LINGUIST List 2.219

Monday, 13 May 1991

Disc: Pronoun Doubling

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  1. bert peeters, Double pronouns
  2. "Bruce E. Nevin", apparent obligatory pleonasm
  3. Koenraad De Smedt, pronoun doubling

Message 1: Double pronouns

Date: Mon, 13 May 91 09:34:53 +1000
From: bert peeters <>
Subject: Double pronouns
A phenomenon similar to the one investigated by Bernhard Hurch can be found
in certain Flemish dialects (Leuven region). The following sentences are
perfectly possible:

Ik kan ekik da ni doen
I can I that not do
I cannot do that

Gij zingt gij goed gij
You sing you well you
You sing well

Wij hebbe wij niks gezien
We have we nothing seen
We didn't see anything

There is a paper on this, published in the first half of the eighties, by
Pierre Swiggers. Sorry, but I have no full reference. Maybe someone else can
Bert Peeters <>
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Message 2: apparent obligatory pleonasm

Date: Mon, 13 May 91 07:58:03 EDT
From: "Bruce E. Nevin" <>
Subject: apparent obligatory pleonasm
In Linguist List, Vol. 2, No. 213. Saturday, 11 May 1991, Bernhard
Hurch <> asks about corollaries to
apparently pleonastic "doubling" of pronouns in the Gallo-Romance
Dialects of Italy.

Something like this, not restricted to pronouns, recurs in the
historical development of at least some indigenous languages of North
America. Shirley Silver's contribution to the Proceedings of the 1970
conference on Hokan languages calls this "morphemization" (Langdon and
Silver, eds., _Hokan Studies_, Mouton 1976). This complicates
comparative reconstruction of Hokan because morphemization of affixes
often proceeds differently in related languages, resulting in
"half-cognate" forms. This mandates internal reconstruction before
comparison. (These are polysynthetic languages.)

In partial explanation, we might consider the prevalence of "frozen
expressions" in perhaps all languages. (The only reference I have handy
to Maurice Gross's work on frozen expressions is his (1982) Une
classification des phrases fige's du francais, _Revue Que'be'coise de
linguistique_ 11.2. There is some reference to this in his 1979 On the
failure of generative grammar in _Language_.) It appears that the
simplex construction becomes frozen (analyzable only etymologically),
whereupon language users turn to other resources to carry out the
grammatical/semantic function whose original mark is thereby no longer
"alive" for them.

In such cases, the pleonasm is only apparent, e.g. the "original"
gallo-romance subject pronoun may have lost its function, so that the
second pronoun was felt to be required basically and not pleonastically.

It could happen that an originally pleonastic construction expressing
something like topic or focus (as in romance) becomes instead a marker
of sociolinguistic differentiation and thence frozen. 

The development of frozen expressions provides an interesting
perspective on historical processes. In an article in Romance Philology
whose citation escapes me now, Gross mentions close word-for-word
parallels of the expression rendered in English "take the bull by the
horns" in a number of Indo-European languages (nine if I remember
rightly). Images of ancient Indo-European cowboys wrestling steers?
Reference to some oath-taking ceremony diffused with the spread of

Are there others who have looked into the development from stylistically
optional if unimaginative cliche' to obligatory frozen expression?

 Bruce Nevin
 BBN Communications
 150 CambridgePark Drive
 Cambridge, MA 02140
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Message 3: pronoun doubling

Date: Mon, 13 May 91 14:19 MET
Subject: pronoun doubling
In response to Bernhard Hurch's query:

%% In the gallo-romance dialects of northern Italy the subject pronoun is
%% obligatorily "doubled", i.e., expressed by an accented and an unaccented
%% (proclitic?) pronoun. These two pronouns are different from each other
%% ...
%% Does anyone know of parallel examples to the obligatory "double"
%% construction from other languages ...?

Yes, in my own dialect of Dutch (Antwerpen), there is a similar double
pronoun construction, e.g.
 "He de gij da gezien?" = Have you seen that?
 (Have you you that seen?)
The unaccented prounoun is "de" (related to German "du" I suppose), the
accented pronoun is "gij". In contrast to what is claimed about
piedmontese, it is possible to omit the accented pronoun here, i.e.
 "He de da gezien?" = Have you seen that?
but it is equally important to note that the double form is not
neccesarily emphasized or focussed.

However, in main clauses, doubling seems to occur only in clauses with
Subject-Verb inversion, such as questions and modifier-initiated
sentences (Dutch main clauses are verb-second). In any case, when the
subject pronoun is the initial element, only the accented pronoun is
 "Gij he da gezien." = You have seen that
 *"De gij he da gezien."
This seems different from piedmontese. So what's your theory, Bernhard?

Koenraad de Smedt

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