Edited by Rob Pensalfini, Myfany Turpin and Diana Guillemin
[Studies in Language Companion Series 147] 2014
► pp. 99–122
Liminal pronoun systems
Evidence from Garrwa
Pronoun systems are often described as a single linguistic category consisting of a paradigm of forms that serve as referential indices, or as “dual” systems consisting of more than one paradigm. In dual systems, a paradigm of “bound” pronouns serves the basic referential functions usually for core grammatical functions, with a paradigm of free pronouns used in contexts of emphasis or contrast, and in oblique grammatical roles (Bresnan 2001; Mushin & Simpson 2008). The same kinds of pragmatic splits can be systematically signalled in single pronoun system for example by means of prosody. Bresnan (2001: 4) claims that a system is only dual when there is a divergence in both form and syntactic distribution. In this chapter I examine the usefulness of this claim in defining pronoun systems as dual (or not dual) using evidence from Garrwa (Northern Australia). Here I argue that Garrwa pronouns function as a liminal system, neither single nor dual. This analysis raises questions about the degree to which categorical distinctions can be made in language description. I also consider implications this has for understanding the typology of pronouns more generally.