By Leslie H Stennes; Michigan State University. African Studies Center

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Extra info for A reference grammar of Adamawa Fulani

Example text

In this case, the speaker isn’t using John as a proper noun to name and refer to a particular person. John is being used here as a common noun. What we mean by common noun is a word that is recognized by speakers to denote a particular class of entity. So, in this particular use of John, the speaker isn’t referring to a particular person named John, but rather a class or set that includes all the possible Johns. A similar thing happens when we talk about ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. In some cases, a noun has been derived from a verb.

It also has another use which is very much like a pronoun but which differs from all others in the sense that it actually does replace a noun. It is like a pronoun in the sense that its meaning is recovered by making the link to something already said in the text or something known from the context or situation. In example (16), it is clear that one is substituted for medication. e. 3 Word and group classes medications) and not the same object as would be the case with a personal pronoun. This distinction is shown in example (17), where it and the expression the new medication refer to the same object.

Clearly, there are significant similarities in terms of how they are used by speakers but pronouns are not simply another kind of noun. In fact, the similarities between pronouns and names (proper nouns) are considerable and there are some good reasons for grouping these two categories together. It isn’t so important how they are grouped but it is important to be able to recognize a pronoun. You may have been told in school that a pronoun replaces a noun. This isn’t actually true. This point will be made clearer in the next chapter but for now a simple example should illustrate what I mean.

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