What languages have more than one word for the English 'we'?
March 26, 2014 8:13 PM Subscribe
Are there any languages that have words that disambiguate the various possible meanings of the English 'we'?
In English the 1st person plural pronoun 'we' (and its object counterpart 'us') can refer to groups 1) including only the speaker and the addressed person or persons, 2) including only the speaker and some further person(s) neither speaking nor being addressed but with whom the speaker claims a sort of representative power, and *not* including the addressee(s), or 3) including the speaker, the addresse(s) and some other people too.
Are there any languages that have separate words for these distinct referential uses?
posted by bertran to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
In Spanish one can distinguish between 1st person plural groups on the basis of gender with 'nosotros' and 'nosotras', but not on the basis of the sort of inclusion or exclusion of speaker, addressee, and bystanders I have in mind. German 'wir' and French 'nous' work like English, it seems.
Some examples of the different cases I have in mind: 1) Man says to wife, "We were destined to marry; it's us against the world." (We = the two of them and no one else.) 2) German diplomat says to Pakistani diplomat, "We are happy to agree to those export caps, if you will allow our planes to fuel at airport X." (We = German government but not the Pakistani diplomat.) 3) A Communist says to a comrade "We will rid the earth of bourgeois swine yet." (We = all the Communists.) Or, alternatively, for greater inclusion, idealistic person says "We are all human!" (We = everyone.)