LINGUIST List 2.305

Tuesday, 18 June 1991

Disc: Pronoun Borrowing

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  1. Scott Delancey, Re: Borrowed Pronouns
  2. "Hartmut Haberland, Roskilde University", RE: Borrowed Pronouns

Message 1: Re: Borrowed Pronouns

Date: Fri, 14 Jun 1991 09:52 PDT
Subject: Re: Borrowed Pronouns
The relatively famous Thai "borrowed pronoun" case has to be handled
with some caution. The first caveat is that the borrowing of English
/ay/ and /yu/ was not into Thai per se, but into the speech of a
particular age group of educated speakers in Bangkok. They are not
part of the pronominal repertoire of most speakers. The second is that,
like the Malay languages mentioned by other respondents, Thai has a
large, and potentially open, class of morphemes used for direct
address and pronominal reference. This includes kin terms, words
for occupational status, a number of semi-opaque pronoun-like
morphemes with fairly shallow noun etymologies, a number with
still transparent noun etymoloties (e.g. /nuu/ 'mouse', used for
first person reference by young or teenage girls speaking formally
to social superiors), and even some of the old Proto-Tai pronominal
roots (with restricted synchronic sociolinguistic function -- e.g.
Thai /mUng/, a reflex of the reconstructed PT 2nd person pronoun, is
likely to be heard only among young, generally somewhat drunk, males
in contexts of affirming solidarity or picking fights). In contrast
to the Malay case described by Suzanna Cumming, in Thai there are
no very firm syntactic grounds for recognizing a distinct pronominal
category at all. Thus any borrowing into this set is quite a
different phenomenon from borrowing into a closed paradigmatic
system with its own defining morphosyntax, which is what the idea
of borrowing pronouns implies to most linguists.
Scott DeLancey
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Message 2: RE: Borrowed Pronouns

Date: Mon, 17 Jun 91 09:28 +0100
From: "Hartmut Haberland, Roskilde University" <>
Subject: RE: Borrowed Pronouns
I was very surprised to read Suzanne Fleischman's comment on french _on_
borrowed from Germn(ic) _man_. I always thaought it was the other way 'round.
I would really appreciate references to sources about this 'general belief'.
My evidence (which I exploited in a little article in the festschrift for
Jacob Mey, ed. by Bent Rosenbaum and Harly Sonne, Odense University Press
1986) is mainly
1. that Jacob Grimm believed so,
2. that German (and Danish etc.) _man_ clearly is an innovation. (That it is
an innovation doesn't prove, of course, that it is a loan from French - al-
though this makes sense both historically and sociolinguistically.)
The original way of expressing generic reference in German and Danish was
by the second person singular of the personal pronoun, a usage still alive
in German dialects and in colloquial German (although many people believe
that this cis due to English influence - I'm not convinced. Also since English
'you' is not singular, but - at least historically - a polite plural).
Hartmut Haberland
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