(Lack of) Person agreement in Finnish: Imposters, possessives and bound variables

Elsi Kaiser


Imposters are grammatically third-person expressions used to refer to the first-person speaker or second-person addressee (e.g. ‘the present authors’ when used to refer to the first-person writer, or ‘yours truly’ when used to refer to the speaker.) I present novel data illustrating seemingly puzzling agreement behavior of the first-person Finnish imposter meikäläinen (refers to the speaker, can be roughly translated as ‘yours truly’). This form, on its imposter use, only allows first-person pronoun agreement in possessives that have overt possessive pronouns and lack possessive suffixes, although it permits both first and third person agreement in possessives with possessive suffixes and also in reflexives. I propose that these agreement patterns can be derived once we combine insights about (i) differences in the semantic binding properties of the two possessive constructions that exist independently of imposters and are correlated with the presence/absence of an overt possessive pronoun, and (ii) the interpretational properties of imposters.

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