Comment on 2nd p. pronouns

David Gil gil at EVA.MPG.DE
Sat Oct 17 17:12:03 UTC 1998

I find the exchange of views between Martin Haspelmath and Suzanne
Kemmer very instructive and helpful.  When the dust settles on the
discussion I'll try to write up and post a summary of the points that
have been made in this thread.

But in the meantime, just a minor factual comment on Suzanne's posting.
She writes:

> second person singular is a more crucial meaning for human
> languages to express: no languages lack a pronoun with this meaning;

All the spoken varieties of Malay / Indonesian that I'm familiar with
lack such a pronoun.  In some, such as Riau Indonesian, there is simply
no number distinction in the 2nd person pronouns; in others, such as KL
Malay, there is a dedicated 2nd person plural pronoun, plus one or more
pronouns that are 2nd person but unmarked for number.

Actually, in the course of the preceding sentence I recalled another
language lacking such a pronoun, spoken on an obscure island off the NW
coast of Europe, and on its ex-colonies throughout the world.  Isn't
"you" neutral with regard to the singular / plural distinction?

David Gil

Department of Linguistics
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Inselstrasse 22
D-04103 Leipzig

tel:  49-341-9952310
fax:  49-341-9952119
email:  gil at

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