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Personal pronouns

Lugamun uses the following personal pronouns.

Singular Plural
mi – I, me nas – we, us
ti – you (sg.) tum – you (pl.)
ya – he, she, him, her le – they, them
it – it
on – one, you (impersonal, generic)

These pronouns are used both as subjects and as objects. Just as with nouns, one can use the optional subject and object markers to make a distinction, placing i before a pronoun used as subject and o before one used as object. But if a clause uses the usual SVO order, this is never necessary.

In the third person singular, it is only used for inanimate things (objects of any kind, ideas and concepts) and for plants, while ya is used for animals, people, and other intelligent beings (such as aliens or intelligent robots in science-fiction). In the plural, no such distinction is made (just as in English).

On is used as a generic pronoun that can refer to any person or persons. In English, it is often translated as ‘one’ or a generic ‘you’ that doesn’t particularly refer to the person spoken to. It may also be translated using the passive voice.

On xvo lugamun si ples. – One speaks Lugamun here. / Lugamun spoken here.
On no ba debe [judge] bina tu jixi yo [fact]. – One / You shouldn’t judge without knowing the facts.

Note: The reasons for choosing this particular set of pronouns were as follows:

  • Personal pronouns express both person and number as part of their stem, i.e. the plural is not formed by adding a plural suffix to the singular form (WALS 35). No distinction is made between inclusive and exclusive ‘we’ (WALS 39; APiCS 15). Gender is not distinguished in personal pronouns (WALS 44; APiCS 13). No politeness distinction is made in second-person pronouns (‘you’ vs. ‘thee’) (WALS 45; APiCS 18). Pronouns looks the same regardless of whether they are used as subject or object – case is not marked (WALS 99).
  • WALS doesn’t state how many language distinguish singular from plural ‘you’ and was instead resolved using a polysemy check. Since only 9 of 27 languages (33.3%) use the same word for both concepts, Lugamun uses different words as well.
  • In the third person singular, it would be possible to use the same word for all of ‘he’, ‘she’, and ‘it’. However, most of our source languages have several distinct pronouns here: English, written Mandarin, and Russian have a male/female/non-human distinction (he, she, it); Arabic, French, and Spanish have a male/female distinction; Hindi and Japanese have a near/far distinction (similar to ‘this’ and ‘that’). Only Indonesian has no such distinctions. (Swahili doesn’t use third-person pronouns for inanimate objects.) A male/female distinction can often be awkward, since it makes gender-neutral expressions unnecessarily hard and overlooks those that don’t fit into either gender. A distinction between animate (person or animal) and inanimate (thing) is more useful, hence we choose to preserve and express the latter.

Possessive pronouns

The possessive forms of pronouns express that something belongs in some way to the entity specified by the pronoun. In Lugamun they are formed by adding -s if the base pronoun ends in a vowel, -i if it ends in a consonant. This results in the following set of possessive pronouns:

Singular Plural
mis – my, mine nasi – our, ours
tis – your, yours (sg.) tumi – your, yours (pl.)
yas – his, her les – their, theirs
iti – its
oni – one’s, your (impersonal, generic)

Possessive pronouns are always placed before the noun to which they refer.

mis mama – my mother
yas kat – her/his cat
les ruma – their house

Instead of these separate possessive forms, one can also use the base form preceded by the preposition de or followed by the postposition ki, though this is less common.

mama de mi / mi ki mama – my mother

Possessive pronouns can also be used standalone, without a subsequent noun. This is the case when they are used as complement of the preceding noun:

Si buku (xi) tis. – This book is yours.
Ta kuni ga ban mis! – That country will become mine!

In such cases, the noun and the possessive pronoun are connected through the copula xi or another verb that can take a complement. Note that xi itself can be omitted in such cases, i.e. Si buku xi tis and Si buku tis are both fine.

Alternatively, standalone possessive pronoun can also refer back to the last recently used noun, sparing the need to explicitly repeat that noun.

Ti ha tis kamar, va mi ha mis. – You have your room and I have mine [= my room].

XXX Explain that possessive pronouns can be (and typically are) omitted when the context makes the situation of possession reasonably clear. This is especially the case when referring to one’s own relatives, body parts, cloths and similar things one wears on one’s body, e.g. ‘her sister, my teeth, his cloak’ etc. Likewise they may be used once but are subsequently omitted in cases such as ‘my car’.

Rationale: Seven of our ten source languages have separate possessive forms of the pronouns (all except for Chinese, Japanese, and Swahili), therefore Lugamun uses such separate forms as well. And seven source languages place the possessive pronoun before the noun (all except for Arabic, Indonesian, and Swahili), therefore Lugamun uses the same placement.

The reflexive pronouns “sin” and “sini”

In the first and second person (with mi, nas, ti, tum, and their possessive forms), the regular pronouns are also used to refer back to the subject.

Mi miru mi ni mis mira – I see myself in my mirror.
Tum ga laki tumi yo hain ta ples. – You will find your possessions over there.

In such cases, it’s always clear who the person(s) in question are, so the normal pronouns can be used without any risk of confusion.

However, the third person (ya, it, le, on) is used for a much wider set of people and things – for anybody and anything that’s not ‘me’, ‘we’ or ‘you’. Therefore in such cases it’s useful to know whether an object or a possessive phrase refers back to the subject or to another third person. To make this contrast, Lugamun uses sin ‘him-/her-/it-/oneself, themselves’ in the object and in prepositional phrases to express that they are identical to the subject. For example:

Alisa sun to rabit xvo a sin, “Oi no!” – Alice hears the rabbit say to itself, “Oh dear!”

Here the rabbit talks to itself (sin). On the other hand, if a different pronoun such as ya is used, this indicates that the rabbit talks to someone else:

Alisa sun to rabit xvo a ya, “Oi no!” – Alice hears the rabbit say to her, “Oh dear!”

In this case, the rabbit talks not to itself, but to someone else. Only the context can reveal to whom. In the example sentence it seems likely that it’s talking to Alice, since she’s the least recently mentioned person matching the pronoun ya.

Sini is the possessive form of sin, used in the third person to express that something belongs to the subject:

Man nomu sini bir. – The man drinks his beer. (his own beer)

If another third-person possessive pronoun (yas, iti, les, or oni) is used instead, this indicates that something belong to another third person, not to the subject themselves. For example:

Ona li kaixu side ni byen man va toma yas bir. – The women sat down next to the man and took his beer.

Here yas indicates that the beer doesn’t belong to the subject (ona – the woman), but to someone else – in this case, logically to the man.

Note: Don’t confuse the pronoun sin with the adverb sam, which in English is likewise often translated as '-self’, but serves a different purpose.

Rationale: We use separate reflexive pronouns only in the third person, because here they allow a useful distinction (between the subject and other third persons). According to WALS (chapter 47), reflexive pronouns (sin in Lugamun) and intensifiers (sam in Lugamun) are identical in a small majority of languages. But using different words for these functions is nearly as common, and since we use the reflexive pronoun only in the third person while the intensifier can be used with any person, it would be confusing to use the same word. Therefore we prefer to use separate words for clarity.

en/grammar/pronouns.txt · Last modified: 2023-01-16 12:55 by christian

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