Variant Forms of Relative Pronouns
In some languages, such as German, Serbo-Croatian and Latin, which have gender, number, and noun declensions, the relative pronoun agrees with its antecedent in gender and number, while its case indicates its relationship with the verb in the relative or main clause. In some other languages, the relative pronoun is an invariable word.
The words used as relative pronouns are often words which originally had other functions: for example, the English which is also an interrogative word. This suggests that relative pronouns might be a fairly late development in many languages. Some languages, such as Welsh, do not have relative pronouns.
In English and German, different pronouns are sometimes used if the antecedent is a human being, as opposed to a non-human or an inanimate object (as in who/that).
- (5) This is a bank. This bank accepted my identification.
- (6) She is a bank teller. She helped us open an account.
With the relative pronouns, sentences (5) and (6) would read like this:
- (7) This is the bank that accepted my identification.
- (8) She is the bank teller who helped us open an account.
In sentences (7) and (8), the words that and who are the relative pronouns. The word that is used because the bank is a thing; the word who is used because "she" is a person.
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