'impersonal' second person

Denis Creissels Denis.Creissels at UNIV-LYON2.FR
Mon Sep 26 20:39:09 UTC 2011

Dear Eitan,


Last week we had a workshop in Paris on impersonal pronouns, and I presented
a paper available to dowload at the following link :




The first part of this paper, devoted to the coreference properties of
French ‘on’, is not directly relevant to your point, but the second part
deals with the coreference properties of the second person singular pronoun
of Mandinka (a Mande language spoken in Senegal, The Gambia, and Guinea
Bissau) in its impersonal use.


More generally, impersonal uses of second person singular pronouns quite
similar to those found in European languages are very common in Subsaharan
Africa. But in addition to that, in some West African languages at least,
second person pronouns used impersonally may have more ‘exotic’ coreference
properties, as shown in my paper.


Best wishes,




De : Discussion List for ALT [mailto:LINGTYP at LISTSERV.LINGUISTLIST.ORG] De
la part de Eitan Grossman
Envoyé : lundi 26 septembre 2011 17:54
Objet : 'impersonal' second person


Hi everyone, 


I'm interested in uses of second person for 'generic,' 'impersonal,' or
'procedural' functions, e.g., 'you go straight and then left,' 'you never
know what you're up against,' etc. Anna Siewierska (Person, p. 212) mentions
that it occurs in Germanic, Romance, Slavonic languages, as well as
Hungarian, Estonian, Komi, Turkish, Abkhaz, and another dozen or so
non-European languages. 


At the moment, I'm interested in the cross-linguistic extent of this
phenomenon. I would be grateful if people would be able to tell me in what
languages it does (or doesn't) occur. If there are any linguistic
discussions of this in particular languages or families, that would be great


I will post a summary of the responses, if there are any.




Best wishes,

Eitan Grossman



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