Chapter published in:Diachronic Corpora, Genre, and Language Change
Edited by Richard J. Whitt
[Studies in Corpus Linguistics 85] 2018
► pp. 171–194
“You can’t control a thing like that”
Genres and changes in Modern English human impersonal pronouns
While there is ample evidence showing that the impersonal use of second-person singular pronouns has increased in several languages, the recent history of impersonal you in English has not yet received much attention in the literature. The present investigation presents corpus evidence from Modern English indicating that this strategy has indeed gained in frequency, independently of changes in the general frequency of second-person pronouns and the evolution of genres. Tracing specific functions of impersonal you diachronically reveals that you simulating the hearer’s membership in the set generalized over and encoding hidden self-reference are relatively new uses, supporting the view that this impersonal strategy has undergone semantic extensions comparable to developments found in other languages.
- 2.Human impersonal pronouns
- 2.2Human impersonal pronouns in earlier English
- 3.A corpus study on the Modern English HIP you
- 3.1The corpus and data extraction
- 3.2Quantitative observations
- 4.Changes in English genres
- 4.1Genres throughout Modern English
- 4.2The role of second-person pronouns
- 5.Has impersonal you changed, after all?
- 5.1Impersonal vs. deictic you
- 5.4A comparative view
- 5.5How ‘involved’ are second-person impersonals?
Published online: 08 November 2018
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Cited by 2 other publications
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Rădulescu, Valentin & Daniël Van Olmen
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