Weak and unstressed pronouns in Polish


Bożena Cetnarowska (Katowice)


The present paper examines syntactic properties of personal pronouns in Polish, focusing on atonic pronouns (i.e. pronouns which occur in unstressed positions). Following the position taken in Witkoś (1998) and Franks and King (2000), homonymy is recognized between strong (stressed) forms and weak (atonic) forms of pronouns, e.g. the stressed was 'you.Pl.Acc' in (1a) and unstressed was in (1b):


(1)   a.  Właśnie   WAS              widziałam     w     kinie.

             just            you.Pl.Acc   saw.1SgF     in     cinema

             'It was you.Pl that I saw in the cinema.'

        b.  Widziałam  was              w  kinie.

             saw.1SgF     you.Pl.Acc in   cinema

             'I saw you.Pl in the cinema.'


The question is considered whether atonic 1st and 2nd person pronouns in Polish exhibit syntactic deficiency, hence should be regarded as weak (or clitic) pronouns in the typology proposed in Cardinaletti and Starke (1999). It is argued that the pronouns in question allow for topicalization and coordination (as shown in 2). Consequently, it is plausible to regard them as a subclass of strong pronouns, i.e. "unstressed (strong) pronouns" (cf. Müller 2001 for German)


(2)   a.   Was             NIE da                        się    zapomnieć.(unstressed 'was', topicalized)

you.Pl.Gen not   manage.fut.3Sg  r.cl.  forget

'One CANNOT forget you (pl.).'

b.  WAS           nie da           się    zapomnieć.(stressed 'was', Contrastive Focus)

you.Pl.Gen not   manage.fut.3Sg  r.cl.  forget

'It's YOU (pl) that one cannot forget.'

        c.  ?Widziałem        was [unstressed]     i    moją   narzeczoną w  kinie.

see.past.1SgM     you.Pl.Acc             and  my   fiancé         in   cinema

             'I saw you.Pl and my fiancé in the cinema.'


The example in (3) shows that there are difficulties in maintaining Cardinaletti and Starke's claim that strong pronouns in Polish have fixed [+human] reference.


(3)     [Oddaj mi tę broszkę. 'Give this brooch (Fem.) back to me.']

          JEJ                      ci                    na    pewno  nie pożyczę.

         her/it.Acc/Gen    you.Pl.Dat    for   sure      not   lend.Fut.1Sg

         'Certainly I will not lend it to you.'


However, with respect to the pronoun je  'it.Acc' and 'them.Acc.F/N', the distinction between obligatory [+human] reference and the unrestricted [+/-human] reference is relevant for its syntactic distribution.


(4)   [Bliźniaczki zawsze mi pomagają. 'The twin sisters always help me.']

        Zaprosiłam      je                      i       twojego   brata       na    urodziny.

        invited.1SgF    them.Acc.F/N and  your      brother    on    birthday.

        'I invited them and your brother to (my) birthday party.'


(5) [Okno w łazience nie domyka się. 'The bathroom window won't shut.']

        ??Pomalowałam   je               i       drzwi    na    zielono.

        painted.1SgF          it.Acc.N     and  door     on    green

        'I painted it and (the) door green.'


This could be regarded as evidence supporting the recognition of homonymous strong [+human] pronoun je, and the deficient (weak) [-human] pronoun je.



Cardinaletti, Anna and Michal Starke (1999) "The typology of structural deficiency: A case study of the three classes of pronouns". In: Henk van Riemsdijk (ed.) Clitics in the Languages of Europe. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin/New York.

Franks, Steven and Tracy Holloway King (2000) A Handbook of Slavic Clitics. OUP, Oxford.

Witkoś, Jacek (1998) The Syntax of Clitics. Steps towards a Minimalist Account. Motivex, Poznań.