From community to conversation - and back: Exploring the interpersonal potentials of two generic pronouns in Danish

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This paper combines a quantitative study of the two most important Danish pronouns used for generic reference, du and man, with interaction analyses. The quantitative study shows an overall increase in the use of generic du at the expense of man. However, a large scale quantitative study alone cannot tell us much about the finer differences between the two variants, let alone come up with explanations for the change in their use. In this paper, we demonstrate a way to supplement a quantitative study with detailed interaction analyses with the aim of interpreting the tendencies demonstrated in the quantitative study. Whereas there is no difference between generic du and man with respect to propositional meaning, our interactional analyses reveal important differences in their interpersonal potentials: Generic du is to a larger degree than man used as a resource for enactment and involvement. This difference between du and man is due to du retaining some of its second person meaning also when used generically, and the rise in the use of generic du is likely to reflect an ongoing process of intimization in the society at large.
Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Linguistica Hafniensia: International Journal of Linguistics
Pages (from-to)116-142
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - 2009

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Humanities - pronouns, conversation analysis, language change, pragmatics, grammar, Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL), Appraisal Theory

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