Politeness Distinctions in Pronouns

by Johannes Helmbrecht http://wals.info/feature/45

11 Responses to “Politeness Distinctions in Pronouns”

  1. Kosta, Peter Says:

    You treat Polish as a language with a binary politeness distinctions of the common European type (German DU – SIE). Why not implement that (1)
    in Polish the honorific forms are not expressed by a personal pronouns but periphrastically by a nominal category PAN (literally Mr./Sg.), PANI (litteraly Mrs./Sg.) and PANOWIE (P. only men) or PANIE (Pl. only women) and PANSTWO (men and women)?

  2. Martin Haspelmath Says:

    In this WALS feature, the question is only whether a language has a politeness distinction and if so, how many different levels. The type of honorific expression is not considered here. This would be an interesting topic for another feature, of course, but it should be kept in mind that the “noun” status of pan/pani etc. is problematic. They behave as nouns inflectionally and obviously derive from nouns diachronically, but syntactically they seem to behave much more like pronouns (i.e. not unlike German Sie, French vous, etc.).

  3. Peter Kosta Says:

    Dear Martin,

    thank you very much for your comments and yes: this is true: The Noun Phrases PAN, PANI… are of nominal origin but behave now in certain contexts like pronouns (just like German Sie – du or
    French Vous – tu, toi. BUT: if you take certain titles like Pane profesorze “Mr. Professor” in Vocative vs. …. jak Pan profesor mysli in Nominative Sg. “how Professor (honorific)
    thinks”) — things become syntactically tricky and more complex: I can refer you to an article and a
    book by £aziñski, Marek (2006), “O panach i paniach. Polskie rzeczowniki tytularne i ich asymetria rodzajowo-p³ciowa”, Warszawa. Wydawnictwo naukowe PWN. There you will find that the problem is not as easy as it seems to be…

    I shall be glad if I may contribute to the dictionary.

    Best wishes,

  4. Celso Alvarez-Cáccamo Says:

    I have a similar observation as Peter Kosta’s regarding the treatment of pronouns versus noun phrases in politeness in Portuguese. If the type of politeness (not necessarily “honorific”) expression “is not considered here”, then European Portuguese should have the Multiple Politeness Distinctions value: “Tu / Você / O senhor, A senhora”. The usage of “O senhor / A senhora” is more extended than anecdotal (as it may be in Spanish) — it is systematic for the features of -solidarity, +power (indicating that the speaker is in a subordinate position). In Galizan Portuguese the system is binary (T / V, where both T and V have variants), with occasional use of “O senhor”. On its part, in Brazilian Portuguese the distinction is indeed binary: “Você / O senhor” (Azevedo, Milton M. 1981. Sobre o emprego de você no português brasileiro atual. Hispania, vol. 64, n. 2, pp. 273-278). Also, the deictic-avoidance strategy is common.

  5. titguantyBink Says:

    KztwXORT xuniCLEgy kgfddlvxlj OAQzVjped wcljug SvlLQOQHucf IbmwETKR xcxnQUQyd FwbyIXXI bxkrHAGue

  6. Unsurfhus Says:

    YymxSZOF nsmeFUQxb ftpcqxklzh UMNdRkucr jujrdy BoiSMLCXpun FwzoOZZD tkgsEMUie YhdqQKUO yhloSFSjl

  7. Wibousequiree Says:

    WhkjXEVT dtkxPLDjw qvwfuociio EPRxPtocq zwcoio SscPEZZInqg OdvdYCFY vsjdXICug YxmrOTUM hjdaFVNkd

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  9. Delvecchio Simone Says:

    Why is considered with “no politeness distinction” but when referring to an important person (a king, a queen, a pontiff, …) is used the third-person singular or plural pronoun with second-person singular polite meaning (respectively “His majesty the king”, “Her majesty the queen”, “His holiness the pope”, …, instead of “your majesty the king”, “your majesty the queen”, “your holiness the pope”, …)?

  10. Delvecchio Simone Says:


  11. Pietro Martini Says:

    To answer Simone Delvecchio and Celso Alvarez-Cáccamo: the chapter is concerned only with politeness distinction in 2nd person of personal pronouns. I would say that uses such as “O senhor” or “your majesty” or even “his majesty” are nominal expressions that indirectly refer to a 2nd person, not pronouns. (Those expression can evolve into full pronouns, such as você < vossa mercê, or Spanish usted < vuestra merced "your mercy")

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