Skip to main content

On the grammaticalization of personal pronouns1

  • BERND HEINE (a1) and KYUNG-AN SONG (a2)

Unlike most other grammatical domains, that of personal pronouns is clearly under-researched in works on grammaticalization. One reason can be seen in the fact that personal pronouns differ in their diachronic behavior from most other grammatical categories to the extent that they present a challenge to grammaticalization theory. In the present paper it is argued that in order to account for this behavior, an extended understanding of grammaticalization is needed.

Corresponding author
Authors' address: (Heine) Institut für Afrikanistik, Universität zu Köln, 50923 Köln, Germany Correspondence address: Bernd Heine, Nonnenwerthstr. 48, 50937, Koeln,
Authors' address: (Song) Department of German Language & Literature, Chonnam National University, 77 Yongbong-ro, Buk-gu, Gwangju 500-757,
Hide All

We wish to express our gratitude to a number of colleagues who have been of help in writing this paper, in particular to John Haiman, Christa König, Tania Kuteva, Heiko Narrog, Fritz Newmeyer, as well as two anonymous JL referees. We also wish to express our gratitude to the Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology for generously having sponsored the research leading to this paper within its World Class University Program.

The following abbreviations are used in the paper: 1, 2, 3=first, second, third person; abs=absolute pronoun; acc=accusative; cl=classifier; conn=connective; cop=copula; dat=dative; def=definite; du=dual; emph=emphasis; end=ending; ex=exclusive; f=feminine; fut=future; gns=grammaticalization in a narrow sense; gws=grammaticalization in a wide sense; h=honorific; hab=habitual; hum=human; in=inclusive; int=intensifier; intr=interrogative particle; m=masculine; n=neuter; neg=negation; nom=nominative; o=object; obj=object; past=past; pfv=perfective; pl=plural; pres=present; refl=reflexive; sg=singular; sub=subject; tam=tense-aspect-modality; tns=tense; top=topic; tr=trial.

Hide All
Albán Maria del Rosário & Freitas Judith. 1991. Nós ou gente? Estudos 11, 7589.
Arends Jacques. 1986. Genesis and development of the equative copula in Sranan. In Muysken Pieter & Smith Norval (eds.), Substrata versus universals in creole genesis (Creole Language Library 1), 103127. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Baker Philip. 1995. Some developmental inferences from the historical studies of pidgins and creoles. In Arends Jacques (ed.), The early stages of creolization (Creole Language Library 13), 124. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Barth-Weingarten Dagmar & Couper-Kuhlen Elizabeth. 2002. On the development of final though: A case of grammaticalization? In Wischer & Diewald (eds.), 345361.
Bisang Walter, Himmelmann Nikolaus P. & Wiemer Björn (eds.). 2004. What makes grammaticalization? A look from its fringes and its components (Trends in Linguistics, Studies and Monographs 158). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Blake Frank R. 1934. The origin of pronouns of the first and second persons. The American Journal of Philology 55, 244248.
Brown Roger & Gilman Albert. 1968. The pronouns of power and solidarity. In Fishman Joshua A. (ed.), Readings in the sociology of language, 252281. The Hague & Paris: Mouton.
Bybee Joan L., Perkins Revere D. & Pagliuca William. 1994. The evolution of grammar: Tense, aspect and modality in the languages of the world. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Byrd Steven Eric. 2006. Calunga, an Afro-Brazilian speech of the Triangulo Mineiro. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Services.
Campbell Lyle & Janda Richard. 2001. Introduction: Conceptions of grammaticalization and their problems. Language Sciences 23.2–3, 93–112.
Casad Eugene 1984. Cora. In Langacker Ronald W. (ed.), Studies in Uto-Aztecan grammar, vol. 4: Southern Uto-Aztecan grammatical sketches (Summer Institute of Linguistics Publications in Linguistics 56, IV), 151459. Arlington, TX: The Summer Institute of Linguistics & The University of Texas at Arlington.
Claudi Ulrike 1985. Zur Entstehung von Genussystemen: Überlegungen zu einigen theoretischen Aspekten, verbunden mit einer Fallstudie des Zande. Hamburg: Helmut Buske.
Comrie Bernard. 1975. Polite plurals and predicate agreement. Language 51, 406441.
Cooke Joseph Robinson. 1968. Pronominal reference in Thai, Burmese, and Vietnamese (University of California Publications in Linguistics 52). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Corne Chris. 1971. Le patois créole français de la Guyane (St-Laurent-du-Maroni): esquisse de grammaire. Te Reo 14, 81–103.
Coulmas Florian. 1992. Linguistic etiquette in Japanese society. In Watts Richard J., Ide Sachiko & Ehlich Konrad (eds.), Politeness in language: Studies in its history, theory and practice (Trends in Linguistics, Studies and Monographs 59), 299323. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Coveney Aidan. 2000. Vestiges of nous and the 1st person plural verb in informal spoken French. Language Sciences 22, 447481.
Croft William. 2000. Explaining language change: An evolutionary approach. London: Longman.
Cysouw Michael. 2003. The paradigmatic structure of person marking (Oxford Studies in Typology and Linguistic Theory). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Cysouw Michael. 2005a. Inclusive/exclusive distinction in independent pronouns. In Haspelmath et al. (eds.), 162164.
Cysouw Michael. 2005b. Inclusive/exclusive distinction in verbal inflection. In Haspelmath et al. (eds.), 164169.
Diessel Holger. 1997. The diachronic reanalysis of demonstratives in crosslinguistic perspective. Chicago Linguistic Society (CLS) 33, 8398.
Diessel Holger. 1999a. The morphosyntax of demonstratives in synchrony and diachrony. Linguistic Typology 3, 149.
Diessel Holger. 1999b. Demonstratives: Form, function, and grammaticalization (Typological Studies in Language 42). Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Diewald Gabriele. 2002. A model for relevant types of contexts in grammaticalization. In Wischer & Diewald (eds.), 103120.
Forchheimer Paul. 1953. The category of person in language. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
Friedländer Marianne. 1974. Lehrbuch des Susu. Leipzig: Enzyklopädie.
Gardiner A. 1957. Egyptian grammar: Being an introduction to the study of hieroglyphs, 3rd edn.Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Givón Talmy. 1984. Syntax: A functional–typological introduction, vol. 1. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Gottsched Johann Christoph. [1762] 1970. Vollständigere und Neuerläuterte Deutsche Sprachkunst, reprint. Hildesheim & New York.
Greenberg Joseph H. (ed.). 1963a. Universals of language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Greenberg Joseph H. 1963b. Some universals of grammar with particular reference to the order of meaningful elements. In Greenberg (ed.), 5890.
Günthner Susanne & Mutz Katrin. 2004. Grammaticalization vs. pragmaticalization? The development of pragmatic markers in German and Italian. In Bisang et al. (eds.), 77–107.
Haase Martin. 1992. Sprachkontakt und Sprachwandel im Baskenland: die Einflüsse des Gaskognischen und Französischen auf das Baskische. Hamburg: Buske.
Haase Martin. 1994. Respekt: die Grammatikalisierung von Höflichkeit (Edition Linguistik 44). Munich & Newcastle: LINCOM Europa.
Hagège Claude. 1993. The language builder: An essay on the human signature in linguistic morphogenesis (Amsterdam Studies in the Theory and History of Linguistic Science 94). Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Hartmann Josef. 1980. Amharische Grammatik (Äthiopische Forschungen 3). Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner.
Haspelmath Martin, Dryer Matthew S., Gil David & Comrie Bernard (eds.). 2005. The world atlas of language structures. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Head Brian. 1978. Respect degrees in pronominal reference. In H. Greenberg Joseph, Ferguson Charles A. & Moravcsik Edith (eds.), Universals of human language, vol. 3: Word structure, 151211. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Heath Jeffrey. 2004. Person. In Booij Geert E., Lehmann Christian, Mugdan Joachim & Skopeteas Stavros (eds.), Morphologie – Morphology: Ein internationales Handbuch zur Flexion und Wortbildung (Handbücher zur Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft 17.2), vol. 2, 9981015. Berlin & New York: Walter de Gruyter.
Heine Bernd. 1999. The ‖Ani: Grammatical notes and texts (Khoisan Forum 11). Cologne: Institut für Afrikanistik.
Heine Bernd. 2002. On the role of context in grammaticalization. In Wischer & Diewald (eds.), 83–101.
Heine Bernd, Claudi Ulrike & Hünnemeyer Friederike. 1991. Grammaticalization: A conceptual framework. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Heine Bernd & Kuteva Tania. 2002. World lexicon of grammaticalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Heine Bernd & Reh Mechthild. 1984. Grammaticalization and reanalysis in African languages. Hamburg: Buske.
Heine Bernd & Song Kyung-An. 2010. On the genesis of personal pronouns: Some conceptual sources. Language and Cognition 2.1, 117148.
Helmbrecht Johannes. 2004. Personal pronoun: Form, function and grammaticalization (Diversitas Linguarum, Universität Erfurt). Bochum: Universitätsverlag Brockmeyer.
Helmbrecht Johannes. 2005a. Typologie und Diffusion von Höflichkeitspronomina in Europa. Folia Linguistica 39.3–4, 417452.
Helmbrecht Johannes. 2005b. Politeness distinctions in pronouns. In Haspelmath et al. (eds.), 186189.
Hengeveld Kees. In press. The grammaticalization of tense and aspect. In Narrog & Heine (eds.).
Heusing Gerald. 2004. Die südlichen Lwoo-Sprachen: Beschreibung, Vergleich und Rekonstruktion (Nilo-Saharan 19). Cologne: Köppe.
Hinds John. 1986. Japanese. London & New York: Routledge.
Hopper Paul J. 1991. On some principles of grammaticization. In Traugott & Heine (eds.), 1735.
Hopper Paul J. & Traugott Elizabeth C.. 2003. Grammaticalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Joseph Brian D. 2005. How accommodating of change is grammaticalization? The case of ‘lateral shifts’. Logos and Language 6.2, 18.
Keesing Roger M. 1991. Substrates, calquing and grammaticalization in Melanesian Pidgin. In Traugott & Heine (eds.), 315342.
Klausenburger Jürgen. 2000. Grammaticalization: Studies in Latin and Romance morphosyntax (Amsterdam Studies in the Theory and History of Linguistic Science 193). Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
König Ekkehard & Siemund Peter. 2000. Intensifiers and reflexives: A typological perspective. In Frajzyngier Zygmunt & Curl Traci S. (eds.), Reflexives: Forms and functions (Typological Studies in Language 40), 4174. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Kuteva Tania. 2001. Auxiliation: An enquiry into the nature of grammaticalization. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press.
Kutsch Lojenga Constance. 1994. Ngiti: A Central-Sudanic language of Zaire (Nilo-Saharan 9). Cologne: Köppe.
Lakoff George. 1987. Women, fire, and dangerous things: What categories reveal about the mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lakoff George & Johnson Mark. 1980. Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lehmann Christian. 1985. Grammaticalization: Synchronic variation and diachronic change. Lingua e Stile 20 303318.
Lehmann Christian. 1995. Thoughts on grammaticalization. Munich: LINCOM Europa.
Levine Robert D. 2010. The ass camouflage construction: Masks as parasitic heads. Language 86.2, 265301.
Lewis Geoffrey L. 1985. Turkish grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lichtenberk Frantisek. 1991. Semantic change and heterosemy in grammaticalization. Language 67.3, 475509.
Lindström Tiedemann Therese. 2006. Grammaticalization – past and present. Logos and Language 6.2, 1935.
Lockwood W. B. 1968. Historical German syntax. Oxford: Clarendon.
Luraghi Silvia. 2005. Does a theory of language change need unidirectionality? Logos and Language 6.2, 9–17.
Margetts Anna & Austin Peter K.. 2007. Three-participant events in the languages of the world: Towards a crosslinguistic typology. Linguistics 45.3, 393451.
Martelotta Mário Eduardo & Maura Cezario Maria. In press. Grammaticalization in Brazilian Portuguese. In Narrog & Heine (eds.).
Merlan Aurelia. 2006. Grammatikalisierungstendenzen im Portugiesischen und Rumänischen: von Nominalsyntagmen zu Pronomina. In Schmidt-Radefeldt Jürgen (ed.), Portugiesisch kontrastiv gesehen und Anglizismen weltweit (Rostocker Romanistische Arbeiten 10), 221240. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.
Mühlhäusler Peter & Harré Rom. 1990. Pronouns and people: The linguistic construction of social and personal identity (Language in Society 15). Oxford: Blackwell.
Muysken Pieter & Smith Norval (eds.). 1986. Substrata versus universals in Creole genesis: Papers from the Amsterdam Creole Workshop, April 1985. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Narrog Heiko & Heine Bernd (eds.). In press. The Oxford handbook of grammaticalization. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Norde Muriel. In press. Degrammaticalization. In Narrog & Heine (eds.).
Postal Paul. 1969. On so-called pronouns in English. In Reibel David & Schane Sanford (eds.), Modern studies in English, 187224. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Praetorius Franz. 1879. Die amharische Sprache. Halle: Verlag der Buchhandlung des Waisenhauses.
Ramat Anna Giacalone & Hopper Paul J. (eds.). 1998. The limits of grammaticalization. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Samarin William J. 2002. Plurality and deference in urban Sango. In Carstens Vicki & Parkinson Frederick (eds.), Advances in African linguistics (Trends in African Linguistics 4), 299311. Trenton, NJ & Asmara: Africa World Press.
Schwegler Armin. 1993. Subject pronouns and person/number in Palenquero. In Byrne Francis X. & Holm John A. (eds.), Atlantic meets Pacific: A global view of pidginization and creolization (Creole Language Library 11), 145161. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Shibatani Masayoshi. 1990. The languages of Japan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Siewierska Anna. 2004. Person. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Simon Horst J. 1997. Die Diachronie der deutschen Anredepronomina aus Sicht der Universalienforschung. Sprachtypologie und Universalienforschung 50, 267281.
Simon Horst J. 2003. Für eine Grammatische Kategorie ‘Respekt’ im Deutschen: Synchronie, Diachronie und Typologie der deutschen Anredepronomina. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer.
Sohn Ho-Min. 1999. The Korean language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Song Kyung-An. 2002. Korean reflexives and grammaticalization: A speaker–hearer dynamic approach. Sprachtypologie und Universalienforschung (STUF, Berlin) 55.5, 340353.
Song Kyung-An. 2010. Pronominals, addressing forms, and grammaticalization: A speaker–hearer dynamic approach with reference to Korean. Ms., Chonnam National University, Gwangju.
Sugamoto Nobuko. 1989. Pronominality: A noun–pronoun continuum. In Corrigan Roberta, Eckman Fred & Noonan Michael (eds.), Linguistic categorization, 267291. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Syea Anand. 1996. The development of a marker of definiteness in Mauritian Creole. In Baker Philip & Syea Anand (eds.), Changing meanings, changing functions: Papers relating to grammaticalization in contact languages (Westminster Creolistics 2), 171186. London: University of Westminster Press.
Traugott Elizabeth C. & Dasher Richard B.. 2002. Regularity in semantic change (Cambridge Studies in Linguistics 96). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Traugott Elizabeth C. & Heine Bernd (eds.). 1991a. Approaches to grammaticalization, vol. 1. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Traugott Elizabeth C. & Heine Bernd (eds.). 1991b. Approaches to grammaticalization, vol. 2. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Travis Catherine E. & Silveira Agripino S.. 2009. The role of frequency in first-person plural variation in Brazilian Portuguese: Nós vs. a gente. Studies in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics 2.2, 347376.
Tucker Archibald N. 1940. The Eastern Sudanic languages, vol. 1. London, New York & Toronto: Oxford University Press.
Wischer Ilse & Diewald Gabriele (eds.). 2002. New reflections on grammaticalization (Typological Studies in Language 49). Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Wordick F. J. F. 1982. The Yindjibarndi language (Pacific Linguistics C-71). Canberra: The Australian National University, Research School of Pacific Studies.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Linguistics
  • ISSN: 0022-2267
  • EISSN: 1469-7742
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-linguistics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 16
Total number of PDF views: 184 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 502 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 21st January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.