demonstrative or pronoun?

Hannu Tommola Hannu.Tommola at UTA.FI
Fri Aug 7 17:19:04 UTC 2009

Dear David, and others,

I'm not sure whether in Context A the "bad line" should be taken as  
significant in this context.

In Finland, I suppose it is quite normal to start the call identifying  
himself either saying

_Tämä/Tää on N_    'This is N'

or using the construction Johannes Reese called "somehow senseless"  
but usual in German (it is senseless if you take it literally as  
meaning "in this telephone" or "on the line"):

_Täällä_ on N_     'Here is N'

The pronoun would be very odd as said to somebody you know well.

But, interestingly, perhaps from 1970s people started - in the  
beginning obviously as a joke, referring to themselves through their  
location rather with _tässä_ (here-close or of a small locus) than  
_täällä_ (here-unmarked) which in the system of the deictic locative  
demonstratives means something located within one's reach.

This usage, not surprisingly, came (and continues to be, i suppose)  
under strong criticism of those responsible for the purity of language.

Best regards,

Quoting David Gil <gil at EVA.MPG.DE>:

> Dear all,
> Consider the following very similar contexts;
> Context A:
> John and Bill are friends.  John calls Bill on a landphone; it's a  
> bad line, Bill doesn't know who is speaking; John tries to identify  
> himself (using a predicate nominal construction)...
> Context B:
> John and Bill are friends.  John sends Bill a text message from a  
> new number that Bill is unfamiliar with; John identifies himself  
> (using a predicate nominal construction)...
> My question:
> In languages that you are familiar with, in the above contexts, is  
> the subject of the predicate nominal construction a demonstrative or  
> a 1st pronoun pronoun?
> In English, the subject is a demonstrative; the pronoun is  
> infelicitous in the given context:
> This is John
> #I am John
> But in Indonesian, the subject is most commonly a pronoun, though a  
> demonstrative is also possible:
> Ini John [less common]
> Aku John
> I am curious to know what happens in other languages.  (I have a  
> hunch that the availability of the "pronominal subject" option in  
> Indonesian is correlated with the questionable status of pronouns as  
> a discrete grammatical category in Indonesian, but this hunch is  
> easily testable with a bit of cross-linguistic data.)
> Note: I don't expect to find differences between the two contexts; I  
> provided both just in order to make the situation more natural to as  
> many respondents as possible.
> Thanks,
> David
> -- 
> David Gil
> Department of Linguistics
> Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
> Deutscher Platz 6, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany
> Telephone: 49-341-3550321 Fax: 49-341-3550119
> Email: gil at
> Webpage:
Hannu Tommola, Professor of Russian Language (Translation Theory and Practice)
School of Modern Languages and Translation Studies
FIN-33014 University of Tampere, Finland
Phone: +358-(0)3-3551 6102

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