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Power and solidarity revisited: the acquisition and use of personal pronouns in modern English and Dutch

Blackwell, Susan (2007)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Abstract

This dissertation applies corpus linguistics techniques to reveal patterns in the acquisition and use of personal pronouns. Setting out from Brown and Gilman's mould-breaking study of "the pronouns of power and solidarity", it argues that their focus on the metaphorical use of plurality in the second-person cannot account for the numerous ways in which canonical pronoun usage is routinely violated by both children and adults. Nonetheless, the concepts of power and solidarity remain productive ones and can help to account for the patterns revealed here.
The first part of the thesis uses data from the CHILDES database to argue that 1st / 2nd person 'reversals' are a common feature of language acquisition which is not unique to children on the autistic spectrum. It also examines pronoun substitutions in the 'caregiver speech' of the mothers and finds a number of differences between the groups studied.
The second part uses original purpose-built corpora of English and Dutch party election broadcasts to explore how power and solidarity are constantly re-negotiated in political discourse. The patterns of pronoun use are discussed in their social context, and it is found that amateur as well as professional politicians are adept at exploiting the pragmatic versatility of pronouns.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Coulthard, Malcolm and Hunston, Susan (1953-)
School/Faculty:Schools (1998 to 2008) > School of Humanities
Department:Department of English
Keywords:Personal pronouns, child language acquisition, corpus linguistics, Dutch, English, Party election broadcasts, power and solidarity, politicians' language, Groningen corpus, Flusberg corpus, Manchester corpus, "motherese", "caretaker speech"
Subjects:JN Political institutions (Europe)
JN101 Great Britain
P Philology. Linguistics
PE English
PF West Germanic
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:1785
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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