[b-hebrew] We and us

David Kummerow farmerjoeblo at hotmail.com
Mon Nov 20 22:40:23 EST 2006

Hi Karl,

So you spoke prematurely when you said that the "literature displays a 
Eurocentric view" since you haven't necessarily read the literature 
yourself? The typological literature most definitely does not display 
such bias. In part, that is what is helpful with it. Concerning the 
books I reference, yes, I didn't really have access to them 
either---which is why I purchased them! This way, one can be outside the 
academic world but still have the resources. Or, in my case, if I desire 
access to them more than what is allowed on my borrowing rights.

Concerning אני vs. אנכי, Revell's earlier study concluded that the 
distinction was one of politeness. I forget the data sample, but it was 
a few books, maybe Judges and Samuel (I can look it up when I get a 
chance if you want, I'm just a bit busy at the moment marking exams to 
do it right at this moment; perhaps I could scan it for you if you 
wanted?). His later study moved on from this, concluding that the 
distinction was one of immediacy vs non-immediacy (see my earlier posts 
on this). His data sample here was a few books also.

Now to you contention that "[l]ooking at other languages will only 
result in a lot of hot air". This is your view, and you are entitled to 
it. It is certainly not mine, and I would need convincing to move to 
such a position. Typology has demonstrated again and again that 
cross-linguistic variation in languages reveal systematic patterns (see, 
eg, Croft's _Typology and Universals_). Regarding personal pronouns, 
this is demonstrated in the works of Helmbrecht, Bhat, Cysouw, 
Siewierska, etc etc: cross-linguistically, pronominal systems are not 
random, but can be somewhat predicated based on features of language. A 
significant typological finding is that for a language to grammaticalise 
a politeness distinction in the first person pronouns, it firstly 
grammaticalises such a distinction in the second person on its way to 
the first: politeness may be extended to the first person, but does not 
begin there. I fail to see that this is "hot air"; rather, it is a 
concrete language predication. Further, it raises a helpful question 
concerning Revell's proposal and helps to raise the issues of 
evaluation: a) what is the nature of the synchronic politeness 
contrast(s); b) what is the diachronic development of the contrast(s), 
that is, can the development be traced to known politeness sources; and 
c) how has such a process occurred in BH when in other languages the 
process only happens after a distinction is made in the second person. 
Now, Revell's study has only touched in part on a). b) and c) are not 
discussed at all. But it is c) that is where it would get really 
interesting, for this would be getting at the heart of the function. But 
a study might flounder on completing a) such that a complete synchronic 
demonstration of a politeness distinction from the data might not be 
justifiable and hence b) and c) would be unnecessary.

David Kummerow,

> David:
> As a person outside the academic world, I don't have access to the
> books that you reference. I am only able to respond to what I observed
> in this discussion.
> Now concerning אני vs. אנכי, is there a usage variance that is
> observable? For example, do speakers use אנכי usually when they speak
> as a subordinate to a superior, whereas אני as a superior to an
> inferior? If so, then we have an example of politeness. If not, then
> look for other patterns. Whoever does the study will have to do a
> careful analysis of the contexts of hundreds of occurrences of both
> אני and אנכי to come to an answer. Looking at other languages will
> only result in a lot of hot air. Such a study would make a good
> research topic for a master's degree.
> I think such a study should be done before comparisons with other
> languages, not after as it appears from the discussion.
> Has such a study been done? What were its results? Is it available to
> the general public?
> Yours, Karl W. Randolph.

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