Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Catalan and spanish neuter pronouns in impersonal constructions: diachronic and dialectal variation

Marc-Olivier Hinzelin


The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that neuter pronouns in Catalan and Spanish are used in a variety of ways: a number of uses may imply the loss of some of their morphosyntactic features or even their class membership as pronouns. It is argued that neuter ‘personal’ pronouns in impersonal constructions that have previously been described as expletives fulfil a quite different role, i.e. they function as discourse markers. The uses of neuter pronouns in Catalan and Spanish are discussed; Catalan in particular is examined in a corpus study. The question whether these neuter pronouns are ‘true’ expletives or should be more adequately analysed as discourse markers and the theoretical implications of such an analysis are addressed at the end of this article.

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