Liminal pronoun systems

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Pronoun systems are often described as a single linguistic category consisting of a paradigm of forms that serve as referential indices, or as &#8220;dual&#8221; systems consisting of more than one paradigm. In dual systems, a paradigm of &#8220;bound&#8221; pronouns serves the basic referential functions usually for core grammatical functions, with a paradigm of free pronouns used in contexts of emphasis or contrast, and in oblique grammatical roles (Bresnan 2001; Mushin &#38; Simpson 2008). The same kinds of pragmatic splits can be systematically signalled in single pronoun system for example by means of prosody. Bresnan (2001: 4) claims that a system is only dual when there is a divergence in both form and syntactic distribution. In this chapter I examine the usefulness of this claim in defining pronoun systems as dual (or not dual) using evidence from Garrwa (Northern Australia). Here I argue that Garrwa pronouns function as a <i>liminal</i> system, neither single nor dual. This analysis raises questions about the degree to which categorical distinctions can be made in language description. I also consider implications this has for understanding the typology of pronouns more generally.


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