Article in:Languages in Contrast: Online-First Articles
A questionnaire-based study of impersonalization in Romanian and English
With special attention to passivization
This paper is the first contrastive study of impersonalization in Romanian and English. Taking an acceptability judgment approach, we describe the functional potential in all impersonal uses of not only the pronouns ‘one’, ‘you’ and ‘they’ but also the lesser studied passive. We find inter alia: a similar division of labor in the languages between ‘you’ and ‘they’ for contexts paraphrasable as, respectively, ‘everyone’ and ‘someone/some people’; a wider range of uses for pro-dropped ‘they’ than for its overt counterpart, as hypothesized in previous research; and a preference in English, but not Romanian, for passives to ‘they’ especially in contexts like ‘they’ve stolen my wallet!’, where the referent is entirely unidentifiable and likely to be singular. Levels of identifiability and number, each of which has been suggested in a separate semantic map as necessary for capturing impersonalization, are also shown to interact, supporting a proposal to combine them in one map.
Keywords: impersonal, pronoun, passive, semantic map, English/Romanian
Published online: 21 May 2021
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