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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 xwo 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

Placing de ‘of’ plus a pronoun at the end of a noun phrase creates the possessive form of the pronoun – it expresses that the noun does in some way belong to the entity specified by the pronoun. The preposition de can typically be omitted, that is, in most cases it’s fine to just add the pronoun itself at the end of the noun phrase.

mama (de) mi – my mother
kat (de) ya – her/his cat
ruma (de) le – their house

Alternatively, you can put the possessive pronoun before the noun to which it refers, by using the preposition ki between them. In this case, the preposition cannot be omitted.

mi ki mama – my mother
ya ki kat – her/his cat
le ki ruma – their house

When a possessive pronoun is used as a complement, e.g. after the copula xi, the preposition de cannot be omitted, since the meaning would otherwise be different.

Si buku xi de ti. – This book is yours.

(Si buku xi ti would mean ‘This book is your’, which would be odd.)

In such cases, ki cannot be used, since it would be left hanging alone at the end of the clause, and in contrast to English, Lugamun doesn’t have any “dangling prepositions”.

If a noun was mentioned just recently and one does not want to repeat it, one can use the impersonal pronoun yan '(the) one’ as a placeholder. After this placeholder, de is again optional.

Ti ha kamar (de) ti, wa mi ha yan (de) mi. – You have your room and I have mine.

Sometimes noun phrases contain embedded prepositional phrases, such as bina cien, which means ‘without delay’ but also corresponds to the English adjective ‘immediate, instant’. After such an embedded phrase, the preposition de should be included, to make it clearer that the possessive pronoun refers to the whole noun phrase rather than just the complement of the preposition.

On nide [attention] bina cien de ti. – Your immediate attention is needed.

If ki is not left “dangling”, it can always be used as an alternative.

Ti ha ti ki kamar, wa mi ha mi ki yan. – You have your room and I have mine.
On nide ti ki [attention] bina cien. – Your immediate attention is needed.

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’.

The reflexive and intensifying pronoun “sem”

The pronoun sem roughly corresponds to English '-self’. It is never used as subject, but it’s used as object and after prepositions to refer back to the subject.

Ya [like] miru sem ni mira. – He/She likes to watch himself/herself in the mirror.
Ya sun to rabit xwo a sem, “Oi No!” – She hears the Rabbit say to itself, “Oh dear!”

Sem is never used as possessive pronoun. Instead, the regular pronouns are used in such cases.

Man nomu bir ya. – The man drinks his beer.
Mi no bisa laki [key] mi. – I can’t find my key.

If used after a noun phrase or another pronoun, sem instead functions as an intensifier, stressing the fact that the indicated person (or thing) will handle the indicated activity in person or that (maybe surprisingly) they themselves are meant rather than anyone else.

Mi sem ga fa it. – I’ll do it myself.
[President] sem li [visit] nas! – The president herself/himself has paid us a visit!
Nas li miru maraji sem! – We have seen the king himself!

Note: Intensifiers and reflexive pronouns are identical in a majority of languages (WALS 47).

When combined with a possessive pronoun or a possessive noun phrase (sem de … or … ki sem), sem stresses the importance of the possessive relationship, also indicating that it is exclusive rather than shared. In such cases, it is typically translated as ‘own’.

Mi yau ruma sem mi! – I want my own house! (I don’t want to share a house.)
Ta xi [car] sem de [boss] mi. / Ta xi [boss] mi ki sem [car]. – That’s my boss’s own car.

en/grammar/pronouns.txt · Last modified: 2022-09-18 10:27 by christian

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