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Impersonal Pronouns in Norwegian, Swedish, and German

The project investigates the grammatical similarities and differences of impersonal pronouns in Norwegian, Swedish, and German.

Illustration of arbitrary individuals

Illustration: IPG_CORE (Sarah Zobel)

About the project

An open question in the cross-linguistic research on impersonal pronouns is whether the semantic behaviour of impersonal pronouns can be attributed to a single impersonal core meaning. An open question regarding the theoretical analysis of impersonal pronouns is whether and how impersonal meaning should be derived from a complex underlying morphosyntactic structure. This project, "Looking for the Impersonal Core -- Impersonal Pronouns across Germanic languages" (IPG_CORE), addresses both questions in a controlled cross-linguistic setting by looking at the semantic and morphosyntactic behaviour of three cognate pronouns -- Norwegian, Swedish, and German man -- both in root clauses and embedded in attitude contexts.


The empirical aim of this project is to gather new linguistic data on Norwegian, Swedish, and German impersonal pronouns using corpus linguistic studies and fieldwork methodology.

The research mainly concerns the impersonal pronoun man, which occurs in all three Germanic languages, but seems to have different possible uses in the three languages. A minor objective is also to compare the Norwegian impersonal pronouns 'man' and 'en' regarding their uses and possible interpretations.

On the theoretical side, the project aims to combine recent morphosyntactic results on pronominal typology with syntactic and semantic research on impersonal pronouns in order to gain a more comprehensive picture of the grammar of Norwegian, Swedish, and German 'man' and to propose a full compositional analysis.


Besides the main cooperation with Pritty Patel-Grosz, Professor in Linguistics at ILN, the project benefits from local cooperation with Jozina Vander Klok and the Tekstlab at ILN, as well as a wide network of international researchers with syntactic and semantic expertise in (im)personal pronouns and intensional expressions.

Published Jan. 31, 2020 4:06 PM - Last modified Aug. 22, 2022 3:01 PM


Sarah Magdalena Zobel