Pragmatic Aspects of the Use of Pronouns in Wh-Questions
Abstract. This paper focuses on the ways Dutch speakers use pronouns in order to refer to the topic entity of wh-questions. It appears that, when they have the choice between a third-person pronoun or a demonstrative pronoun, they prefer the latter; however, in the answers given to wh-questions, the same discourse entity is normally referred to by means of a third-person pronoun. This phenomenon is usually accounted for by the recency principle, which predicts that a speaker accomplishes topical continuity by using a third-person pronoun. However, even when a discourse entity was already thematic over a long stretch of talk, speakers normally refer to it by means of a demontrative pronoun if it is the topic of a wh-question. Therefore, it is argued that the sequential function of the utterance as a whole may govern the selection of the coding devices through which reference is made to discourse entitites. This hypothesis would explain why the topic entity of a reported wh-question is usually referred to by means of a third-person pronoun.