[b-hebrew] We and us

Peter Kirk peter at qaya.org
Tue Nov 14 08:59:19 EST 2006

On 14/11/2006 03:22, David Kummerow wrote:
> ... The fact that BH under this account has a uniquely grammaticalised 
> functional opposition in the first-person pronouns---whether this be one 
> of politeness as in his first account in his article or one of 
> (non-)immediacy under his second in his monograph---is extremely 
> questionable.
Well, the fact remains that there is a distinction in the first person 
pronouns. It is the explanation which is perhaps questionable. But are 
there any other languages which make such a distinction for any purpose? 
If not, then by your argument any explanation is a priori "extremely 
questionable". Nevertheless, the fact remains, and there must be some 
explanation of it.

Later, David wrote:
> ... Helmbrecht demonstrates that the 
> grammaticalisation of politeness distinctions in the first-person is 
> from a number of options: nouns denoting "servant" and "slave" etc 
> (Japanese, Thai, Burmese, Vietnamese, Turkish); ...

If the use of nouns denoting "servant" and "slave" for the first person 
counts here, then certain registers of English must be considered an 
exception to Helmbrecht's rule and so potentially similar to Hebrew. For 
in English there is no politeness distinction in second person pronouns, 
but in some registers "your humble servant" is used consistently as a 
politeness related substitute for "I". And in fact precisely the same 
happens in the Turkic language into which I am working on Bible 
translation; in the register the translators have chosen to use, second 
person polite forms are not used (as not appropriate in a historical 
context, for they are known to be a recent innovation), but a form "your 
slave" similar to the now obsolete Turkish usage is sometimes used in 
this translation, especially where the Hebrew offers some support. But 
then that implies that Hebrew is an exception to Helmbrecht's rule for 
sometimes using `ABDEKA as a first person form, quite apart from 'ANI 
and 'ANOKI.

Peter Kirk
E-mail:  peter at qaya.org
Blog:    http://speakertruth.blogspot.com/
Website: http://www.qaya.org/

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