[b-hebrew] We and us

B. M. Rocine brocine at twcny.rr.com
Mon Nov 13 20:13:20 EST 2006

HI David,

I thankfully accept your caution.

In fairness to Revell, I poorly stated his definition of 
immediacy/distance as a parameter of usage.  It is not only a deference 
or politeness distinction per se.  Immediacy reflects a category of 
usage in which social status, emotional intensity, and personal concern 
come into play (see _The Designation of the Individual_ 3.4, 26.1, 

In addition his analysis of the 'ani/'anoki contrast does not sit alone. 
  According to Revell, it is part of a widely utilized and 
self-consistent parameter of usage, immediacy/distance.

Of course, we should probably view with suspicion any "self-consistent" 
linguistic system in the Hebrew Bible, but again, in fairness to Revell, 
his corpus of study is limited to Sam-Kings, if I remember correctly.

I am not out to defend Revell.  Only to be fair.  On the other hand, I 
do like coming to the Hebrew Bible with a "friendliness" like his, in 
which one strives to find consistency in the corpus we have rather than 
trying to reconstruct the origin of BH.


David Kummerow wrote:
> 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: 
> 277-302.
> 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. 
> [http://www.db-thueringen.de/servlets/DerivateServlet/Derivate-6136/ASSidUE18.pdf]
> 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.
> Regards,
> 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

B. M. Rocine
Living Word Church
6101 Court St. Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13026
(W): 315.437.6744

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