To take a stance: A developmental study of the use of pronouns and passives in spoken and written narrative and expository texts in Dutch

Janet G. van Hell, Ludo Verhoeven, Marjan Tak, Moniek Van Oosterhout

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations

Abstract

Discourse stance as expressed by the use of pronouns and passive-voice constructions is examined in two different text genres, narrative and expository text, produced in speech and writing by four groups of Dutch speakers: 9-10 year olds, 11-12 year olds, 15-16 year olds, and adults. In the pronoun analyses, the distribution and use of personal, impersonal, indefinite impersonal (pro)nominals, and demonstrative pronouns were examined. These quantitative analyses were supplemented with qualitative, functional analyses of the use of men (like German 'man'), generic je 'you', as well as ik 'I' in expository text. In the passive analyses, the distribution and use of five types of passives were examined: present, past, infinitival, impersonal, and pseudo passives. The qualitative analyses of passives focused on the semantics of the verb, the presence of the agent, and the nature of the patient noun phrase, i.e., its degree of topicalization and animacy. In general, the results showed that children and adults use pronouns and passives systematically to express discourse stance in narrative and expository texts. In specific cases, grade school children use pronoun and passive forms in rhetorically less sophisticated ways, indicating that the expression of discourse stance is part of later language development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-273
Number of pages35
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Volume37
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence

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