May. 18th, 2009 @ 05:22 pm
Irish has a triparite system expressing emotional as well as emotional distance. Medial sin
is more-or-less neutral whereas distal siúd
verges on pejorative, e.g. a leithéidí siúd
"the likes of them/that lot". Of course, there's no ruling out a degree of English influence here.
Korean also has a triparite system of demonstratives, but intriguingly each comes in two "isotopes", one neutral and one slightly disrepectful.
Awesome; I was hoping you'd weigh in on this. So Irish and Korean are the only languages you've studied where this obtains? I realize I'm asking an unfair question, since the phenomenon in English might escape the notice of a fluent non-native speaker.
Also, what's the deal with the derogative "isotopes" in Korean? Did the pairs initially mark some other contrast, or this an "honorific treadmill" kind of thing, where a (neutral, respectful) pair became (disrespectful, neutral)?
It's hard to say, since the distinction is subtle enough to escape the notice of a non-native speaker. Perhaps "diese Frau da" is more disrespectful in German than "diese Frau hier", but not so as I've ever noticed.
In Spanish, you can get something of the same effect by postponing the demonstratives, e.g. y la muchacha aquella (olvide su nombre)
"and that girl (forget her name)". Apparently this is true in Catalan as well, as Wheeler et al. say in their comprehensive grammar, "The postponing of the demonstrative may connote a degree of intimacy between speaker and hearer, and also a slight pejorative sense (but this may be no more than the effect of informal style)[.]" (p. 110). I'm not sure which, if any, of the other Romance languages share this phenomenon.
Incidentally, that quote reminds me of a somewhat parallel construction in (Irish) English, i.e. "your man". Familiar, with a whiff of contempt in many circumstances.
The postponing of the demonstrative may connote a degree of intimacy between speaker and hearer, and also a slight pejorative sense (but this may be no more than the effect of informal style)
This was exactly the conflation effect I was worried about-- the pejorative term becomes an endearment when there's no ambiguity between speaker and hearer that the pejorative is to be construed ironically. Hmm.
As for Korean, I'm afraid I know very little about the history of its demonstratives. It is noteworthy that all the disrespectful forms contain the same element, namely /o/, which may be the remnant of a previously independent morpheme. For reference, here's the whole set:
proximal: 이 /i/ 요 /yo/
medial: 그 /ku/ 고 /ko/
distal: 저 /ce/ 조 /co/
Note that some sources (e.g. Sohn, 1994) call this second set "diminutive". So this may be yet another iteration of the same phenomenon noted above: what's "intimate" or even "endearing" in one context may become insulting in another.
Rock on. Thanks for this!
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