  • Expository, Generic pronouns, Discourse stance, Narrative, Later language development, Scandinavian languages
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-155
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Linguistics and Phonetics (015010003)