The pragmatic import of pronominal usage in chiShona discourse

  • Sinfree Makoni
  • Pedzisai Mashiri


This article discusses the pragmatic significance of chiShona pronouns by examining the use of different pronouns: personal, enumerative, and demonstrative, and by demonstrating their address and referential value and social meanings. Two important issues are addressed.  First, we demonstrate that a purely grammatical analysis of pronouns, which emphasise the internal analysis and the anaphoric function of pronouns, fails to capture the complexity of pronominal usage in ordinary conversations. Second, the discourses that we analyse in this article demonstrate how in particular communicational contexts, specific speakers use pronouns to index referents other than the ones conventionally associated with a particular pronominal form in an analysis based on grammatical analysis. For example, besides its generic self-reference, the first person pronoun may be used to refer to a second or third person. The second person pronoun, apart from having a second person reference, can, be used as a second first or third person reference. The third person may, apart from its conventional reference, be used to mean either the first or second person. The pronoun switches also involve indirectness, reflecting a wide range of social meanings which have politeness  implications.


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Author Biographies

Sinfree Makoni
Sinfree Makoni is Professor and Director of the Department of African and African American Studies and the Center of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies, Pennsylvania State University, USA Email:
Pedzisai Mashiri
Pedzisai Mashiri is a senior lecturer in the Department of African Languages and Literature at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare Email: