Experimenting with imposters: What modulates choice of person agreement in pronouns?

  • Elsi Kaiser
  • Justin Nichols
  • Catherine Wang

Abstract

Imposters are grammatically third-person expressions used to refer to the firstperson speaker or second-person addressee (e.g. ‘the present authors’ when used to refer to the first-person writer, ‘Mommy’ or ‘Daddy’ when used by parents for self-reference in child-directed speech). Current analyses of imposters differ in whether they derive the unusual referential properties of imposters using syntactic means or attribute them to semantic and pragmatics. We aim to shed light on these competing approaches by means of a psycholinguistic experiment focusing on first-person imposters that investigates the kinds of pronouns (first-person vs. third-person) used to refer to imposter antecedents. Our results show that manipulating the prominence of the first-person speaker does not significantly boost the acceptability of first-person pronouns in imposter-referring contexts. However, our results suggest that a purely syntactic approach may not be sufficient either, as psycholinguistic processing factors also appear to be relevant.
Published
2019-05-15
How to Cite
Kaiser, E., Nichols, J., & Wang, C. (2019). Experimenting with imposters: What modulates choice of person agreement in pronouns?. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 22(1), 505-521. https://doi.org/10.18148/sub/2018.v22i1.103