[b-hebrew] We and us

Peter Kirk peter at qaya.org
Tue Nov 14 17:50:59 EST 2006

On 14/11/2006 21:21, David Kummerow wrote:
> ...
> Note that I was referring to the grammaticalisation of first-person 
> pronouns. Lexical items denoting "servant" and "slave" etc can be the 
> source of polite first-person pronouns. But I hardly see how English 
> "your humble servant" is a grammaticalised polite first-person pronoun. 
> The same thing could be happening in the Turkish dialect you mention, 
> but you would need to supply me with further details. ...

It is not a dialect but a separate language, related to Turkish, and the 
national language of an independent country. For various reasons I don't 
want to specify further. But in both Turkish and in this language the 
word "bende" meaning "slave" in Turkish, and the same word in a slightly 
different form in the other language, are sometimes used with second or 
third person possessive suffixes (rather like the Hebrew ones) as some 
kind of substitute for the first person pronoun, in fact exactly as 
`ABDEKA is used in Hebrew. If Turkish counts as an example for 
Helmbrecht's study, why doesn't Hebrew?

> ... Helmbrecht's 
> implicational hierarchy of the grammaticalisation of politeness 
> distinctions in pronouns would hypothesis that for English "your humble 
> servant" to grammaticalise into a pronoun, a grammaticalised politeness 
> distinction would need to be operable in the second- and third-person. 
> Since this is not the case, "your humble servant" is hypothesised to 
> remain a noun phrase.
According to what criteria does Helmbrecht judhe Turkish "bendeniz" to 
be "grammaticalisation" but, I presume, Hebrew `ABDEKA and English "your 
humble servant" not to be? If the criterion is that there is also a 
second or third person politeness distinction, then the argument is 

Later you further explained to Bryan:
> ... That English "your humble 
> servant" HASN'T grammaticalised into a first-person pronoun could even 
> be taken in support of my claims. Why hasn't it grammaticalised? The 
> answer from typological research is that English would need polite 
> second- and third-person pronouns before such a grammaticalisation could 
> occur (again, see Helmbrecht's work).

You present it as a fact that this HASN'T grammaticalised. Now if your 
answer from typological research is to the question "why has this 
process not happened?", then the reasoning is not circular, but first 
you need to demonstrate that it has not happened. If the question is 
"how do we know that this process has not happened?", then your 
reasoning is circular. But the latter question is the one to which I 
seek an answer, even if you are not offering one.

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

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