Pronouns Objective pronouns are used to refer to the

Pronouns
are a challenging aspect of language to learn, as they require that the speaker
has syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic knowledge. However, they serve a
valuable function. If it weren’t for pronouns speech would be highly repetitive
because the noun would have to be repeated every time it was referred to.
Therefore, training proper pronoun usage is important for the production of
efficient communication (Owens, 2014).

Development of Personal
Pronouns

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Personal pronouns are used to replace
nouns and can be classified into the following types: nominative (or subjective),
objective, possessive, and reflexive. In most cases, facilitators select
targets based on typical developmental milestones. Typically developing
children master nominative pronouns first. Nominative pronouns are used to
indicate the subject of the sentence and include the following: I, you, he, she, it, we, you and they (Justice & Ezell, 2002). Owens
(2014) suggests that the teaching of nominative pronouns should begin with the
first person I, followed by the
second person you, and finally the
third person he/she. “This
developmental order reflects complexity with shifting reference and the number
of possible referents” (Owens, 2014, p.318). Teaching deictic terms, such as I and you, can be particularly challenging. Therefore, it can be
beneficial to include a second language facilitator, such as a second SLP or a
parent to serve as a model. This prevents confusion in regards to the child’s
frame of reference (Owens, 2014).

Following nominative pronouns, children
begin to master objective pronouns. Objective pronouns are used to refer to the
person receiving the action. Objective pronouns are also used to refer to a
direct object of a preposition. Objective pronouns include the following: me, you, him, her, it, us, your, and them. Possessive pronouns typically
follow. Possessive pronouns are used to indicate ownership and include the
following: my/mine, your/yours, his,
her/hers, its, our/ours, your/yours, and their/theirs. Each personal pronoun has its own reflexive form,
these are knows as reflexive pronouns. A reflexive pronoun is part of a noun
phrase and derives its meaning from another noun in the sentence. Therefore, a
reflexive pronoun would not be used in place of a noun, but rather in addition
to the noun. A reflexive pronoun is created by adding the suffix “self” or
“selves”. Reflexive pronouns include the following: myself, yourself, himself, herself, oneself, ourselves, yourselves, and
themselves (Justice & Ezell,
2002).

Table 1.

Personal Pronouns Categorized

 

Nominative

Objective

Possessive

Reflexive

Singular

 

 

 

 

First
Person

I

me

my/mine

myself

Second
Person

you

you

your/yours

yourself

Third
Person
(Masculine)

 
he

 
him

 
his

 
himself

Third
Person
(Feminine)

 
she

 
her

 
her/hers

 
herself

Third
Person
(Neutral)

 
it

 
it

 
its

 
oneself

Plural

 

 

 

 

First
Person

we

us

our/ours

ourselves

Second
Person

you

your

your/yours

yourselves

Third
Person

they

them

their/theirs

themselves

(Justice &
Ezell, 2002)

Teaching
Personal Pronouns

            Initially children may experience difficulty mastering
pronouns due to their protean nature. Children often employ a variety of
strategies when learning how to use pronouns in an attempt to prevent error.
One way that children avoid making pronominal errors is by overusing nouns. For
example, if the child wanted to convey that “she did it” when the subject “she”
has already been established, the child might just repeatedly refer to the
person’s name (Pence Turnbull & Justice, 2012). In order to avoid confusion
and decrease reliance on nouns it is important to limit the number of referents
during training. For example, if pronouns were being trained within a story
format it would be beneficial to select a story that only has a small number of
characters (Owens, 2014).

            Children will make mistakes in their effort to master
pronouns. One common area of confusion for children is gender pronouns. It is
important to understand that this does not necessarily indicate a lack of
conceptual understanding about the differences between genders.  Gender pronouns can remain confusing for some
children in the initial stages of pronoun development. Additionally, children
may experience difficulty determining when to use the singular gender neutral
pronoun it. Other common mistakes
that children make are mixing up pronouns for people and objects (i.e. he/it), and using possessive and objective
pronouns interchangeably (i.e. his/him)
(Pence Turnbull & Justice, 2012).

            Pronouns can be taught through modeling, continuous
exposure, and repetition. When children incorrectly use a pronoun it provides
an opportunity for modeling of the correct usage. For example, if the child
says “he sleeping” when her baby
sister is sleeping, the communication partner can say “that’s right, she is sleeping”. Another way to expose
children to pronouns is by narrating daily activities while emphasizing correct
pronouns. For example, while feeding the dog the communication partner could
say “I’m feeding the dog right now. He is
very hungry”. Continuous daily exposure can help to facilitate proper pronoun
usage (Pence Turnbull & Justice, 2012). If the child is not using pronouns
at all, they can be taught in any context in which the child does something
repeatedly. In order to encourage this the communication partner can create a
play based scenario during which pronouns can be prompted or modeled. For
example, when playing with a toy kitchen the child may say “princess eat
cookie”. In this situation the communication partner could reply with, “She does. She loves cookies. What else?” (Owens, 2014).

            While children may experience some
difficulty in the initial stages of pronoun development, pronouns can often be
trained through repeated exposure and proper modeling. Training of pronouns can
be integrated into play and daily activities in order to encourage proper use
and promote generalization. Pronouns are important for reducing redundancy and
increasing clarity. Pronoun acquisition will allow children to be more concise
and efficient in their communication.