Referring to discourse participants in Ibero-Romance languages

Pekka Posio   Peter Herbeck  


This volume brings together contributions by researchers focusing on personal pronouns in Ibero-Romance languages, going beyond the well-established variable of expressed vs. non-expressed subjects. While factors such as agreement morphology, topic shift and contrast or emphasis have been argued to account for variable subject expression, several corpus studies on Ibero-Romance languages have shown that the expression of subject pronouns goes beyond these traditionally established factors and is also subject to considerable dialectal variation. One of the factors affecting choice and expression of personal pronouns or other referential devices is whether the construction is used personally or impersonally. The use and emergence of new impersonal constructions, eventually also new (im)personal pronouns, as well as the variation found in the expression of human impersonality in different Ibero-Romance language varieties is another interesting research area that has gained ground in the recent years. In addition to variable subject expression, similar methods and theoretical approaches have been applied to study the expression of objects. Finally, the reference to the addressee(s) using different address pronouns and other address forms is an important field of study that is closely connected to the variable expression of pronouns. The present book sheds light on all these aspects of reference to discourse participants. The volume contains contributions with a strong empirical background and various methods and both written and spoken corpus data from Ibero-Romance languages. The focus on discourse participants highlights the special properties of first and second person referents and the factors affecting them that are often different from the anaphoric third person. The chapters are organized into three thematic sections: (i) Variable expression of subjects and objects, (ii) Between personal and impersonal, and (iii) Reference to the addressee.


  • Referring to discourse participants in Ibero-Romance languages
    Peter Herbeck, Pekka Posio
  • Part I
    Variable expression of subjects and objects
  • A cross-dialectic comparison of first person singular subject pronoun expression in Southern Arizona and Southeast Texas
    Ryan M. Bessett
  • Variable indirect object pronoun expression
    A usage-based analysis of Galician and Spanish
    Javier Rivas, Esther L. Brown
  • Variable subject expression in second language acquisition
    The role of perseveration in acquisition
    Kimberly Geeslin, Bret Linford, Tom Goebel-Mahrle, Jingyi Guo
  • Part II
    Between personal and impersonal
  • Portuguese a pessoa and uma pessoa
    Emerging inclusive impersonals
    Eduardo Tadeu Roque Amaral, Wiltrud Mihatsch
  • Personal uses of impersonalizing strategies
    Hybrid constructions with a gente and se in rural Madeiran Portuguese varieties
    Yoselin Henriques Pestana
  • On pronominal uses of geral in Brazilian Portuguese
    Juanito Ornelas de Avelar
  • Toward the prevalence of a personal use of impersonal uno in Colombian Spanish
    Rafael Orozco, Luz Marcela Hurtado, Marianne Dieck
  • Discourse participants in impersonal constructions
    The case of first and second person object pronouns with Spanish non-anaphoric third person plural subjects
    Emeline Pierre, Barbara De Cock
  • Part III
    Referring to the addressee
  • Referring to discourse participants in European Portuguese
    The form of address o senhor
    Isabel Margarida Duarte, Aldina Marques
  • Variation and change in reference to discourse participantsin Catalan parliamentary debate (1932–1938 and 1980–2020)
    Neus Nogué Serrano, Lluís Payrató



Pekka Posio, University of Helsinki

Pekka Posio is an Associate Professor of Ibero-Romance Languages at the University of Helsinki (Finland). Since his PhD dissertation Pronominal subjects in Peninsular Spanish and European Portuguese: Semantics, pragmatics, and formulaic sequences (2012, University of Helsinki), his research has focused on the interplay of pragmatics, sociolinguistics and morphosyntactic variation in varieties of Spanish and Portuguese. In particular, he has studied the expression and functions of different grammatical persons and personal pronouns in discourse and the emergence of formulaic sequences and pragmatic markers. At present, he is leading the research project Language, gender, and society: Evidence from Mexico and Spain which examines the role of gender identities, roles and expectations in linguistic variation. 

Peter Herbeck, University of Vienna & University of Wuppertal

Peter Herbeck is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Vienna (Austria) and at the University of Wuppertal (Germany). His PhD dissertation Unifying pro-drop and control - The derivation of Spanish (null) subjects (University of Salzburg, 2015), dealt with null subjects in Spanish finite and nonfinite structures from a minimalist, derivational perspective. Since then, his research has focused on subject expression in Spanish and Catalan speech corpora, investigating how morpho-syntactic, semantic and contextual factors interact to yield subject expression rates. A further research area he is currently working on is the study of morphosyntactic properties of different Valencian Catalan varieties.

Book cover


September 29, 2023
LaTeX source on GitHub
Cite as
Posio, Pekka & Herbeck, Peter (eds.). 2023. Referring to discourse participants in Ibero-Romance languages. (Open Romance Linguistics 4). Berlin: Language Science Press. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.8123675


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ISBN-13 (15)




Details about the available publication format: Hardcover


ISBN-13 (15)


Physical Dimensions

180mm x 245mm