Politeness as a distancing device in the passive and in indefinite pronouns

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This paper deals with the relationship between the passive and the indefinite pronoun from a functional perspective. We point out that the linkage between these two constructions is often made possible due to politeness, in a sense that both constructions create pragmatic distance between a speaker and interlocutor, often known as impersonalisation. One can observe this linkage throughout the history of English, but indefinite pronouns were used more frequently in earlier times, and the passive later. The change of functional load in these constructions illustrates that impersonalisation has always been important, but has been achieved by different constructions. We argue that politeness played an important role in this change.


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