Chapter 14. Pragmatic and stylistic uses of personal pronoun one

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In this paper we investigate the uses of personal pronoun <i>one</i>. Our study is based on 604 occurrences of personal pronoun <i>one</i>; 263 of those were extracted from the <i>British National Corpus</i> and the rest from other sources. First of all we discuss the inclusion of <i>one</i> in the category of personal pronouns, and describe its characteristics, i.e. its various meanings and the theoretical issues raised by its description. We then try to identify the factors that trigger the occurrence of <i>one </i>rather than another pronoun. We observe that <i>one</i> appears in hypothetical contexts, that it regularly co-occurs with modal auxiliaries and &#8216;thinking&#8217; verbs, and that generally speaking it involves a typical scenario (a &#8216;script&#8217;) where change is involved (most often, but not exclusively, a change in someone&#8217;s belief, or opinion). We propose that this is linked to the origin of the personal pronoun, which is related to the numeral <i>one</i>. We hypothesize that at some abstract level the notion of &#8216;unity&#8217; is retained; the more a person undergoes change, the more we need to denote, somehow, his or her unity (the person is the same, despite the changes).<sup>1</sup>


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