[Lingtyp] Two 1SG pronouns (in reported speech and beyond)

David Gil gil at shh.mpg.de
Fri Jan 21 19:17:24 UTC 2022

Dear Denys, Ian, all,

Following up on Ian's comment about pronouns in Southeast and East Asian 
languages: in Malay/Indonesian (as, I would imagine, in many other 
languages of the region), different 1SG pronouns may occur in the main 
and embedded clauses of reported speech constructions as per Denys' 
query, their presence being licensed by the contrasting politeness 
conditions associated with the main and embedded clauses.The MPIEVA 
Jakarta Field Station Corpus contains quite a few utterances of this 
kind, with the most common pattern being the less formal /aku/ 1SG in 
the main clause and the somewhat more formal /saya/ 1SG in the embedded 
clause, as in the following:

(1) Pontianak Malay
aku tanyaʔ kalɔʔ pakɛʔ bəs saya maɔʔ sɛwə mɔbil kamu tu.
1SG ask TOP use bus 1SG want rent car 2SG DEM.DIST
'I (aku) asked whether, instead of taking a bus, I (saya) could rent 
your car'

(2) Jakarta Indonesian (child aged 2:11)
aku, saya, Jerapah
1SG 1SG giraffe
'I (aku) now, I (saya) am a giraffe'

In (1), the speaker uses /aku /in the main clause when talking to a 
friend, but /saya /in the embedded clause, in which the reported 
situation is a more impersonal one involving a commercial 
transaction.Example (2) is one of about a dozen similar constructions 
offered by the same child in a single play session, each involving a 
different animal or toy, each exhibiting the same construction, /aku, 
saya, X/.In each construction, the animal in question, here the giraffe, 
steps forward and self-identifies.  In the given context, the 
informality of /aku/ is licensed by the here-and-now play situation, in 
which the animal is seemingly addressing the participants in the game 
(the child and the experimenter), whereas the more formal /saya/, in the 
phrase /saya Jerapah/, would seem to represent the somewhat more 
standard register that the animals might use if, say, they were taking 
part in a performance of some kind, possibly on TV.

Although constructions such as these exhibit the pattern that Denys was 
asking after, the relevant factor governing the choice of 1SG pronoun is 
not reported speech per se, but rather the different politeness 
conditions associated respectively with the main and embedded clauses.


On 21/01/2022 20:04, JOO, Ian [Student] wrote:
> Dear Denys,
> Not quite sure if this is part of what you're looking for, but many 
> languages have different 1sg pronouns for different registers, 
> politeness, gender, social status, etc.
> Korean na/ce
> Japanese boku/ore/watashi/etc.
> Thai phom/chan/kuu/etc.
> Vietnamese em/anh/toi/etc.
> Regards,
> Ian
> On 21 Jan 2022, 6:23 PM +0100, Denys T. <denys.teptiuk at gmail.com>, wrote:
>> Dear all,
>> Maybe this question may sound odd to many, but I wondered if there 
>> are languages that would have more than one 1SG pronoun, and if yes, 
>> how would the two differ from one another? My question mainly relates 
>> to reported speech constructions, specifically self-quotations. Since 
>> it is quite safe to assume that Reported Speaker = Reporter in 
>> self-quotations, I wondered if some language would distinguish the 
>> two sources of consciousness: 'I-now'//as Reporter, and 'I-then'//as 
>> Reported Speaker. I don’t think I have seen something like this in 
>> the literature (might have simply overlooked it), but if you have 
>> heard about something like that, I would be interested to know more. 
>> Any examples from the languages of your expertise where this (or any 
>> other similar distinction related to 1SG pronoun) occurs would be 
>> more than welcome!
>> Have a lovely weekend!
>> From Tartu,
>> Denys Teptiuk
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David Gil

Senior Scientist (Associate)
Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6, Leipzig, 04103, Germany

Email:gil at shh.mpg.de
Mobile Phone (Israel): +972-526117713
Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81344082091
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