Personal Pronouns

The personal pronoun system is set out in Table 13.6. In the pronominal paradigm, only the non-sectarian Pennsylvania German has fully retained a distinct three-case system, i.e. nominative, accusative, and dative, while the Pennsylvania German language of the sectarians has reduced the pronominal cases to two, i.e. subject and object. There is only one pronoun of address, the informal singular du 'you' and the plural dir 'you (pi.)', although the latter form manifests regional variants.

Many pronouns are traditionally used as pro- or enclitics, thus unstressed and reduced forms are preferred: mor, dor, nor, om> on, ro, no (see Verb morphology, p. 432). The second person singular pronoun is usually omitted in interrogatives, e.g. wi bift? 'how are you?', was ho ft dat? 'what do you have there?' In the first- and second-person plural, a variety of pronominal forms attest to linguistic remnants traceable to the original German dialect regions of the colonists, e.g. [mid] 'we' indicative of Palatine dialects, [did] and [id] 'your (pi.)' are of Alemannic origin.

By analogy to the English pronoun 'it', Pennsylvania German occasionally uses os,'s 'it' when referring to inanimate objects, e.g. wu is dor brif? 'where is the letter?' si hat fs (os) m iro bux 'she has it in her book' in contrast with si hat in m iro bux. In the latter example, the pronoun in 'his' still reflects the masculine gender of brif 'letter'. The reflexive form is six '-self, corresponding to Standard German sich.

Indefinite pronouns and adjectives are: al 'all' alo 'every, each', alos 'everything', del 'some', ebor 'someone, somebody', cbos 'something', bisol 'a little bit', enix 'any', wenix 'a little, a bit', niks 'nothing',./*/ 'much, many'.

Table 13.6 Personal pronouns

Singular 1



Plural 1






ar, si, as







'he, she, it'







in, si, as







im, ira, im




None of these words is declined; del, ebdr, ebos, and niks are used with third-person singular verbs only. There is a third-person singular indefinite pronoun mar 'one, people, they, you' equivalent to Standard German man 'one', e.g. mar kumt gawenlix urn seks ur 'one usually arrives at six o'clock*. Besides the nominative form m^r, there is also em used in accusative and dative functions, e.g. sel is net gut far em 'that is not good for one/people, etc.'.

The two interrogative pronouns wer 'who', was 'what' are similar to Standard German patterns. While war has a common (wer) and a dative (wem) form, was remains invariant in both cases, e.g. wer tit ft m airdr ful? 'who teaches in your (pi.) school', was est ar mariysts? 'what does he eat in the morning?', wem hat ar sai bugi gewd 'to whom did he give his buggy?' Possession is expressed with wem (common case wer for most sectarians) plus the invariant possessive adjective sai, as in wem/wer sai brif is sel? 'whose letter is that'. The phrase far was renders the English meaning 'why', e.g. far was heft net? 'why don't you listen?' The interrogative pronominal weldr 'which' follows the declensional paradigm of the demonstrative selsr 'that'.

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