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Summary Details

Query:   Pronouns and Demonstratives
Author:  Susan Lloyd McBurney
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Morphology

Summary:   Dear Linguist List Folks-

Here is a summary posting I would like to have distributed to the list.

Susan McBurney

****** POSTING *********

Earlier this month I posted a query (Linguist 14.492) regarding
languages where first and second person pronouns (as opposed to third
person pronouns) might be related to or derived from demonstratives.
I would like to thank the following people for responding:

John Koontz
Magnus Liw
Tim Thornes
Junji Kawai
Peter Backhaus
Mark Donohue
R?my Viredaz
Robin Shoaps
Prof. Thomas Chacko
Wolfgang Schulze
Ilhan M. Cagri
Bart Mathias
Richard Laurent

I?ve included the responses below.

Susan McBurney
University of Washington
Seattle, Washington


In the Siouan family, the typical third person pronominal independent
pronominal e is a sort of demonstrative in origin, used only
emphatically - something like 'it is that one that ...'. The first
and second person emphatic independents are usually either old
independents (looking rather like some of the inflectional prefixes,
however) or old independents combined with e, e.g., wi or wi(y)e for a
first person. However, in Winnebago, the fist and second person are
reported to share a single independent emphatic form ne, which is
presumably of demonstrative origin, cf. Teton le 'this', though the
correspondence here is irregular, and the details are therefore

John Koontz


As far as I know: not. On the contrary there seem to be som possible
connection between 1st and 2nd personal stems and those of
demonstratives in case of demonstrative systems based on three levels,
such as Turkish

ben/biz ''I/we'' - bu ''this''; sen/siz ''you'' - shu ''that''; o/onlar ''he,
she, it/they'' or ''that/those yonder''

but this may be superficial; it appears as if the form shu actually is
derived from the combination of ishbu in older stages of the lgg, and
thus not connected to sen. In several Turkic lggs there's another
demonstrativ tigi used in it's place. In the aberrant and very
intresting Chuvash language (the only survivor of the West Turkic
group) there are up to five different demonstratives and the 1st
person deictic is not bu but ku. Maybe this was the ancient Turkic
form and bu was invented later under the influence of ben?

Not having the material at hand now, I remember that the Maldivian
(Dhivehi) demonstratives struck me as resembling the original personal
pronominal stems. This lgg is Indo-Aryan and related to Sinhalese of
Sri Lanka. It uses new words, partly honorific, for the original
Indo-Aryan personal pronouns, but the older forms were ma ''I'' and
t(a?) ''you(sg)'' corresp to Hindi main and tuu, or Bengali mui and tui,

Now, the word for ''this'' is mii and for ''that, by you'' tii (or cii?)
and ''that, yonder'' ee. In Sinhalese there are just mee ''this'' and ee
''that''. The mii/mee-are possible etymologically influenced by the 1st
personal stem in ma- since no other Modern Indo-Aryan lgg has a
similar demonstrative stem. But check it up with Cain&Gair, Dhivehi,
LINCOM series!

What is very intriguing in connexion to this question of yours is the
fact that several lggs seem to exhibit two sets of personal pronominal
stems, such as the Indo-European lggs -

nominative stem *eg- ''I'' < Sanskrit aham; Latin and Greek ego; German
ich, Armenian (y)es, etc., and oblique stem *(e)m- ''me, my'' <
Skr. mahya; Latin mihi, Ancient Greek emege; German mich, Armenian

nominative stem *wey- ''we'' theoblique (or enclitic) stem *n(o)s- ''we, us'' German uns, Hittite unzash, etc.

Other examples of this phenomenon is the opposition between emphatic
and non-emphatic personal stems in many African lggs, such as Swahili
mimi/ni ''I'', wewe/ku ''you(sg)'', sisi/tu ''we'', etc.

Maybe one of the stems above is of demonstrative origin while the
other is the original personal?


Magnus Liw


In Northern Paiute (W. Numic, Uto-Aztecan), the third person singular
pronouns are identical to demonstratives for the most part (I can't
say as I would call them ''derived'' from them, as they code the same
deictic categories and carry the same cases, etc.).

What may be of interest is the fact that the proximal base {i-} (in a
fairly wide-spread sound-symbolic pattern of front vowel = proximal,
back vowel = distal) appears to do double duty as a non-subject
(object or possessor) proclitic coding first person singular:

su=nana i=punni
NOM=man 1=see.DUR
'The man sees me.'

u-su i=punni
'She/He/It/That one sees me.'

i-su i=punni
'She/He/It/This one sees me.'

su=nana i=naa
NOM=man 1=father
'The man is my father.'

I don't have the data with me, but I suspect this pattern is true for
most of the Numic languages. Langacker's (1976) 'Overview of
Uto-Aztecan Grammar' probably gives details as to the extent of this
feature in the family.

Tim Thornes
Department of Linguistics
University of Oregon
Tribal Linguist
Burns Paiute Tribe


I think the second person pronoun in Japanese (/anata/) originally
meant 'over there'. A Classical Japanese dictionary that I have at
hand (Obunsha 1965 Kogo Jiten) gives several meanings for /anata/
including 'you', but the top of the list is 'over there'.

Junji Kawai
Department of Asian Studies
University of Canterbury
New Zealand


there are such pronouns in Japanese:
anata (lit.: this side) - you
omae (lit.: (honor.)front - you
sochira (lit.: that side) - you
kochira (lit.: this side) - I

It should however be mentioned that it is not uncontroversal whether
these words may really be called pronouns, because they are very akin
to nouns.

I'm sorry that I cannot give you any references at the moment (there
are many, also in English, which should not be hard to find), because
I am not at my office at the moment. I will be back at the end of May
this year. If you are still interested then please let me know. Kind
regards, Peter Backhaus, University of Duisburg, Germany


Quite a few Austronesian languages use 'that' to refer to 2SG. In
Indoneian, for instance, this is a politeness marker for some: di
situ, LOC that (near you), for 'you'.

In Muna the original 2SG form, < proto-Austronesian *i-kahu, has been
completely replaced by a form based on situ: they now say ihintu (with
*s > h, and the same politeness *i- at the front).

A reference for the Muna data form a hisotrical point of view is

Berg, Ren? van den. 1991. Muna historical phonology. In J.N. Sneddon,
ed., Studies in Sulawesi linguistics part II: 2-28. NUSA 33.

synchronically, try

Berg, Ren? van den. 1989. A grammar of the Muna Language. KITLV,
Verhandelingen 139. Dordrecht/Providence: Foris.

There're probably other written accounts -Austronesianists talk about
this a lot, but Muna is the one that comes to mind.



The only example I know (in European languages) is the Italian first
plural non-subject enclitic pronoun ci 'us', which is identical with
the enclitic demonstrative adverb ci 'there' (also used as pronoun 'in
it, to it'). from Latin hic-ce .

However, this example is a sort of accident, which I presume arose by
analogy with vi , which is the enclitic form of both voi 'you'
(plural, Latin vos ) and ivi 'there' (adverb, Latin ibi ), so that
enclitic vi means 'there', 'in it, to it' (etymologically from
'there') and non-subject 'you'. The reason why the expected form *ni
(as enclitic allomorph of noi , Latin nos ) was abandoned is perhaps
that it was not different enough from the other enclitic ne 'from
here, from there', 'from it', 'of it' (from Latin inde 'from here').

This explanation of ci 'us' is probably well-known, but I have not
checked an historical grammar.

I don't know what difference there is between vi and ci in their
values as 'there' and 'in it, to it'. The examples given in the
Italian-French dictionary I have at home do not confirm, at least for
the modern language, the hypothesis that ci = 'here' and vi = 'there'
(which would more easily explain the change 'here' > 'us'). However,
French largely ignores the difference between 'this' and 'that' and
even between 'here' and 'there', so that you will find more reliable
information in a dictionary or grammar intended for English speakers.

Best regards,

R?my Viredaz


In Sakapultek (Quiche branch, Mayan family, Guatemala) first and
second person pronouns are derived from demonstrative
elements. However, full pronouns are not a single morpheme and the
other component of each is not clearly related to demonstratives.

ra en 1 sg pronoun < ra' 'distal demonstrative'
ra at 2 sg pronoun

vs. l ara 3 sg pronoun < li 'article' + ra' 'distal demonstrative'

This is probably as close as you will come to finding demonstrative
based speech act participant pronouns.


Robin Shoaps
University of California, Santa Barbara


Indian languages like Hindi and Malayalam -- these belong to New
Indo-Aryan and Dravidian language families respectively --
systematically distinguish between third person references to places,
people, and things that are pragmatically present and those that are
textually introduced.

Hindi: 1./yeh/ ''this person'' can be used only to refer to someone who can be
pointed to.
2./woh/ '' he'' stands for someone already introduced in the discourse
by means of an NP, or
for someone visible but standing far from the utterance

Malayalam: /ivan/ same as Hindi1
/avan/ same as Hindi2

What is more pertinent to your query, however, is the case in
Malayalam, in which, the proximate demonstrative clitic /ee/ can be
used along with first and second person pronouns as emphasis markers.

Malayalam: /ee njan/ ''this I/me'', meaning the very same person talking
to you, used as almost a metalinguistic assertion of responsibility
for the statement that follows.
/ ee nee/ ''this you'', used as an emphatic device in questioning
the honesty/ responsibility/ genuineness of one's interlocutor.

Please feel free to contact me if you think you could use more
details/ examples from these languages.

Thomas Chacko


It's a really interesting question you have raised! That had been - in
the past - several proposals to derive personal pronouns from deicitic
structures. The perphaps most famous one is the the case of
Indoeuropean *eg?ho: which has since long been compared to a deictic
marker as it shows up e.g. in Latin ec- (ecce). Others have compared
the second personal singular pronoun *tu(:) to the to-deixis (distal?)
of Indeuropean. However, as far as I know, no systematical research
has been done yet on this issue (probably because many linguists treat
personal pronouns as 'basic' terms). I have addressed the question in
a section of my 1998 book 'Person, Klasse, Kongruenz', vol. 1 (in two
parts). Munich: Lincom Europa, pp. 575-598.

Wolfgang Schulze


I think it's interesting that in Turkish, the 1st person pronoun is
''ben'' and the demonstrative ''this'' is: ''bu''

The second person pronoun is ''sen'' and the demonstrative which I will
call ''contrastive this'' is: ''shu''

The third person pronoun is ''o'' and the demonstrative ''that'' is: ''o''



Japanese doesn't have pronouns syntactically or morphologically
distinct from nouns, but the term is often applied to certain
person/thing-referent-variable nouns.

There are in modern Japanese ''kare'' for ''he/him'' and ''kanojo'' for
''she/her.'' These are related to ''are'' = ''that/those yonder'' and ''ano
___'' = ''that/those ___ yonder.'' (''Kanojo'' is a somewhat bizarre word
probably, as common knowledge has it, made up for translation from
western literature; the ''jo'' is Sino-Japanesse for ''woman.'' Neither
of these words are especially polite. One would more often say ''ano
hito'' = ''that person (male or female)'' or to be very polite ''ano kata''
= ''that direction.''

A no--longer very polite word for second person is ''anata.''
Originally, this was quite polite, and literally means ''yonder.''
Etymologically, it matches the above ''ano kata'' very closely
semantically, and must be somehow related morphologically (as if <
''an(o k)ata,'' although no one has explained the ''minus '-o k-''' part,
to my knowledge).

In the past there was a similar 2nd person word, ''sonata.'' the ''so-''
part of this contrasts in a number of words with the ''a-'' of ''anata,''
and means ''there (by you).''

A cocky-sounding first person ''pronoun'' used (mostly) by young men is
''ore.'' This may possibly be related to ''kore'' = ''this (one)''; I doubt
anyone knows for sure.

There are lots of person-referent words in the history of Japanese,
but these would seem to be the closest to what you are looking for.

Bart Mathias


Italian has one pronoun that derives from a locational adverb. It's ci
'us,' and it came about like this:

(1) Latin IBI 'there' gave It. vi 'idem.'

(2) Unstresed Latin VOS also gave vi 'you' [objective pl.]. You would
expect unstressed NOS, then, to give Italian *ni, but

(3) Meanwhile, something like Latin ECCE 'behold' + HIC 'here' gave
Italian ci 'here.'

(4) Since ci 'here' already contrasted with vi 'there' as adverbs,
speakers extended the same contrast to objective pronouns, according
to the following unconscious equation (solve for ?)

vi 'there' : ci 'here' :: vi 'you' is to ? 'us'

This Italian example gives further support to the idea that 'here'
really is a ''first-person'' adverb, 'there' a ''second-person'' adverb,
and ''yon[der]' a ''third-person'' adverb. Well, they are not quite a
demonstrative, but one does what one can.

Dr. Richard Laurent


LL Issue: 14.796
Date Posted: 19-Mar-2003
Original Query: Read original query


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