What is...

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Roman, Sep 26, 2008.

  1. Roman Banned Banned

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    11,560
    "I" called?
    Is it just a noun? Proper noun? Pronoun? Is there a special word for it?
     
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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    24,690
    "I" is a personal pronoun. A pronoun stands in for a person or thing which has already been named or identified and is thus well enough known in context to not need referring to by name or noun again. All of the Indo-European languages, including English, have approximately the same set of personal pronouns:
    • First person singular nominative: I; singular accusative: me; plural nominative: we; plural accusative: us
    • Second person singular nominative: thou ; singular accusative: thee (both only archaic, liturgical or dialect); plural nominative: Ye (only archaic, liturgical or dialect); plural accusative: you (used for all other forms in modern English)
    • Third person singular masculine nominative: he; singular masculine accusative: him; singular feminine nominative: she; singular feminine accusative: her; singular neuter nominative: it; singular neuter accusative: it; plural nominative (all genders): they; plural accusative (all genders): them
    Some languages have other cases besides nominative and accusative, such as genitive and dative. Many have no neuter gender.

    Other language families have a roughly similar, although not identical, paradigm of pronouns, including the Semitic languages (Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, etc.), Chinese and Japanese. In Japanese, pronouns take different forms to express the social relationship between the speaker and the person the pronoun refers to. Chinese has no case or gender, and plurals are formed by adding a uniform suffix to the singular; strictly speaking, "I," "you," and "he/she/it" are treated as nouns in Chinese. Some languages have multiple forms of we/us meaning "you and I," " somebody else and I," or "you and I and somebody else." In addition to the plural form, some languages have a "dual" form for just two people.

    There are other categories of pronouns.
    • Possessive pronouns identify the possessor of a person or thing already referred to: That suitcase is mine, ours, yours, his, hers, its, or theirs.
    • Demonstrative pronouns distinguish a person or thing referred to from other possible candidates: You can have those, I'll be satisfied with this.
    • Indefinite pronouns refer to people or things by category, including distributive pronouns and negative pronouns: Anyone can do that, To each his own, Nobody was there.
    • Relative pronouns refer back to persons or things previously mentioned, or implied: People who have dogs are happier; I know what caused this.
    • Interrogative pronouns ask which person or thing is referred to: Who left the ice cream out of the freezer? What is in that package?
     
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  5. Roman Banned Banned

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    Thanks Fraggle. That's very definitive.
     
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  7. mathman Valued Senior Member

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    English does have a genentive (usually called possessive) case.

    first person sing: my, mine. plural: our, ours
    second person sing: thy, thine. plural your, yours
    third person sing: his, her, hers, its. plural: their, theirs
     
  8. darini Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    47
    When I is the 1st person singular, why do you write it in capital letter? Is it to distinguish it from the common i letter?

    cheers
     
  9. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    24,690
    English underwent tremendous change after the Norman Invasion, when Anglo-Saxon turned into Middle English. One of the changes was the first person singular pronoun ic losing the C and becoming just i.

    The same thing happened to our indefinite article, which was originally the Anglo-Saxon word ane, "one." It lost the E and then the N and became a. I've written both a and i in italics and lower case here, to give you some idea of what people had to deal with in reading and writing. A is a fairly large, wide letter in any font and case, whereas I is very narrow. In lower case, written by itself with no other letters connected to it, it's hard to write clearly and even harder to see.

    The single-phoneme pronoun i developed in the 12th century, and by the 13th we were writing it as a capital letter.

    Capitalizing it just makes it easier to write and read. A doesn't need any help. There's nothing more to it than that.
     
  10. darini Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    47
    Hmmm... I've always thought that the English I was much more related to the Norse Jag. I really can't see the change ic > I (mainly considering that ic should be spelled /itch/, I guess).

    cheers
     
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    24,690
    The Scandinavian jag and jeg are descended from the same original proto-Germanic word as German ich. Anglo-Saxon was a West Germanic language, so Modern English is much more closely related to German, Dutch, Frisian and Yiddish than it is to the North Germanic (Scandinavian) languages.

    The word in the more-or-less single Old German language of 2,000 years ago--or the German dialect spectrum across northwestern Europe--was something like ik, which is preserved in Dutch and Frisian. It was usually spelled ic in Anglo-Saxon and early Middle English, although it was also sometimes ik and I've read one article that said it was occasionally spelled ich. But it was pronounced with a K, not the German fricative CH or the modern English affricate CH sound, so there would be no reason to spell it "itch."

    When it lost the final consonant, the short I turned into a long I, which at that time was the cardinal vowel I as in Latin. Then it got caught in the massive (and rather bizarre if you ask me) vowel shift that was one of the hallmarks of the transition from Middle English to Modern English, and it became what we now call a long I in English, the sound that most languages transcribe as AI.

    Because many Norsemen came to England during the Middle Ages--for trade, plunder, occupation and peaceful immigration--our language absorbed quite a few words from Old Norse. But "I" is not one of them. Its origin is authentic Old German.

    The first-person singular pronoun is a remarkably stable artifact from the original Indo-European language ca. 4000BCE. Latin and Greek ego and Russian ya are the same word. The objective case, starting with M, as in English "me" and Russian mnye, is nearly universal in the entire Indo-European family. In Hindi and Irish it's used in the nominative.
     
  12. darini Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    47
    Yeah, now I was taking a look at some Old Norse lessons I have here and they had ek as the first person singular. I was basing my guess that ic should be spelled /itch/ because it really sounds that way in some cases as I noticed here:

    http://rapidshare.de/files/40600155/beowulf.rar.html

    However, I've heard it again and noticed it can be sound as /k/. I'm just lazy enough to check the cases in which it's /k/ and when it's /tch/. Someone must already have done this, though...

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    I was relating the Norse Jag to the English I because they sound very similar to each other... /yay/ and /ay/, for me, should have the same common origin.

    cheers
     
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Yeah, but in Swedish they pronounce the G.

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    But in any case, they do have a common origin. It's just not quite as straightforward as you thought. English and Norwegian come from the same source, but the one does not come from the other.

    You have to be careful about jumping to conclusions based on phonetic coincidences. Onna is the Japanese word for "woman" and donna is the Italian word, but the similarity is sheer coincidence.
     

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