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Pronouns, determiners and similar words

Most languages and tagsets have personal pronouns, i.e. words like “I”, “you”, “he”, “she”, “it”, “we”, “they”. Various interrogative and relative function words (wh-words in English) are often also considered pronouns. In addition, grammars of some languages distinguish determiners while others prefer to categorize the same thing as a sort of pronouns. According to the definition of EAGLES, pronoun is a function word that replaces a noun phrase, while determiner is a function word that modifies a noun phrase. As a result, proper EAGLES-pronouns behave like nouns and determiners behave like adjectives. Note that possessive pronouns (i.e. “my”, “your”, “his”, “her”, “its”, “our”, “their”), also found in many languages, are personal possessive determiners in the sense of the EAGLES definition.

Because tagsets often disagree in what is pronoun, what is determiner etc., it is difficult to find a unifying approach. We decided to limit the number of the major parts of speech in order to minimize the cases where a word would end up with an empty part of speech. If there were a part of speech called determiner, drivers of tagsets not having determiners would either have to check whether pos = det during encoding, or they would fall back into a residual word class. On the other hand, if we tag determiners as special cases of adjectives (which is what DZ Interset does), such drivers will simply encode determiners as adjectives (provided they have adjectives—but these are much more common).

We also followed this solution with pronouns because of the following reasons:

Interset solution

The pos feature should be set to noun for real (according to the EAGLES definition) pronouns, and to adj for determiners (or attributive pronouns). Default value is noun and should be used if the correct value cannot be figured out from the source tagset (for instance, the tagset has only one tag for all pronouns and determiners; or there are words that can occur in both pronominal and determinative contexts, and the tagset does not distinguish these contexts).

The prontype feature distinguishes personal, demonstrative, interrogative, relative, indefinite, negative and other pronouns. It also distinguishes pronouns and determiners from real nouns and adjectives, from which it follows:

Other features (poss, reflex) are orthogonal to those mentioned above, although many tagsets encode them together with the main pronoun type. However, we can have relative possessive determiners (“whose”), reflexive possessive pronouns/determiners (Czech “svůj”) etc.


Our solution makes it difficult to recognize a pronoun for a target tagset that can encode it. It is especially annoying if the tagset needs to query the part of speech many times in order to select the correct features. Under such circumstances the probably best thing to do is to define a tagset-specific is_pronoun() function, e.g. as

$f{pos} =~ m/^(noun|adj)$/ && $f{prontype} ne ""

Approaches taken in various tagsets


There are no determiners, just pronouns. I.e., EAGLES-defined determiners are tagged as pronouns.


There are no determiners, just pronouns. I.e., EAGLES-defined determiners are tagged as pronouns.


One of the broadest (but also most systematic) pronoun categories. Pronouns include EAGLES-defined determiners and also interrogative and indefinite numerals and pronominal adverbs. Subcategories: personal, possessive, demonstrative, interrogative, relative, collective, indefinite, negative. Orthogonally to that, the tagset specifies what the pronoun refers to (entity, number, location, time…)


DT = determiner (“a”, “the”, “some”)
PDT = predeterminer (“all” in “all the flowers”, “both” in “both his children”)
PRP = personal pronoun (“I”, “you”, “he”, “she”, “it”, “we”, “they”)
PRP$ = possessive pronoun (“my”, “your”, “his”, “her”, “its”, “our”, “their”)
WDT = wh-determiner (“which”)
WP = wh-pronoun (“who”)
WP$ = possessive wh-pronoun (“whose”)

There are also wh-adverbs (WRB, e.g. “where”, “when”, “how”, as opposed to adverbs, RB).


PPER = irreflexive personal pronoun (“ich”, “du”, “er”, …, “mir”, “mich”, …); also “meiner”, if used as genitive of “ich”, not as a possessive pronoun
PRF = reflexive personal pronoun (“mir”, “mich” etc. if used reflexively as in “ich freue mich daran”; also “einander” in “sie mögen sich einander”)

Other pronouns systematically distinguish substitutive usage (EAGLES-pronouns) from attributive usage (EAGLES-determiners) and adverbial usage (pronominal adverbs). Often the same word can be tagged either substitutively or attributively depending on context.

There are personal, possessive, demonstrative, interrogative, relative and indefinite pronouns.

Pronominal adverbs (“wann”, “wo”, “warum”, “worüber”, …) are categorized under pronouns, not adverbs.

Articles (“der”, “die”, “das”, …) have their own tag ART so they are different from demonstrative pronouns.


There are personal, possessive, reciprocal, demonstrative, indefinite and interrogative/relative pronouns. No separate category for determiners.


Determiners (tag starts with D) and pronouns (tag starts with P). Subcategories: personal, indefinite, interrogative and possessive.


EN = indefinite article or numeral “en”, “ett” (one)
PO = pronoun
TP = totality pronoun


Articles (“a”, “as”, “o”, “os”, “uma”, “um”) are tagged art.
Pronouns (“que”, “outro”, “ela”, “certo”, “o”, “algum”, “todo”, “nós”…) have three main subclasses:
Personal pronouns (“ela”, “elas”, “ele”, “eles”, “eu”, “nós”, “se”, “tu”, “você”, “vós”)
Determiner-pronouns (“algo”, “ambos”, “bastante”, “demais”, “este”, “menos”, “nosso”, “o”, “que”, “todo_o”)
Independent pronouns (“algo”, “aquilo”, “cada_qual”, “o”, “o_que”, “que”, “todo_o_mundo”, “um_pouco”)


Pronouns are demonstrative, relative, personal/possessive. There are interrogative (FI) and negative (FN) particles but I am not sure whether and how they relate to WH pronouns in other languages.


Pronouns form a subclass of nouns (Nh). Determiners and cardinal numbers are in the same group (Ne):

Nep = anaphoric determiner (“this”, “that”)
Neq = classifying determiner (“much”, “half”)

Other Sources

Helbig-Busch, p. 357-11 (German grammar for foreigners)

Nes = specific determiner (“you”, “shang”, “ge”=every)
Neu = numeric determiner (“one”, “two”, “three”)

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