[Lingtyp] Pronouns for socially deictic 'The Powerful Other'

JOO, Ian [Student] ian.joo at connect.polyu.hk
Tue Jul 5 03:06:39 UTC 2022

Dear Zhengda,

I never had the impression that renja had some power connotation - could you provide an example?

For example,

Wo ba zhe dongxi song gei renjia
1SG ACC this thing send BEN someone
‘I will give this to someone.’

In this phrase renjia simply means ‘someone’, with no connotation to power.


05.07.2022 12:03, tangzhengda <tangzhengda at 126.com> 작성:

Dear typologists,

Chinese has a commonly used pronoun renjia (人家,people-home), roughly referring to a third party in dialogues.  Elusive as it may be, this socially deictic pronoun is used on the condition that the renjia-referring person takes a priority over (e.g. taller, richer, more dominant, or more justified than) a reference party involved in a certain state or event, be it addressor, addressee, or other third parties.

It means that once renjia is used, the main clause predicate somewhere is obliged to ensure that renjia takes the priority, which constitutes a special case of 'agreement' in some sense.

Brown and Gilman (1960)'s Solidarity and Power indices prove powerful in explaining T-V divisions. Renjia is special in its third-party denotation.

May I have the honor of your remindings of some similar terms for the 'Powerful, Autonomous Other' in other languages, or some literature.

Many thanks,




Institute of Linguistics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences,
No.5 Jianguomennei Dajie, Beijing, China; 100732
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