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The Oxford Dictionary says that in grammar, the adjective "disjunctive" can only be applied to conjunctions, and disjunctive conjunctions (like or) express two mutually exclusive possibilites. However, Wikitionary has a different definition:

(grammar, of a personal pronoun) Not used in immediate conjunction with the verb of which the pronoun is the subject.

Disjunctive pronouns in French are personal pronouns, not conjunctions, so Wikitionary's definition should apply here. Why is

Lui n’est pas au courant de cela.

gramatically correct then?

How does the "discrete" meaning of disjunctive apply to the disjunctive pronouns in French?

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Lui looks indeed like the subject of the sentence:

Lui n’est pas au courant de cela.

but the sentence can be understood as a shortened version of:

Lui, il n’est pas au courant de cela. (He himself is unaware of that)

where lui is effectively disjunctive, in apposition. Lui is emphatic and il, being redundant, is dropped.

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  • Hmm... How does this explanation apply to object form: « Ce n'est pas difficile pour lui » ? – Luke Sawczak Mar 5 '20 at 11:34
  • @LukeSawczak That's a different case but in that sentence, the pronoun lui is still disjunctive, isn't it? – jlliagre Mar 5 '20 at 13:11
  • It is still disjunctive, and hence (I think) a difficulty for your explanation. When it's the subject, you argue that it's disjoined from an implicit il. What is it disjoined from when it's the object? – Luke Sawczak Mar 5 '20 at 13:13
  • @LukeSawczak I was more trying to explain why Lui n'est pas... is acceptable in French than anything else. These pronouns are more often called pronoms toniques than pronoms disjoints in French, but here is a page where they are: research.jyu.fi/grfle/301.html – jlliagre Mar 5 '20 at 13:26
  • 1
    That sounds more compelling :) – Luke Sawczak Mar 5 '20 at 22:41

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