pronoun to noun
jpshs at NUS.EDU.SG
Sat Oct 24 06:09:34 UTC 1998
I may be too late to share the enthusiasm for the discussion of the
infrequent change Pronoun > Noun. But let me introduce the case of 3rd
person pronouns in Japanese since few cases in Asian languages have been
posted. Japanese historically did not have explicit 3rd person pronouns.
But in Meiji period, about 120 years ago, people found out that it would be
very inconvenient if there isn$B!G(Jt any 3rd person pronoun because at that
time Japan was trying hard to absorb Western science, philosophy and
literature etc. So writers who were influenced by Western literature (they
are not necessarily translators) started to use the 3rd person pronoun kare
to mean both $B!H(Jhe$B!I(J and $B!H(Jshe$B!I(J. Gradually, kanojo $B!H(Jshe$B!I(J was developed to
make a distinction between $B!H(Jhe$B!I(J and $B!H(Jshe$B!I(J. In modern JP, people are
still reluctant to use these pronouns because they like to use the 3rd
person$B!G(Js name to refer to a 3rd person, such as Yamadasan $B!H(JMr Yamada$B!I(J.
Now the main concern for kare and kanojo in modern JP is that kare $B!H(Jhe$B!I
and kanojo $B!H(Jshe$B!I(J can mean $B!H(Jboyfriend$B!I(J and $B!H(Jgirlfriend$B!I(J respectively.
And this usage is much commoner than the true pronoun usage. Therefore,
kare and kanojo can be modified by the modifiers for general nouns.
Omae no kanojo
You $B!F(Js she = your girl friend
kanojo no kare
she $B!F(Js he = her boyfriend
handsome he =handsome boyfriend
kanojo no kare $B!H(Jshe$B!G(Js he$B!I(J seems awkward but it means $B!H(Jher boyfriend$B!I(J.
The 1st person pronoun and 2nd person pronouns didn$B!G(Jt develop such
meanings. Therefore the following phrases sound absurd.
?Watashi no anata
I $B!F(Js you
?anata no watashi
you $B!F(Js I
But the meaning shift of the 3rd person pronouns did not stop there. In
some situations, these pronouns have more general sense as $B!H(Jboy$B!I(J and
$B!H(Jgirl$B!I(J. In a situation where young boys find out a cute girl on the
street, the boys who try to attract the girl$B!G(Js attention will say,
soko no kawaii kanojo!
There $B!F(Js cute she=girl=you?
$B!H(JHey! Cute girl!$B!I
In this usage, what is really pointed by kanojo or kare is $B!H(Jyou$B!I(J as in
$B!H(Jhey, you!$B!I(J and a parallel structure can be drawn using the 2nd peron
soko no urusai anta!
There $B!F(Js irritating you
$B!H(JHey! (irritating) you!$B!I
I don$B!G(Jt have any theoretical insights that can account for these semantic
shifts but this is just for fun for those who love languages!
National University of Singapore
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