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Impossible Persons$
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Daniel Harbour

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780262034739

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262034739.001.0001

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(p.233) 10 Conclusion
Impossible Persons

Daniel Harbour

The MIT Press

This investigation began with the very modest question of why, in languages like English, the meaning ‘we and you’ is covered by we, not you. By broadening this question to all partitions of person and related deictic spaces, we realize that there is a substantial disparity between possible and attested systems of person and person-related deixis. Such shortfall between the possible and the actual is a classic variety of linguistic problem, and, in responding to it, I have attempted to present a very minimal theory of person. The resulting system furnishes a range of desirable consequences, concerning the morphological composition of different persons, the semantic and morphological interaction of person with number, and the capacity to capture the relationship between personal and spatial deixis. What emerges is a coherent, unified view of the kernel of phi, the features that make up person and number. These results may ramify beyond phi theory into the linguistic theory of other feature families and beyond, into broader issues in cognitive science and the evolution of mind. The study of phi features brings us to a deeper understanding, not just of what we is as a pronoun, but of who we are as thinking creatures.

Keywords:   Partition, Personal and spatial deixis, Kernel of phi, Person and number, Phi theory, Linguistic theory, Evolution of mind

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