Zero person in Finnish
A grammatical resource for construing human reference
Lea Laitinen’s article deals with the grammar and meaning of Finnish constructions containing the so-called ‘zero person’ subject. In these constructions, there is no overt subject, and the verb is in the 3rd person singular form. The meanings of the construction are investigated in conversational data, and its globally marked non-specific reference is compared to the non-specific use of personal pronouns, used as generic forms referring to humans in many languages. As crystallizations of human experience, the zero person constructions express changes of state, emotions, perceptions, or other processes that affect human beings in particular situations. Laitinen shows how this potentiality of grammar is used in interaction by the speech act participants, and how these constructions which leave the conceptualizer of the situation implicit, provide a more subjective perspective on the experience than explicit personal pronouns. This paper has implications for the understanding of impersonal use of pronouns, non-specific pronominal reference, and zero persons in languages generally.