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Generic pronouns and phi-features: evidence from Thai

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Anders Holmberg, Ony Phimsawat



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


In this paper, we investigate the triggers and the distribution of generic pronouns in regard to the theory of pronouns, φ-features, reference, and pro-drop. We survey the empirical evidence for different ‘pro-drop types’ focusing on generic pronominal expressions in a set of languages, namely radical pro-drop languages, consistent pro-drop languages, and partial pro- drop languages. In particular we are concerned with the properties that are responsible for the difference between the inclusive, quasi-inclusive, and exclusive generic pronouns, and whether or not the generic reference includes reference to non-humans along with humans. We show that the inclusive pronoun in Thai has unrestricted reference, including humans and (potentially) non-humans. The explanation is that this pronoun has no phi-features. This also explains why it is null: There are no phi-features to spell out. We argue that the quasi-inclusive and exclusive generic pronouns include a silent noun ‘people’.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Holmberg A, Phimsawat O

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Newcastle and Northumbria Working Papers in Linguistics (Second Asian and European Linguistics Conference Proceedings)

Year: 2015

Volume: 21.1

Date deposited: 12/10/2015

ISSN (electronic): 2041-1057

Publisher: University of Newcastle upon Tyne