Spanish-English Contrasts: A Course in Spanish Linguistics

By M. Stanley Whitley | Go to book overview

Chapter 9
Pronouns

9.0 Pronouns as proforms.

A PRONOUN is a word that takes the place of an NP, especially a previously mentioned one,1 and is so called because in classical grammar it was regarded as standing 'for a noun' (Latin prō nōmine). There are also PRO-VERBS (the do in They eat more than I do), PROADVERBS (the allí in Fui al armario pero no vi nada allí), and PROADJECTIVES (the lo in ¿Es rico? Sí, lo es; v. 8.4.2), and all of these are sometimes called PROFORMS. The main proforms, though, are pronouns, and they are traditionally classified as follows:

personal, which show person (1, 2, 3) and are definite (like el, este): I, she; yo, ella

indefinite, which do not distinguish person: someone, nothing; alguien, nada

interrogative, for questioning NPs: who, what; quién, qué

possessive: mine, ours; mío, nuestro

demonstrative, which are deictic (pointing) words: this, those; éste, ésos

relative, which introduce relative clauses: that, who; que

quantifying: few, some, several; pocos, algunos, varios

Many of these are just nominalizations (v. 8.4.1): ese aparato → ése, mi casa → la mía, algunos maestros → algunos. Others are best treated with the syntactic processes in which they play a role: interrogatives with questioning (v. 12.1.2), relatives with relativization (v. 13.3.1). This chapter focuses on reflexive and nonreflexive personal pronouns, which form their own systems.


9.1 Nonreflexive pronouns.

As can be seen in figure 9.1, the English and Spanish systems of personal pronouns are based on the same categories of number, gender, person, and case (distinction of forms for Subj, DO, etc.). Nevertheless, they differ in so many particulars that Spanish pronouns offer as big a challenge to English speakers as Spanish verbs, especially when textbooks move quickly from one set (e.g., DO forms) to the next (IO and OP forms) with insufficient time to digest each set, develop skill with it, and keep it distinct from the others.

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