Personal pronouns have a special status in languages. As indexical tools they are the means by which languages and persons intimately interface with each other within a particular social structure. Pronouns involve more than mere grammatical functions in live communication acts. They variously signal the gender of speakers as parts of utterances or in their anaphoric roles. They also prominently indicate with a range of degrees the kind of social relationships that hold between speakers from intimacy to indifference, from dominance to submission, and from solidarity to hostility. Languages greatly vary in the number of pronouns and other address terms they offer to their users with a distinct range of social values. Children learn their relative position in their family and in their society through the “correct” use of pronouns. When languages come into contact because of population migrations or through the process of translation, pronouns are the most sensitive zone of tension both psychologically and politically. This volume endeavours to probe the comparative pragmatics of pronominal systems as social processes in a representative set from different language families and cultural areas.
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