In the recently published ‘Oxford Modern English Grammar’, Bas Aarts classifies pronouns with nouns and not as a separate word class. In this, he follows the authors of ‘The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language’. Is this now a widely accepted practice in pedagogic circles on both sides of the Atlantic?

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    I think you'll find that "widely accepted practice" among actual linguists (assuming that's what you mean by "pedagogic circles") is increasingly to accept that such attempts to "classify" words (and groups of words) aren't particularly useful. We are discovering that language is far more complex than can be encapsulated in a simple set of classifications and rules such as were often produced by grammarians of the past. – FumbleFingers Sep 18 '11 at 15:58
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    @FumbleFingers: certainly useful, but just not simplistic. – Mitch Sep 18 '11 at 16:41
  • @Mitch: Well obviously I haven't voted to close, but my point is just that linguists today would care far less about "the answer" to OP's question than their counterparts a century ago. – FumbleFingers Sep 18 '11 at 16:58
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    @FumbeFingers: When you said 'such attempts to "classify" ... aren't particularly useful", I took that literally. I think that disagrees terribly with the current science. In English (and most any other language I can think of), a 'pronoun' is a recognizable kind, and acts like a subset of the kind 'noun'. – Mitch Sep 18 '11 at 19:42
  • I think it is certainly not standard practice in elementary schools, if that's what you mean by "pedagogic circles". – Cerberus Sep 18 '11 at 20:21

Pronouns are a subclass of nouns and a subclass of anaphora (or pro-forms). One could define them as anaphoric nouns. Since they are nouns, they should not be classified as separate from nouns.

The answer to your question depends on what you mean by "...classifies pronouns with nouns and not as a separate word class." If you mean that Bas Aarts says that pronouns are a subclass of nouns, then the answer is yes: pronouns are taught and understood to be a type of noun.

If you mean that Aarts does not draw any distinction between pronouns and other nouns, then no, pronouns are still taught and understood to be distinct from other nouns by reason of their anaphoric nature.

If you mean, however, that distinctions are drawn between anaphoric nouns and other nouns, but the name pronoun is not kept (i.e. pronouns as well as all other nouns are called nouns and nothing else), then the answer is no. Anaphoric nouns are still commonly called pronouns.

  • Aarts has three types of nouns: pronouns, common nouns, and proper nouns. – Brett Reynolds Jan 4 '12 at 3:04

I'd regard pronouns as a subclass of anaphoric reference.

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