[b-hebrew] We and us

David Kummerow farmerjoeblo at hotmail.com
Wed Nov 15 00:30:15 EST 2006


Hi Bryan,

I'm not sure if either of the two "questions" you suggest get at the 
matter fully: "The question is not whether the notions surface as noun 
clauses or independent pronouns. The question is whether the 
transformation from a notion in one person to a surface structure in 
another person is driven by politeness."

That is, I take it that there is a further "question", that being: how 
is politeness being expressed in the example raised---pronoun avoidance, 
third-person address (with lexical items) or via polite pronouns? Put 
this way, I think it is hard to conclude that 'adoni hammelek and `abdo 
are polite pronouns; rather, they are the linguistic strategy in BH 
whereby politeness can be expressed by lexical noun phrases in the 
ABSENCE of grammaticalised polite pronouns.

Perhaps a definition of "grammaticalisation" (American 
"grammaticalization") may help to clarify matters: "Grammaticalization 
is a process leading from lexemes to grammatical formatives. ... A sign 
is grammaticalized to the extent that it is devoid of concrete lexical 
meaning and takes part in obligatory rules" (Lehmann 1995: viii), the 
change being irreversible (Haspelmath 1999).

Looking again at the example: to what extent are the phrases 'adoni 
hammelek and `abdo grammaticalised? 'adoni hammelek will only be used in 
reference to a king, that is, the politeness expressed by the phrase has 
not extended past such a context. For it to be a polite pronoun, it 
would need to have lost much of the reference to "king" such that the 
phrase could be used more widely of any addressee when the expression of 
politeness is desired. Sure the phrases expresses politeness in the 
example; but the phrase isn't grammaticalised. Is this the situation too 
with `abdo? I'm not sure that the word has lost its lexical meaning of 
"servant" and instead is a polite pronoun. Note that the suffix is not 
obligatorily 3ms, but will change depending of the context (3mp, 2ms, 
2pl, etc). This points to the non-grammaticalised nature of the 
expression, with `ebed still being a lexical word denoting 
"servant/slave". It is via the use of this lexical word denoting 
"servant/slave" that politeness is being expressed, not by the use of a 
grammaticalised polite pronoun. The issue is where `abdo is situated on 
the lexical-grammatical cline, with lexical words being used for the 
expression of politeness on one end of the spectrum, and grammatical 
items reserved solely for this purpose on the other.

Here's the references I mentioned above as well as one relevant to the 
issue of the expression of politeness in BH:

Estelle, Bryan D. 2001. “Know Before Whom You Stand: The Language of 
Deference in Some Ancient Aramaic and Hebrew Documents.” PhD diss., 
Catholic University of America.

Haspelmath, Martin. 1999. “Why is Grammaticalization Irreversible?” 
Linguistics 37: 1043-1068.

Lehmann, Christian. 1995. Thoughts on Grammaticalization. Lincom Studies 
in Theoretical Linguistics 1. München: Lincom.

Hope this helps to clarify things.

Regards,
David Kummerow.

> Hi David,
> Begging your patience.
>
> Take 1 Sam 26:19 for an example:
>
> yishma` na' 'adoni hammelek 'et dibrey `abdo
>
> We have a 3rd person subject prefix on the verb. Surely this is a 
> transformation from the second person notion "you" (2nd person) as in 
> "you listen."
>
> We have a third person pronominal suffix on `abdo. Surely this is a 
> transformation from the first person possessive notion, "The words are 
> mine."
>
> The question is not whether the notions surface as noun clauses or 
> independent pronouns. The question is whether the transformation from 
> a notion in one person to a surface structure in another person is 
> driven by politeness.
>
> Am I thinking correctly?
>
> If yes, why wouldn't the surface structure qualify as 
> grammaticalization since it requires third person reference?
>
> Shalom,
> Bryan
>




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