Features of Person
From the Inventory of Persons to Their Morphological Realization
382 pp., 6 x 9 in,
- Published: October 23, 2018
- Published: October 30, 2018
- Published: September 28, 2018
A proposal that person features do not have inherent content but are used to navigate a “person space” at the heart of every pronominal expression.
This book offers a significant reconceptualization of the person system in natural language. The authors, leading scholars in syntax and its interfaces, propose that person features do not have inherent content but are used to navigate a “person space” at the heart of every pronominal expression. They map the journey of person features in grammar, from semantics through syntax to the system of morphological realization. Such an in-depth cross-modular study allows the development of a theory in which assumptions made about the behavior of a given feature in one module bear on possible assumptions about its behavior in other modules.
The authors' new theory of person, built on a sparse set of two privative person features, delivers a typologically adequate inventory of persons; captures the semantics of personal pronouns, impersonal pronouns, and R-expressions; accounts for aspects of their syntactic behavior; and explains patterns of person-related syncretism in the realization of pronouns and inflectional endings. The authors discuss numerous observations from the literature, defend a number of theoretical choices that are either new or not generally accepted, and present novel empirical findings regarding phenomena as different as honorifics, number marking, and unagreement.
Features of Person is an ambitious work that weaves proposals in semantics, syntax, and morphology into a coherent and excitingly novel whole. Ackema and Neeleman deftly draw out the interdependence of assumptions and evidence across modules. This book is essential reading—an important new contribution with wide-reaching consequences.
Jonathan David Bobaljik, Professor of Linguistics, Harvard University; author of Universals in Comparative Morphology
In this novel monograph Peter Ackema and Ad Neeleman explore the grammatical notion of person in its full broadness. They conclude that person features lack inherent content and instead are used to navigate a person space. They present their original theoretical insights in a very clear and coherent way, basing their work on rich empirical data. The result is a very welcome contribution with strong repercussions for linguistic theory.
Hedde Zeijlstra, Professor of Linguistics, University of Göttingen