LINGUIST List 4.538

Mon 12 Jul 1993

Disc: Neologistic Pronouns

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  1. , 4.529 Neologistic Pronouns
  2. Steven Schaufele, hann
  3. , An abrupt modern extension

Message 1: 4.529 Neologistic Pronouns

Date: Sun, 11 Jul 93 08:22:14 ED4.529 Neologistic Pronouns
From: <>
Subject: 4.529 Neologistic Pronouns

Speaking of neologistic pronouns, does anybody know of any
broad-based crosslinguistic studies of "neologistic" pronouns
in general, and not necessarily ones deliberately introduced
for ideological reasons. I have in mind such things as the
replacement of thou/thee by you in English as well as the
replacement of true pronouns by nouns or NPs or by loanwords.
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Message 2: hann

Date: Thu, 8 Jul 1993 20:37:25 -hann
From: Steven Schaufele <>
Subject: hann

>From time to time, i get personal queries about the pronoun 'hann'. But
recently (LINGUIST 4-529) a couple of queries appeared in the net, and so i
am posting an explanatory account thereto.

As Elise Morse-Gagne recognized, the form is (partly) a borrowing from
Scandinavian, specifically Old Norse, which has already provided English
with a set of pronouns (they/them/their). However, it is also in some
sense a borrowing from Finnish. In Finnish the 3rd-person singular pronoun
takes the form 'han' (with low-front vowel). My adoption, while using the
Old Norse spelling, uses the Finnish pronunciation (underlying at least --
normally, i cliticize it, with the result that it comes out as simply a
syllabic nasal, with following /z/ in the possessive) and semantics.
Finnish has no grammatical gender, which is one reason i found it
attractive as a source. In this respect, Morse-Gagne is off base. It is
intended to be a gender-neutral 3rd-person singular personal pronoun. And,
contrary to Steve Matthews' suggestion, it is not, i think, due to
substrate influence. My ethnic background is southern German+British, and
i have had very little contact with Scandinavian ethnics, either in Central
North America or elsewhere. I do have a great fondness for Scandinavian
folklore, hence in large part my acquaintance with Old Norse and Finnish.
Does this count as substratum influence?

As far as i know, i'm the only person who has committed this borrowing or
who uses 'hann' (i know of a friend who may have adopted it from me, but we
don't have frequent contact with her nowadays). I think it would be lovely
if others chose to adopt it.
Dr. Steven Schaufele c/o Department of Linguistics
712 West Washington Ave. University of Illinois
Urbana, IL 61801 4088 Foreign Languages Building
 707 South Mathews Street
217-344-8240 Urbana, IL 61801

*** Syntagmata linguarum liberamini humanorum! ***
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Message 3: An abrupt modern extension

Date: Mon, 12 Jul 1993 10:08:28 An abrupt modern extension
From: <>
Subject: An abrupt modern extension

Many thanks to Elise Morse-Gagne for explaining the origin of the
mysterious gender-neutral pronouns being used by Steven Schaufele.
Although je had managed to guess the function of these unfamiliar forms
je simply had not realized that linguists (or anyone else) could
blithely borrow pronouns from other languages and insert them into
English at whim.

Sharon Shelly
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