Discursive functions of Japanese Personal Pronouns

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The first-person pronoun “I” refers to a particular individual as the speaker producing an utterance, and second-person “you” refers to another individual to whom the speaker directs the utterance. This well-accepted idea of personal pronouns, however, does not contribute to the explication of their functions in discourse although only first- and second-person pronouns refer to “discourse instances” ( instances de discourse ) (Benveniste 1966). This paper aims to establish the contention that the first-person pronoun “I” refers to the speaker as the addresser of an illocutionary act, and the second-person pronoun “you” refers to the hearer as the addressee of the illocutionary act. This clarifies the discursive function of the personal pronouns: they indicate participants of the illocutionary act performed in the discourse. Identifying the indicating function of personal pronouns makes it possible to analyze Japanese personal pronouns and the formality level of the discourse, which are generally assumed to be a problem case, in a consistent manner.

About the authors

Etsuko Oishi

Tokyo University of Science

Author for correspondence.
Email: oishi@rs.tus.ac.jp
1-3 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, 162-0825 Japan


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