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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 26

The Pronoun

The Pronoun.

Pronouns are generally stated to be used to prevent the page 9 too frequent occurrence of the noun, which is a subsidiary idea. Each of them conveys certain specific additional conceptions which are their distinctive functions.

The personal pronoun is stated to be the mere substitute for a noun, which is only the general definition of a pronoun, and misses the specific function of the personals—that of expressing the relation of the speaker or writer to the persons or things spoken of.

Then, personal is explained as meaning, standing for persons. What of the neuters, which are oftener spoken of than persons? The true meaning of the word lies in the dramatic meaning of "persona," denoting the part played in speech.

Again, demonstratives point out. What, then, are "they," "theirs," "them," "he," "she," "it," which can do this as distinctly as "this" and "that," can be used interchangeably with them, and are derived from them etymologically? Our classification of pronouns sadly lacks reform.

Again, the relative has as its special definition, that it relates to something going before it, which is simply stating a property of all pronouns. One distinctive function is missed—that of joining sentences, suggesting conjunctive as a better term. If relative is retained, it should be explained not as relating to a noun, but as relating, that is, joining, sentences.

The first person expresses the one speaking; the second, the one spoken to. But all pronouns are spoken of, however used. What of this definition?

The word compound is used with confusing vagueness. Compound should be used either of etymological structure or of function, not of both. "Whatever" is compound by structure, yet "what" is also called compound, but in quite a different sense; hence confusion.

Words like "myself," "himself," &c., are classed as pronouns. are they so, in use or derivation? They are simply nouns with possessive pronouns prefixed and sometimes attached. But you ask, what of "himself," &c.? "Him" is simply put for "his" by way of euphony. It existed in old English, and still exists in Scotch. Yet we see them variously called emphatic, reflective, and reciprocal pronouns, for this page 10 good reason, that in Latin and some other languages such ideas are expressed by pronouns, ignoring the plain fact that English has a different idiom, and expresses these by nouns.

The word indefinite is most indefinitely used as applied to pronouns. Surely "all," "both," "none," and others, are the most definite of words. These pronouns are indefinite in special and different senses. Some, as "many," "all," are indefinite in number, and should be called indefinite numerals; others, in selection of person, as "another," "other," though definite enough in number. Others are definite in both number and individuality, as "both." These ought to be discriminated.