[b-hebrew] We and us

David Kummerow farmerjoeblo at hotmail.com
Wed Nov 15 16:41:34 EST 2006

Gday Bryan,

OK, to deal with more of the points raised in your earlier post and this 

See my post to Peter's post replying this one of yours. There, I said:

"If `abdeka were a grammaticalised polite
pronoun, it should be analysable pretty much solely as a polite pronoun,
i.e. [`abdeka] = polite 1st person polite pronoun, rather than [[`ebed]
= "servant" + [ka] = 2ms] = polite 1st person noun phrase reference. Do
you see the difference? The question is: to what extent is `abdeka
grammaticalised, or, put another way, synchronically analysable? I think
in the minds of speakers it was still thought of in its constituent parts."

What do you think of this? Perhaps, though, `abdo may be on the way of 
grammaticalisation (it fits the needed contextual configuration etc), 
but I suggest that it will not be a completed process until such a 
process is completed at least in the second person. I just checked Rubin 
(2005) and I find it interesting that the grammaticalisation of 
politeness in Semitic is not discussed.

Now to yishma`. I take it here that it is not the pronoun per se which 
expresses politeness, but the avoidance of a direct unmitigated command, 
ie an imperative. Commanding people to do things is a touchy issue, and 
this is often expressed in the grammars of languages (see esp. Heath 
1991, 1998, 2004). David mitigates his command to the king by lessening 
the imperative force of the utterance. This is achieved in a few ways. 
First, he uses the politeness/formal marker na' (on na', see Dallaire 
2002; Shulman 1996, 1999). Secondly, an imperative is avoided 
altogether, with a jussive used instead. The entire jussive form itself, 
rather than simply the pronoun, is probably more polite than using an 
imperative (see Kaufman 1991 for some discussion).

Do you see what I'm trying to get at? There's politeness processes at 
working in the language, but the grammaticalisation of social politeness 
in BH is not tied to pronouns reserved for this function.

As an aside, I just checked Rubin (2005) and I find it interesting that 
the grammaticalisation of politeness in Semitic is not discussed at all. 
Sure it might be an oversight, but it may point to there not being 
grammaticalised politeness in BH.

Hope this continues to help clarify matters. I'm finding the discussion 
very helpful.

Here's the references mentioned:

Dallaire, Hélène. 2002. “The Syntax of Volitives in Northwest Semitic 
Prose.” PhD diss., Hebrew Union College.

Heath, Jeffrey. 1991. “Pragmatic Disguise in Pronominal-Affix 
Paradigms.” Pages 75-89 in Paradigms: The Economy of Inflection. Edited 
by Georg Bossong and Bernard Comrie. Empirical Approaches to Language 
Typology 9. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Heath, Jeffrey. 1998. “Pragmatic Skewing in 1 <-> 2 Pronominal 
Combinations in Native American Languages.” International Journal of 
American Linguistics 64: 83-104.

Heath, Jeffrey. 2004. “Person.” Pages 998-1015 in Morphologie: Ein 
internationales Handbuch zur Flexion und Wortbildung. Edited by Geert 
Booij, Christian Lehmann, Joachim Mugdan, and Stavros Skopeteas. 
Handbücher zur Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft 17/2. Berlin/New 
York: Walter de Gruyter.

Kaufman, Stephen A. 1991. “An Emphatic Plea for Please.” Maarav 7: 195-198.

Rubin, Aaron D. 2005. Studies in Semitic Grammaticalization. Harvard 
Semitic Studies 57. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns.

Shulman, Ahouva. 1996. “The Use of Modal Verb Forms in Biblical Hebrew 
Prose.” PhD diss., University of Toronto.

Shulman, Ahouva. 1999. “The Particle נָא in Biblical Hebrew Prose.” 
Hebrew Studies 40: 57-82.

David Kummerow.

> Hi David,
> Thank you for your helpful clarifications.
> One minor clarification on my side: in my post (quoted below) I 
> purposely avoided discussing 'adoni hammelek for the very reasons you 
> mention. I focused on only the transformation from 2nd person notion 
> (e.g. tishma') to 3rd person surface (yishma`) and `ebed + pronominal 
> suffix, which has wide application.
> I do accept that grammaticalization may be more rigorous than I had 
> realized. I am still not sure why tishma` -> yishma` would not qualify.
> Thanks also for the bibliographic references!
> Shalom,
> Bryan

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