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Competing Motivations in Grammar and Usage$
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Brian MacWhinney, Andrej Malchukov, and Edith Moravcsik

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198709848

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198709848.001.0001

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Politeness distinctions in personal pronouns: A case study on competing motivations

Politeness distinctions in personal pronouns: A case study on competing motivations

Chapter:
(p.315) 19 Politeness distinctions in personal pronouns: A case study on competing motivations
Source:
Competing Motivations in Grammar and Usage
Author(s):

Johannes Helmbrecht

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198709848.003.0019

Most European languages display politeness distinctions in personal pronouns similar to the one between the second‐person singular address pronouns tu (2SG) and vous (2SG.HON) in French. The goal of this chapter is to present a functional analysis of the emergence and diffusion of politeness distinctions in personal pronouns in terms of a competing motivations approach. First, the relevant functional motivations for this historical process will be identified in a criteria‐bound way. Second, it will be shown that the social or pragmatic functions—politeness (Brown and Levinson) and prestige—are in conflict with the cognitive/psychological factor of economy. It will be argued that the different degrees of grammatical integration of the polite pronouns into the pronominal paradigm of the respective languages may be explained by this conflict, not in terms of a winning and a losing factor but in terms of a compromise between the factors involved.

Keywords:   personal pronouns, competing motivations, economy, prestige, politeness, politeness distinctions in pronouns, areal typology, European languages

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