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Impersonality in Spanish personal pronouns

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Abstract

This article focuses on the impersonal uses of personal pronouns and personal verbal endings in Spanish. I argue that impersonal readings are based on the personal deixis inherent in the pronouns/verbal endings in question and that impersonality constitutes an extension of rather than a breach in deixis. Metonymy appears to be the mechanism that allows for this extension in almost all cases. I propose an organization of the different impersonal values in three major areas, ranging from the more generic (universal or generalizing) to the more indefinite (unspecified reference), with an intermediate area of “group membership”. Finally, I call for a more thorough presentation of pronominal impersonals in grammar books and foreign language manuals, as the same expression is used quite differently from language to language with respect to both frequency and context.

References

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