I was teaching this morning — a small course in grammar — when I was struck with how cool pronouns are because of how much they tell us about the mind. This is one of those things, like the double-slit experiment where the phenomenon can be easily observed, but the underlying mechanisms are actually pretty complex.
So let’s start off with a question, and some observations.
Basic question: why do we we use pronouns in general?
Follow-up question: what happens when we don’t?
Let’s take a small invented passage, where, instead of using pronouns, we use the full form of the nouns. (Not actually a quote, but I’m going to set this off in a block-quote.)
Zoe went to the store. And then Zoe tried on some shirts. But Zoe thought Zoe didn’t look that great in the shirts. Zoe thought the shirts were not Zoe’s color. So Zoe got Zoe a cupcake, which was Zoe’s favorite color. Then Zoe sat down and fed Zoe’s self the cupcake. Zoe thought the cupcake was delicious, but Zoe was sad Zoe ate the cupcake in just two bites.
Wow, annoying, isn’t it?
So what’s going on? Why are we so annoyed by this?Continue reading “Pronouns are cool”