'Determiners'

I was using the ‘linguistic focus’ feature and tried ‘pronouns’. I discovered that several pronouns are missing because Apple calls them ‘determiners’. Words such as ‘his’ or ‘your’. Wondering if it would be possible to either:

  1. Add determiners to what hilites when you choose ‘pronouns’ or
  2. Make it its own list of words that can be hilit.

Apple calls them determiners because they are determiners, not pronouns. They occupy the same syntactic positions as ‘the’, ‘a’, etc. The possessive pronouns are ‘yours’, ‘mine’, ‘ours’, etc., along with ‘I’ and ‘we’ etc. and ‘me’, ‘us’ etc. used in other syntactic positions. Just as “This is the.” is ungrammatical, “This is your.” is ungrammatical … “This is yours” is properly formed, as is “This is me”.

Mark

Out of interest, I looked at the Longman English Grammar (1988) by L. G. Alexander, where I find “your, his”, etc. listed as possessive adjectives, with the additional comment that they “function as determiners rather than pronouns” (see p. 72).

I have had to examine this issue a bit recently and what I discovered is that this new term ‘determiner’ includes many things we called by other names growing up. It turns out that they are both.
“Yours”, for example, is both a determiner and a pronoun. It is a pronoun because it replaces a noun. When speaking to Jack, for example, you could say ‘this book is Jack’s’, but instead you say ‘this book is yours’.

As a feature to a program the issue is not purely grammatical, but how the feature would be used. When I pulled down ‘pronouns’ I wanted to see ‘you, yours, yourself; I, me, mine, myself’ etc because I was working on a book where they were using the archaic second person singular forms ‘thou, thee, thy, thine, thyself’ and wanted to check I had gotten them all right. It was annoying to have it show me ‘you’ but not ‘yours’.
(BTW along the way I found out that Shakespeare used BOTH forms in his writing, using the difference to make a difference in intimacy. The dialogues between Beatrice and Benedict, for example: he uses ‘thee’ and she uses ‘you’.)

And you can find dozens of sites that talk about how they are pronouns. The problem is they are both.

https://www.grammarly.com/blog/possessive-pronouns/

Which just shows that the creators of Grammarly don’t know the difference between a “pronoun”—though “pronominal” would be a better term—which occupies a position in syntactic structure otherwise occupied by an NP (noun phrase), and a determiner, which is potentially the first element in an NP—an NP in English doesn’t have to have a determiner—which must have an N as it’s ‘head’ and may optionally have adjectives preceding the head and other elements following it. You cannot put ‘your’—or ‘thy’, for that matter—in an NP node in structure, any more than you can use ‘yours’ or ‘thine’ as the first element within an NP. Nor are any of them adjectives, because “This is the your book”, and “This is the yours book” are both ungrammatical.

As for LG Alexander, while ‘he’ did much to help the EFL industry, woolliness about structure. and terminology—which permeates a lot of the EFL offerings!—has resulted in a lot of the work I have had to do in editing translations into English from Chinese—they still teach from the LG Alexander books in China, even though they were already behind the times in the 1980s!—and in trying to help Chinese students of translation to understand better how English is structured.

My favourite howler from an EFL textbook—not an LG Alexander industries textbook, I hasten to add—is: “We use the present perfect to talk about events in the past”!!!

:smiley:

Mr X, who spent two decades as an EFL teacher, and a decade teaching general linguistics—especially syntax, semantics and pragmatics.

Grammarly is following the historical idea that a pronoun ‘replaces a noun’… which is still a very helpful concept to teach children and, in this case, is very valid. “Yours” does replace a noun, and gets congugated, as it were, as ‘second person’… whereas thine is ‘second person singular’. So the part of ‘yours’ that was interesting to me was interesting to me was the pronomial part :slight_smile:
And you can find thousands of websites that list ‘yours’ as a pronoun.

A confusion has slipped into this exchange and put the two of you at cross purposes. I believe Mr. X agrees that ‘yours’ is a pronoun. What he was saying is not a pronoun is ‘your’.

Mr X’s original assertion:

‘Your’ is also a pronoun… at least in the old fashioned sense, and in the sense that one needs to use when using old fasioned words. If I were to say,

I wish you to give your book to yourself.
That would become
I wish thee to give thy book to thyself.
IE
Each of those words would switch from the modern second person generic to the archaic second person singular.
A modern example might be
I wish y’all to give y’all’s book to y’allself.
Where it switches to the second person plural.

The old definition is ‘replaces a noun’. So when talking to Jack it replaces ‘Jack’. One doesn’t say to Jack, “I wish that Jack would give Jack’s book to Jack.” In each case the ‘pronoun’ part of the issue is ‘replace [Jack] here’.

In the context of the Scrivener program it becomes, "When someone has a need to search for pronouns … perhaps one is Bob Dole and has far to few first person singular pronouns… or perhaps one finds oneself saying “I” all the time and wishes to sound more proffessional…

How does one want Scrivener to respond? As for myself if I am trying to avoid ‘I’ I also want to see ‘me’ and ‘mine’ and ‘myself’ etc… ie all the words that refer to ‘me’. Perhaps I am unique in this, but I really don’t know why other people search on pronouns.

(BTW a programmer gave me a good workaround which has really helped me.)

From the Cambridge Dictionary:

Pronouns: possessive (my, mine, your, yours, etc.)
Grammar > Nouns, pronouns and determiners > Pronouns > Pronouns: possessive (my, mine, your, yours, etc.)
from English Grammar Today
We use pronouns to refer to possession and ‘belonging’. There are two types: possessive pronouns and possessive determiners. We use possessive determiners before a noun. We use possessive pronouns in place of a noun:

Is that
[determiner]
your scarf? It’s very similar to
[pronoun]
mine. (It’s very similar to my scarf.)

That’s not
[determiner]
their house.
[pronoun]
Theirs has got a red front door.

It was
[determiner]
his fault not
[pronoun]
hers.

personal pronoun

possessive determiner

possessive pronoun

I

my

mine

you (singular and plural)

your

yours

he

his

his

she

her

hers

it

its

its*

we

our

ours

they

their

theirs

one

one’s

one’s*

*We avoid using its and one’s as possessive pronouns except when we use them with own:

The house seemed asleep yet, as I have said, it had a life of its own.

One doesn’t like to spend too much time on one’s own.

Typical errors

We don’t use ’s after possessive pronouns:

Are those gloves hers?

Not: Are those gloves her’s?

’s is not used with the possessive pronoun its. It’s means ‘it is’:

The team is proud of its ability to perform consistently well.

Not: … proud of it’s ability …

We don’t use another determiner with a possessive determiner:

I’m going to get my hair cut this afternoon.

Not: … get the my hair cut …

We don’t use possessive determiners on their own. They are always at the beginning of noun phrases:

That’s not my book. It’s yours. (or It’s your book.)

Not: It’s your.

We don’t use possessive pronouns before nouns:

Lots of our friends were at the party.

Not: Lots of ours friends …

See also:

Possessives with of

Possessive ’s

Pronouns: personal (I, me, you, him, it, they, etc.)

It’s or its?

One

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Thanks, Von, for your extensive post. My central point stands: X distinguished between the cases of ‘your’ and ‘yours’. Your casemaking to the contrary was all about ‘yours’ — about which in fact the two of you agree. So, I am glad we got that straightened out.

I myself have no interest in staking a claim about the matter.

gr

As Oxford points out in its definition of “possessive adjective” …,

public.oed.com/how-to-use-the-o … -adjective

That’s a euphemistic way of Oxford accepting that it has made mistakes in the past and inferring that others have as well.

I’m with Oxford on this. A possessive adjective (determiner) is only described as a possessive pronoun in error. Metalanguage, is this problem “your”?

Merx

PS: even the Cambridge dictionary lists “your” as a determiner; not as a pronoun.

dictionary.cambridge.org/dictio … our?q=Your

lexico.com/definition/your

collinsdictionary.com/dicti … glish/your

It is precisely that woolliness of thinking and terminology that made me leave EFL and move to linguistics. Since ‘your’ is not actually an adjective, in that it doesn’t have any of the attributes and functions of an adjective apart from the fact that it must be followed by a noun, and since it is functionally a determiner and cannot be preceded by or followed by any other determiner … why continue to call it a “possessive adjective”.

Mark

I use Garner as my reference. He provides a little table of pronouns, which I’ve attached.
[attachment=0]basic pronouns.png[/attachment]
He also discusses the indefinite pronouns: anybody, anyone, everybody, everyone, nobody, no one, somebody, and someone; and the reflexive pronouns: herself, himself, itself, myself, oneself, ourselves, themselves, yourself, yourselves.

So the list is quite long if not constrained in some way.

Garner doesn’t provide an entry for determiners, simply referring to them in the glossary as an alternative name for articles, described thus:

Hello, Mark and auxbus.

Isn’t that more to do with history and the way words and their associated metalanguage have evolved from other languages (rather than woolliness in EFL)?

public.oed.com/how-to-use-the-o … -adjective

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Determiner

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_determiners

The “your” in “your pen” does attribute and qualify the pen (a noun) as belonging to “you”; and as an adjective is a word expressing an attribute and qualifying a noun, then “your” can be seen as an adjective describing possession, namely a possessive adjective.

I understand the historical links, but think “determiner” (or “possessive determiner”) makes more sense for modern English usage.

Nice discussion.

Merx

@Merx, fundamentally you and I are in agreement. My “woolliness” comes from the adherence to historical norms. English grammar, in the sense of categorisation, metalanguage etc., is historically based on Latin grammar, which is nonsensical as English is essentially Germanic in structural roots. So the fact that the form in Italian, ‘mio’ that has the same semantic content can be preceded by a determiner, ‘il’ and follows the same marking rules as adjectives is irrelevant in terms of English.

One of the breakthroughs of the development of Linguistics is the insight that a language should be analysed in terms of its own structures and categories, not those of some other language. Let ‘mio’ be given an appropriate categorisation in Italian, but don’t tell me that “my” must therefore have the same categorisation.

:slight_smile:

Mark

Hello, Mark.

Indeed, indeed, indeed, and indeed.

Agree with all of the above.

Good hymn sheet we’re sharing.

Merx

And the ‘belonging to you’ part is obviously pronomial, at least as it is historically understood… which is why when looking at your text for pronouns it may well be relavent. As I say above, when talking to Jack, the sentence “That is your pen” means “That is the pen belonging to Jack”. Or “That is the ‘belonging to Jack’ pen” to show the structure.
The word ‘your’ always has a noun hiding inside it.

But that is to continue to confuse semantic content, meaning, with syntactic structure, form/function. The fact that it points semantically to the addressee is entirely—or should be entirely—separate from its syntactic category and function. All determiners have semantic content; “the” indicates that ‘the addressee is able to identify the referent of the NP uniquely’. That is not much different from ‘the addressee is able to identify the referent as the addressee her/himself (or a set of which s/he is a member)’.

Hurford & Heasley coined the term “hypothetical predicate”, which, to my mind, they somewhat mistakenly exemplified with SIBLING(x). I think it is more clearly exemplified by the ADDRESSEE(x) “referent of x is the addressee”, which is present in “you”, “your” and “yours”, or more extensively by the DEFINITE(x) “x has a uniquely identifiable referent”, which is in all demonstratives, possessive pronouns, etc.

:slight_smile:

Mark

I wouldn’t mind having the high minded linguistic discussion all day, but for this particular thread my purpose is a bit different. When we, as writers, are using the ‘linguistic focus’ tool, the relevance of all of the form/function issue needs to take a backseat to the function of the program.
When I chose ‘pronouns’ as my linguistic focus, it was not because I had just gotten done a discussion on linguistics, but because I wanted to see how I was using language in my book. In that light ‘you’ and ‘yours’ and ‘your’ and ‘yourself’ were all things I needed to deal with, as I wrote above. I have yet to hear from anyone else when they choose ‘pronoun’, and whether it would be helpful to them to have ‘your’ and ‘yours’ and ‘his’ included or not. Or whether a separate class, my alternate suggestion, would be helpful.

But a very nice workaround, which is actually even more helpful to me, is that I can use the ‘find in project’ option and input ‘you, your, yours, yourself’ and search for exactly what I am looking for. Or I can search for ‘thou, thee, thy, thyself’ in the opposite direction. And I can save these searches and perform them repeatedly.