Inclusive - Exclusive

Frank Lichtenberk (FOA DALSL) f.lichtenberk at
Sun Mar 3 22:46:06 UTC 2002

Last December I posted a query about inclusives and exclusives in
Austronesian, and I have received valuable information from a number of

I was interested in "non-canonical" uses of inclusives and exclusives, and
also in the loss of the distinction. In a number of languages inclusives are
used with an "integrating" function, treating the speaker and the addressee
as if they were part of the same group with respect to the situation being
encoded, even though objectively they are not. The central functions here
are politeness, respect, solidarity, affection. This may be done in two
basic ways: (i) the speaker places herself in the addressee's sphere; that
is, the intended referent is the addressee (and perhaps her group), but an
inclusive pronominal is used as if the speaker were involved as well; (ii)
the speaker brings the addressee(s) into her own sphere; that is, the
intended referent is the speaker (and perhaps her group), but an inclusive
pronominal is used as if the addressee were involved as well. Such
integrative uses of inclusives are found especially, but not exclusively, in
languages of Indonesia and in Polynesian languages.

With one exception, Minangkabau, exclusives do not seem to undergo changes
in their referential ranges. In Minangkabau the exclusive pronoun can be
used to refer only to the speaker (but the information given is quite

In some languages inclusives are said to be used generically, impersonally,
but it is not clear whether this makes them different from the other
non-singular pronominals.

In a few languages the inclusive-exclusive distinction has been lost. If the
new "general" first person non-singular pronominal was a member of the
earlier inclusive-exclusive opposition, it was the inclusive one. In one
language, Tukang Besi, the erstwhile inclusive pronominals have become
plural general first person pronominals, while the erstwhile exclusive
pronominals have become dual-paucal general first person pronominals. These
developments are motivated by the referential ranges of inclusives and

I would like to thank the following people for information: Peter Austin,
Louise Baird, Keira Ballantyne, Ken Cook, Michael Cysouw, John Lynch, Miriam
Meyerhoff, Gillian Sankoff, Gunter Senft and Catharina Williams-van Klinken.

Frank Lichtenberk

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