LINGUIST List 3.73

Fri 24 Jan 1992

Disc: Exclusive "we"

Editor for this issue: <>


Directory

  1. , Re: 3.063 Queries: Sapir, Toponymy, Exclusive "We", Non-visual Aids
  2. Eric Schiller, Re: 3.063 Queries: Sapir, Toponymy, Exclusive "We", Non-visual Aids

Message 1: Re: 3.063 Queries: Sapir, Toponymy, Exclusive "We", Non-visual Aids

Date: Thu, 23 Jan 1992 12:38 MDTRe: 3.063 Queries: Sapir, Toponymy, Exclusive "We", Non-visual Aids
From: <REBWHLRcc.usu.edu>
Subject: Re: 3.063 Queries: Sapir, Toponymy, Exclusive "We", Non-visual Aids


Manaster_Ramer recently mused (1/22/92)
 that 'we' is sometimes quite restricted,
meaning something like 'me and my spouse/family' or
'me and one or a few closely associated people'.

Seems to me that 'we' simply means "myself and relevant others"
 -- then it is the conversational context which allows the hearer to
work out who is included in the group. Thus, in "we moved to Utah
2 years ago" 'we' does indeed refer to me and my spouse. But
if I were Mormon and said "We moved to Utah in the 1800s" then clearly
'we' would include all of the mormon faith, a pretty big group.

After perusing some half of the 449 occurrences of 'we' in
Willa Cather's My Antonia ( on Wordcruncher CD), I can say
that only 2 or 3 refer to anything other than the two or several
people immediately present in a context.

Interesting examples are the following:

1 "... James Quayle Burden -- Jim Burden, as WE still call him in the west...."

2. "I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins,
 and I did not wantto be anything more. I was entirely happy.
Perhaps WE feel like that when WE die and become a part
of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or
goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness;
to be dissolved into something complete and great."

3. "People who don't like this country ought to stay at home,"
I said severely. "WE don't make them come here."

4. "We had three weeks of this mild, open weather."

*********************************************

Manister_Ramer suggests that "to get a more general
sense, one really needs to say 'we ... all' ". The
Cather data suggests that this is not the case --
The examples of 'we' I cited are perfectly normal
these days and are interpreted with quite
general readings respectively as follows: 'dwellers of the Western
states', 'members of the human race', 'inhabitants
of this country', and 'the inhabitants of a the local
region.'

Here, it is the context of use which clues the hearer
to the referent of 'we'.

I do think Manister_Ramer is on to something --
'we' does indeed seem to be used increasingly in
contexts that restrict the referent to me and my spouse.
So much so that this use could become conventionalized
into a sense of the word. But I don't think it's there yet.

Rebecca S. Wheeler
Smithfield & Park City, Utah
REBWHLRcc.usu.edu
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 2: Re: 3.063 Queries: Sapir, Toponymy, Exclusive "We", Non-visual Aids

Date: Thu, 23 Jan 92 14:41:24 CSRe: 3.063 Queries: Sapir, Toponymy, Exclusive "We", Non-visual Aids
From: Eric Schiller <schillersapir.uchicago.edu>
Subject: Re: 3.063 Queries: Sapir, Toponymy, Exclusive "We", Non-visual Aids

I use 'we' pretty freely, generally meaning 'me plus whatever relevant
parties can be recovered from context'. I am often asked who I am
referring to when I say 'we', so I guess that means that this scope
is not usual. I can't say that I have ever interpreted it as a reference
to parental units sans kids.

Eric Schiller
schillersapir.uchicago.edu
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue