The category of person is a linguistic expression of reference to a role in a speech act, including the speaker, the addressee, or a combination thereof. The values of the person category commonly, if not universally, include the opposition of first person (reference to the speaker) versus second person (reference to the addressee). Reference to neither the speaker nor the addressee is commonly—though not always—considered to be the third value of the category, third person. This article is an overview of person indexation on the verb and in possessive constructions, interaction of the category of person with other categories such as number and moods, the issue of person hierarchies as reflected in the categories of clusivity and direct-inverse systems, and some topics in the pragmatics of person. The discussion includes some topics disregarded or less touched upon in other surveys of the category of person, such as a discussion of the person relationship to commands (imperative paradigms) or logophoricity. The main focus is on the morphology of person, and other aspects of personal reference are discussed with respect to how they are expressed or differentiated by morphological material. On the other hand, personal reference in grammar and lexicon show strong affinity, making it both difficult and unnecessary to separate independent personal pronouns from person affixes in a typological perspective. In this sense, person-related lexicon and inflectional morphology are treated together.
Louise Esher, Franck Floricic, and Martin Maiden
The term finite morphology corresponds to the morphological expression of person and number and of tense, mood, and aspect in the verb. In Romance languages, these features are typically expressed “synthetically,” that is, in single word forms. These latter generally comprise a ‘root’, usually leftmost in the word, which conveys the lexical meaning of the verb, and material to the right of the root which conveys most of the grammatical meaning. But lexical and grammatical information is also characteristically ‘compressed’, or ‘conflated’ within the word, in that it can be impossible to tease apart exponents of the grammatical meanings or to extricate the expression of lexical meaning from that of grammatical meaning. The range of grammatical meanings encoded in Romance finite verb forms can vary considerably cross-linguistically. At the extremes, there are languages that have three tenses of the subjunctive, and others that have no synthetic future-tense form, and others that have two future-tense forms or no (synthetic) past-tense forms. There can also be extreme mismatches between meanings and the forms that express them: again, at the extremes, meanings may be present without formal expression, or forms may appear which correspond to no coherent meaning. Both for desinences and for patterns of root allomorphy, variation is observed with respect to the features expressed and their morphological exponence. While some categories of Latin finite synthetic verb morphology have been entirely lost, many forms are continued, with or without functional continuity. An innovation of many Romance varieties is the emergence of a new synthetic future and conditional from a periphrasis originally expressing deontic modality.
Clitics can be defined as prosodically defective function words. They can belong to a number of syntactic categories, such as articles, pronouns, prepositions, complementizers, negative adverbs, or auxiliaries. They do not generally belong to open classes, like verbs, nouns, or adjectives. Their prosodically defective character is most often manifested by the absence of stress, which in turn correlates with vowel reduction in those languages that have it independently; sometimes the clitic can be just a consonant or a consonant cluster, with no vowel. This same prosodically defective character forces them to attach either to the word that follows them (proclisis) or to the word that precedes them (enclisis); in some cases they even appear inside a word (mesoclisis or endoclisis). The word to which a clitic attaches is called the host. In some languages (like some dialects of Italian or Catalan) enclitics can surface as stressed, but the presence of stress can be argued to be the result of assignment of stress to the host-clitic complex, not to the clitic itself. One consequence of clitics being prosodically defective is that they cannot be the sole element of an utterance, for instance as an answer to some question; they need to always appear with a host. A useful distinction is that between simple clitics and special clitics. Simple clitics often have a nonclitic variant and appear in the expected syntactic position for nonclitics of their syntactic category. Much more attention has been paid in the literature to special clitics. Special clitics appear in a designated position within the clause or within the noun phrase (or determiner phrase). In several languages certain clitics must appear in second position, within the clause, as in most South Slavic languages, or within the noun phrase, as in Kwakw'ala. The pronominal clitics of Romance languages or Greek must have the verb as a host and appear in a position different from the full noun phrase. A much debated question is whether the position of special clitics is the result of syntactic movement, or whether other factors, morphological or phonological, intervene as well or are the sole motivation for their position. Clitics can also cluster, with some languages allowing only sequences of two clitics, and other languages allowing longer sequences. Here one relevant question is what determines the order of the clitics, with the main avenues of analysis being approaches based on syntactic movement, approaches based on the types of morphosyntactic features each clitic has, and approaches based on templates. An additional issue concerning clitic clusters is the incompatibility between specific clitics when combined and the changes that this incompatibility can provoke in the form of one or more of the clitics. Combinations of identical or nearly identical clitics are often disallowed, and the constraint known as the Person-Case Constraint (PCC) disallows combinations of clitics with a first or second person accusative clitic (a direct object, DO, clitic) and a third person (and sometimes also first or second person) dative clitic (an indirect object, IO, clitic). In all these cases either one of the clitics surfaces with the form of another clitic or one of the clitics does not surface; sometimes there is no possible output. Here again both syntactic and morphological approaches have been proposed.
Personal pronouns—in particular, clitic pronouns—show the greatest variation across the Romance languages. Modern varieties and historical vernaculars exhibit a kaleidoscopic degree of variation with respect to several syntactic parameters (placement, climbing, doubling, interpretation, etc.). Despite the apparent chaotic variation, some descriptive generalizations can be established on the basis of a rich and growing array of data.
The Romance languages are characterized by the existence of pronominal clitics. Third person pronominal clitics are often, but not always, homophonous with the definite determiner series in the same language. Both pronominal and determiner clitics emerge early in child acquisition, but their path of development varies depending on clitic type and language. While determiner clitic acquisition is quite homogeneous across Romance, there is wide cross-linguistic variation for pronominal clitics (accusative vs. partitive vs. dative, first/second person vs. third person); the observed differences in acquisition correlate with syntactic differences between the pronouns. Acquisition of pronominal clitics is also affected if a language has both null objects and object clitics, as in European Portuguese. The interpretation of Romance pronominal clitics is generally target-like in child grammar, with absence of Pronoun Interpretation problems like those found in languages with strong pronouns. Studies on developmental language impairment show that, as in typical development, clitic production is subject to cross-linguistic variation. The divergent performance between determiners and pronominals in this population points to the syntactic (as opposed to phonological) nature of the deficit.
Olaf Koeneman and Hedde Zeijlstra
The relation between the morphological form of a pronoun and its semantic function is not always transparent, and syncretism abounds in natural languages. In a language like English, for instance, three types of indefinite pronouns can be identified, often grouped in series: the some-series, the any-series, and the no-series. However, this does not mean that there are also three semantic functions for indefinite pronouns. Haspelmath (1997), in fact distinguishes nine functions. Closer inspection shows that these nine functions must be reduced to four main functions of indefinites, each with a number of subfunctions: (i) Negative Polarity Items; (ii) Free-Choice Items; (iii) negative indefinites; and (iv) positive or existential indefinites. These functions and subfunctions can be morphologically realized differently across languages, but don’t have to. In English, functions (i) and (ii), unlike (iii) and (iv), may morphologically group together, both expressed by the any-series. Where morphological correspondences between the kinds of functions that indefinites may express call for a classification, such classifications turn out to be semantically well motivated too. Similar observations can be made for definite pronouns, where it turns out that various functions, such as the first person inclusive/exclusive distinction or dual number, are sometimes, but not always morphologically distinguished, showing that these may be subfunctions of higher, more general functions. The question as to how to demarcate the landscape of indefinite and definite pronouns thus does not depend on semantic differences alone: Morphological differences are at least as much telling. The interplay between morphological and semantic properties can provide serious answers to how to define indefinites and the various forms and functions that these may take on.