The article studies the ways of explicating the semantic subject by personal indefinite pronoun man in German and personal indefinite pronoun on in French. The authors analysed the functions of man and on as well as subjective reasons why speakers use these pronouns for nomination. They used the method of semantic analysis, comparative and contextual analyses to scrutinize the meaning and functions of man and on. The investigation was done on the literary texts by Erich Maria Remarque, Pierre Louis Boileau, Thomas Narcejac in which the pronouns man and on are used to determine a doer. Indefinite personal pronouns of the third person man in German and on in French are distinctive by their wide semantic meaning: they can serve as markers of the first and second person. The referents to the mentioned above pronouns can be an indefinite, definite and generalized real doer. The specification of the doer is done according to the concrete context. In a sentence man and on always fulfil the function of a grammatical subject and the singular form can denote real plural subject. The personal indefinite pronoun man in German and personal indefinite pronoun on in French in speech serve as a reducing semantic subject. Studies dedicated to the peculiarities of speech phenomena like those of excluding the semantic subject in German and French fully coincides with the focus of anthropocentric scientific paradigm. Such phenomena create a kind of information base about linguistic self-identification of a person as the representatives of a certain culture.
Keywords: Functionpersonal indefinite pronounsemantic meaningsubject nomination
The research of the recent years conducted in the field of cognitive linguistics, pragmatic linguistics, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, neurolinguistics and others displays a certain change in the interpretation of the Subject. This is largely connected with the revision of such core categories like action, speech act, intention, illocution, presupposition and others according to which the Subject is identified.
The Subject is mostly interpreted now as an active doer (passionary language/speech individuum). The passionary nature is heavily accented and now some linguistic units rarely associated with the Subject of communication are involved in the investigation of the matter (Fillmore, 1987; Malamud, 2012; Murashova, 2015; Oppenrieder, 2010; Pishwa, 1994).
As a result, in cognitive and pragmatic linguistics we review the meaning of the linguistic units which denote or indicate the Subject in various kinds of texts.
In their research the authors used the method of semantic analysis, comparative method and contextual method which let them view the semantic meaning and functions of personal indefinite pronoun
The data for investigation was taken from German and French fictional texts by E. M. Remarque, P. Boileau, T. Narsezhak, where pronouns
Personal indefinite pronoun man in German.
Classical German definition dictionaries interpret personal indefinite pronoun
Besides the classical approach, in modern linguistics there exist several more approaches to identify and classify
According to one of them
According to another approach
Within the limits of the third approach some principle differences of
The latter approach seems most adequate to us, so we have proved its relevance through the prism of literary texts.
Studying the realization of the pronoun
For example, the pronoun
Inclusion of the addresser into the action in the given above excerpt is emphasized with the personal pronoun
Both given above examples illustrate the inclusion of the speaker’s activity into that of a social group, a part of which the speaker represents at the current moment.
Endlich rief Katczinsky ihm zu: “Nun mach deinen Bouillonkeller schon auf, Heinrich!
Here we can talk about generalizing meaning of
An den Seitenflächen befinden sich Handgriffe, so dass
Ich habe dir ja immer gesagt, dass
In the above excerpt the meaning is also generalizing and the described action can be related to any living being (all, everyone);
Während er bewusstlos war, hat
From the point of view of syntactical and morphological grammatical structure,
In accordance to the mentioned above
From the morphological point of view,
Sehen ist ganz schön, aber wenn
This is connected with critical binary opposition: subject – masculine gender and object – neuter gender, which exists in German. The subject under consideration or a number of subjects in its turn can be of either masculine or feminine gender.
In every of the given above examples, the denotative nucleus
One more proof to the given above idea lies in realizing
Erde, mit deinen Bodenfalten und Löchern und Vertiefungen, in die
Das Grauen lässt sich ertragen, solange
Mir wird schwindelig, es ist nichts hier, woran
All in all in the investigated literary text discourse of E.M. Remarque the meaning of
generalising meaning (people without limitations in time and location)
episodic meaning (a person or a group of people limited in time and location)
Es sind seine besten Stücke. «Wir können sie ja umtauschen«, schlägt Müller wieder vor, »hier draußen kann
specific situational meaning
Franz Kemmerich sah beim Baden klein und schmal aus wie ein Kind. Da liegt er nun, weshalb nur?
Realization of the situational meaning of
Es hat keinen Zweck mehr.
Indefinite personal pronoun on in French
As it is widely known, on first and foremost expresses an indefinite person. For example:
For example :
Il dut perdre connaissance un court instant. Agenouillé dans les cailloux, je tenais sa main. Je n’avais jamais imaginé qu’on (je) pût être aussi malheureux (Boileau & Narcejac, 1986, p.16)
Elle poussa vers moi un journal déplié.
«On (tout le monde, tous) parle déjà de votre ami, sans donner de détails. Lisez. En page trois» (Boileau & Narcejac, 1986, p. 28).
Elle est revenue, souriante. Elle m’embrasse. «On (tu) a été bien sage? Devine ce que t’apporte? Des galettes» (Boileau & Narcejac, 1986, p. 28).
It should be mentioned that
A subject categorized this way is semantically deficient. Thus, the subject expressed by means of
Grammatically the pronoun
The examples are:
«Quel âge a-t-elle? chuchotai-je.
– Vingt-quatre ans.
Elle est revenue.
«Bernard!» cria Agnès. Venez! On
Nous entendîmes les pas de Julia dans le corridor et les deux femmes, instantanément, changèrent de contenance. On
(elles)avait l’habitude, ici, de faire front contre les intrus et la correction était plus forte que la haine (Boileau & Narcejac, 1986, p.78).
Contradictory nature of the pronoun on is manifested in the fact that despite its wide semantic meaning, in a sentence it can express only one function – that of the subject.
As the analysis shows the use of
The speaker doesn’t know who the real doer is; there is no relevant information to denote the doer as a definite one. For that reason, the speaker has to employ indefinite personal pronoun on. The synonyms to on in this case, can be quelqu’un (somebody) and an adjective certain(e) (some) in the preposition to the noun.
If the speaker uses on to denote people well known to them it accounts for some hidden pragmatic meaning like unwillingness to specify the doer due to some subjective reasons.
Thus intentional denotation of the semantic subject is characterized by pragmatic intention which presumes maximum vagueness of characteristic traits which make up the notion of a human.
In our opinion, using
As mentioned above the referent to the deleted by means of
As to what type of referent the subject is related to, it becomes clear in the context within which the semantic subject is put.
A thought which travels from the unknown to the known is first formed by indefinite lexical units; however, as the information accumulates, the thought acquires a more concrete form of expression. Thus, an indefinite form of a pronoun gives way to a definite personal one.
For example :
The search of a semantic subject, accumulating data about it leads to its specification and actualization if that is the intention of the speaker.
In personal generalized sentences
Si j’avouais que je n’étais pas Bernard,
With the help of generalization by combining own opinion with that of others the speaker enhances their argumentation. But through accenting all the attention on the argumentative effect the speaker imagines the real doer as one of the many without identifying them. For example : – J’aurais bien voulu, mais je ne dispose que de trios ou quatre jours.
In a situation of communication, the use of a generalized personal pronoun
On apprend à tout âge.
On ne meurt qu’une fois.
On ne peut avoir le lard et le cochon.
To avoid repetition the pronoun on can replace some concrete explication of the subject of it ised to be lexically defined and therefore known to the communicants. Foe instance :
Et j’eus l’intuition profonde que je ne comptais vraiment pas, que je n’étais pour
It should be noted that the pronoun on exists in the marginal zone on the crossroads of the expressive means of the subject. In other words, it stands in opposition to definite forms of expressing real doer (personal nouns, pronouns), to indirect nominations (metaphor, metonymy) and to implicit forms of nominating semantic subject (nomination, passive constructions).
Purpose of the Study
In the research, the attempt was made to analysed the functions of
To achieve the analysed the functions of
The analysis was based on the semantics of the signified notion and the pragmatics of speech was also taken into account.
This connection is fixed in the denotative core of the pronoun.
A generalized model of
For the specifications in meaning some context is needed.
The referents to the pronoun
The mentioned above peculiarities differ
The semantic width and active functioning of
What with common tendencies in formation and functioning of the algorithms of the formal exclusion of the subject in generalizing utterances in different linguistic systems (including German and French)
In the German and French linguistic systems
The research was carried out with the financial aid of the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR) within the scientific project № 19-012-00062 “The Polyphony of the semantic subject (on the basis of the Russian, French, English and German languages) done in FSBEI HE “Rostov State University of Economics”; the leader of the project – PHD, head of the Department of German and French languages Alexander Chervoniy.
- Boileau, P., & Narcejac, T. (1986). Persons in a Shadow. Gate of the Sea: Collection. Rainbow.
- Chervoniy, A. M. (2019). Cemantic subject in generalizing statements of Russian and French. In Language and Reality. Scientific Readings at the Department of Romance Languages named after V.G. Gak Collection of Articles on the Results of the IV International Conference (pp. 432-440). Moscow.
- Duden. (2019). Deutsches Universalwörterbuch. 9 (p. 2144). Online-Ausgabe. https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/man_jemand_irgendeiner_irgendeine.
- Fillmore, Ch. J. (1987). Fillmore's Case Grammar: a Reader, ed. by René Dirven and Günter Radden. Groos.
- François, J. (1984). Analyse Enonciative des Equivalents Allemands du Pronom Indéfini «on» Recherches en pragma-sémantique. Klincksieck.
- Gak, V. G. (2000). Theoretical Grammar of French. Dobrosvet.
- Grafström, A. (1969). «On» remplaçant «nous» en Français. Revue de Linguistique Romane, 33, 270-298.
- Haspelmath, M. (1997). Indefinite Pronouns. Clarendon Press.
- Hoekstra, J. (2010). On the impersonal pronoun men 'one'. Modern West Frisian in Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics 13, 31-59.
- Malamud, S. A. (2012). Impersonal indexicals: one, you, man and du. Impersonal indexicals in DRAFT. Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics. http://people.brandeis.edu/~smalamud/malamud-JCGL-web-draft.pdf
- Marschall, G. R. (1996). Was bezeichnet man? Das indefiniteste „Indefinitpronomen“ und seine Verwandten”. In Pro-Formen des Deutschen (pp. 87-97). Staufenburg.
- Muller, Ch. (1979). Sur les Emplois Personnels de L'indéfini «on» dans Langue Française et Linguistique Quantitative. Slaktine.
- Murashova, E. A (2015). Pragmatic Meaning of Speech Units. Problems and Prospects. Pero.
- Oppenrieder, W. (2010). Von Subjekten, Sätzen und Subjektsätzen in Untersuchungen zur Syntax des Deutschen. De Gruyter. http://www.degruyter.com/search?f_0=isbnissn&q_-0=9783111356426&searchTitles=true
- Petit, R. (1981). Dictionnaire alphabétique & analogique de la langue française par Paul Robert. Société du nouveau littré. Le Robert.
- Pishwa, H. (1994). Die Bedeutung des grammatischen Subjekts für die nicht-linguistische Textinterpretation. In Texte verstehen: Konzepte, Methoden, Werkzeuge. Konstanz (pp. 183-204). UVK Univ.-Verl. https://nbn-resolving.org/urn:nbn:de:0168-ssoar-14682
- Remarque, E. M. (2013). Im Westen nichts Neues. Dt. Nationalbibliothek, Online-Ressource. Propyläen-Verl.
- Siewierska, A. (2011). Overlap and complementarity in reference impersonals. Man-constructions vs. third person plural-impersonals in the languages of Europe”. In Impersonal Constructions. A cross-linguistic perspective (pp. 57-89). Benjamins.
- Zifonun, G. (2000). “Man lebt nur einmal". Morphosyntax und Semantik des Pronomens man. Deutsche Sprache Jg., 28(3), 232-253.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
About this article
28 December 2020
Print ISBN (optional)
Multicultural context, learning environment, modern society, personality formation, informatization of the society, economics and law system of the region
Cite this article as:
Chervoniy, A., Murashova, E., & Demonova, Y. (2020). Meaning And Functions Of Man And On For Denotation Of A Subject. In N. L. Shamne, S. Cindori, E. Y. Malushko, O. Larouk, & V. G. Lizunkov (Eds.), Individual and Society in the Modern Geopolitical Environment, vol 99. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 178-186). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2020.12.04.22