Not so impersonal: Intentionality in the use of pronoun uno in contemporary Spanish political discourse

Jaime J. Gelabert-Desnoyer

Abstract

This paper combines quantitative and qualitative analyses in a corpus-based study of how and for what purposes politicians, in the context of the Spanish Parliament, use the impersonal pronoun uno ‘one’. I begin by contrasting how uno is used in parliamentary debate versus non-political language. After reviewing traditional definitions of the semantic range and general behavior of this pronoun, I argue that a more accurate account that the one provided by standard grammars is needed for us to better understand how the peculiar characteristics of a parliament affect intentionality in the use of impersonal pronouns. In particular, it is argued that uno is utilized by politicians to serve principally two purposes: 1) avoidance of bluntness - a means of preserving professional etiquette, and 2) avoidance of self- praise - demonstrative of humility. Both purposes serve the larger objective of preserving professional face.

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