Anna Cardinaletti and Michal Starke (1999)'s paper discusses the fact that it is always true that a coordinated personal pronoun cannot refer to a non-human entity.

enter image description here

My question is why it is true.

I would think in English, "they" can refer to human or nonhuman. When "they" is coordinated, the pronoun can only refer to human but not nonhuman. (why???)

To better explain it, these two English examples are given:

(1)They and the besides are big. [+human]

(2)They are big. [+human][-human]

Is it the same in English? My question is why? When it is coordinated, why does it only refer to the human entity?

Thanks for your time!

  • 1
    If you use Google Scholar and search for "counterexample pronoun human" within citing articles you find some articles that give counterexamples. The first result, by Yestelets, has some in Russian, and mentions the responses of Diesing and Holmberg to the original paper for others.
    – Keelan
    Dec 7, 2022 at 12:06
  • Thanks @Keelan! I found something interesting here based on what you have provided. I mentioned that when the pronoun is coordinated, it only refers to non-human entity. Here the authors (Cardinaletti, Starke 1999b) gave one exempt case from the statement. It is the case of demonstrative pronoun. "Demonstrative pronouns stand apart from the tripartite classification; demonstratives may refer to non-human entities in contexts requiring strong forms like coordination: Which flowers? Those, and those." (Cardinaletti, Starke 1999b)
    – Yili Xia
    Dec 7, 2022 at 14:25


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.