[b-hebrew] We and us

David Kummerow farmerjoeblo at hotmail.com
Sun Nov 12 20:03:59 EST 2006

Note, though, that Revell's position can be critiqued typologically. For 
every other language that expresses a politeness distinction with their 
independent personal pronouns, the distinction occurs first in the 
second person, then in the third, and only then in the first (see esp 
the Helmbrecht references below). In other words, some functional reason 
means that if a language expresses a politeness distinction in the first 
person, it must also express this distinction in the third and second 
person pronouns, which Hebrew does not. Therefore, the typological 
evidence calls Revell's account into question. In this light, the theory 
that Hebrew exhibits a politeness distinction in the first person needs 
explanation as to why it diverts for all other languages, which Revell 
does not unfortunately provide. Personally, I am thus extremely hesitant 
to affirm Revell's position.

Reading on this question would include:

Agha, Asif. 1994. “Honorification.” Annual Review of Anthropology 23: 

Helmbrecht, Johannes. 2004. “Ikonizität in Personalpronomina.” 
Zeitschrift für Sprachwissenschaft 23: 211-244.

Helmbrecht, Johannes. 2004. “Personal Pronouns: Form, Function, and 
Grammaticalization.” Habilitationschrift, University of Erfurt.

Helmbrecht, Johannes. 2005. “Typologie und Diffusion von 
Höflichkeitspronomina in Europa.” Arbeitspapiere des Seminars für 
Sprachwissenschaft der Universität Erfurt 18: 1-34. 

Helmbrecht, Johannes. 2005. “Politeness Distinctions in Pronouns.” Pages 
186-189 in The World Atlas of Language Structures. Edited by Martin 
Haspelmath, Matthew S. Dryer, David Gil, and Bernard Comrie. Oxford: 
Oxford University Press.

David Kummerow.
> Mah nishmah, Yigal,
> I was just about to send off a note to you pointing to Revell's work 
> when I saw David's post.
> Revell explains the choice between ani and anoki pragmatically. ani 
> for "immediate" situations where social distance and formality are 
> either uncalled for or abandoned, and anoki to express "distance," 
> that is, when a speaker takes care to express formality, restraint, 
> timelessness.
> I think the explanation works, but then again, I am sort of partial 
> toward "pragmatics." I think Vince DeCaen has researched an 
> alternative, semantically driven explanation in Samuel-Kings, but I 
> don't know if he ever published.
> Shalom,
> Bryan

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