Inclusive We as a polite address pronoun

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md0
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Inclusive We as a polite address pronoun

Postby md0 » 2017-02-26, 9:29

Something I noticed where I work now is that the old T-V politeness scheme was substituted by Inclusive 1.PL..
For example:
Έτοιμο το φαγητό μας - > Our meal is ready -> Your.sg meal is ready.
Τι θα πιούμε σήμερα; -> What are we drinking today? -> What would you.sg like to drink today?

I know it's not that weird, Italian and German use the 3.PL for polite address as far as I know. Any other languages that do it by using the 1PL though?

It kind of surprises me every time I hear it, because I am more familiar with an older use of Inclusive We in Greek, which is/was a very sarcastic way to describe someone's actions, and I think that usage is also found in English ("Σαννα τζιαι επολλοβολευτήκαμεν;" -> "Aren't we getting too comfortable?" -> "You.sg got too complacent"). I'm also generally also against expressing politeness on a linguistic level because I find it too cheap, so I have to say I'm biased.
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Re: Inclusive We as a polite address pronoun

Postby Luís » 2017-02-26, 9:47

It's not very common, but I've heard that sometimes in restaurants/cafés here. I never thought of it as being polite, though. I'd say it's probably the opposite, something which they use with regular customers. For instance:

Então, o que é que vamos querer hoje?
(lit. so what are we having today?)
=
so, what are you having today?
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Re: Inclusive We as a polite address pronoun

Postby Babbsagg » 2017-02-26, 12:55

Luís wrote:It's not very common, but I've heard that sometimes in restaurants/cafés here. I never thought of it as being polite, though. I'd say it's probably the opposite, something which they use with regular customers.


I agree. In Germany, the usual polite question is in 3PL:
"Was möchten Sie trinken?" - lit. "What do they want to drink?"

Very informally, usually in dialect, 1PL is used:
"Was wollemer heude tringge?" - lit. "What do we want to drink today?"
Thank you for correcting mistakes!

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Re: Inclusive We as a polite address pronoun

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-02-26, 13:15

In English, this is pretty common. It doesn't have to be sarcastic, though it often is.

In Malayalam, which has an inclusive/exclusive distinction like Cypriot Greek seems to, it doesn't happen AFAIK, except maybe as a calque from English.

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Re: Inclusive We as a polite address pronoun

Postby md0 » 2017-02-26, 20:43

I'd say it's probably the opposite, something which they use with regular customers.

From the pragmatic context, I think that where I work (and so far I've been to two branches, not just a single location), it is supposed to be more polite than 2PL.
Which is indeed unexpected, because 1PL signals "we are in the same ingroup", and usually you are more casual with your ingroup.

vijayjohn wrote:In Malayalam, which has an inclusive/exclusive distinction like Cypriot Greek seems to, it doesn't happen AFAIK, except maybe as a calque from English.

Just I clarification, Cypriot Greek doesn't morphologically mark Inclusive/Exclusive We, it's just my interpretation of the pronoun when I hear it. It wouldn't make sense to me if it was Exclusive We.
Or... wait. What if it's actually Exclusive We, and we assume the point of view of the customer?
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Re: Inclusive We as a polite address pronoun

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-02-27, 5:37

Actually, in Malayalam, there is a situation where you would do this (and you would use the inclusive pronoun): suggesting that someone leave a gathering with you.

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Re: Inclusive We as a polite address pronoun

Postby linguoboy » 2017-02-27, 22:53

One of my linguistic profs described this as "marked ++obnoxious". I don't know why anyone thinks it's polite. It sounds so patronising to me. Whenever anyone asks, "How are we feeling today?" I always respond, "Well, I can only speak for myself..."
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Re: Inclusive We as a polite address pronoun

Postby Aurinĭa » 2017-02-27, 23:10

linguoboy wrote:I don't know why anyone thinks it's polite. It sounds so patronising to me.

Indeed. When reading the topic title, I was thinking of situations in which this would be used in Dutch, and the only one I could think of is carers using it when talking to elderly people in a retirement home. I don't know if it actually is common, but it's definitely the stereotype and I've always wondered why, as it sounds so patronising.

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Re: Inclusive We as a polite address pronoun

Postby Johanna » 2017-02-27, 23:54

Aurinĭa wrote:
linguoboy wrote:I don't know why anyone thinks it's polite. It sounds so patronising to me.

Indeed. When reading the topic title, I was thinking of situations in which this would be used in Dutch, and the only one I could think of is carers using it when talking to elderly people in a retirement home. I don't know if it actually is common, but it's definitely the stereotype and I've always wondered why, as it sounds so patronising.

Yeah, in Sweden its something you use to infantilise the person you're talking to, and the only reason it works with children is that they are 1) used to it already, and 2) don't fully grasp how insulting it is.

It's used in retirement homes too, unfortunately.
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Re: Inclusive We as a polite address pronoun

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-02-28, 1:26

linguoboy wrote:One of my linguistic profs described this as "marked ++obnoxious". I don't know why anyone thinks it's polite.

Maybe due to confusion between politeness and indirectness?

In Malayalam, I wouldn't say this is obnoxious, though it can fall anywhere between a polite request and a strong command. I'm mostly thinking of what my dad says at parties (especially to my mom, since she is the one who is by far the most likely to stay on), something like "[n̪n̪aː nəˈmʊkɯ pəjˈje paːm]!" which I guess you could literally translate as 'in that case, let's go slowly!' but really means something closer to "I don't know about you, but I think we should go home now."
Last edited by vijayjohn on 2017-02-28, 7:12, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Inclusive We as a polite address pronoun

Postby Dormouse559 » 2017-02-28, 2:33

Personally, I use "we" sometimes when talking someone through a problem. I mainly do it if I'm talking to them in person and it's a casual situation, like informal tutoring. To me, it feels less like telling them what to do and more like working together.

But I agree that some of the examples previously given are highly patronizing.
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Re: Inclusive We as a polite address pronoun

Postby md0 » 2017-02-28, 7:07

It sounds patronizing to me as well, but I assume I'm just late to the semantic shift.
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Re: Inclusive We as a polite address pronoun

Postby kevin » 2017-02-28, 9:24

vijayjohn wrote:In Malayalam, I wouldn't say this is obnoxious, [...] something like "[n̪n̪aː nəˈmʊkɯ pəjˈje paːm]!" which I guess you could literally translate as 'in that case, let's go slowly!' but really means something closer to "I don't know about you, but I think we should go home now."

Isn't this a completely different case? What you describe is just "we" used as the first person plural pronoun that it is. After all, it means that your parents are both going, and not that your dad is saying it in order to express that your mom should leave while he stays, right?

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Re: Inclusive We as a polite address pronoun

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-02-28, 9:40

kevin wrote:
vijayjohn wrote:In Malayalam, I wouldn't say this is obnoxious, [...] something like "[n̪n̪aː nəˈmʊkɯ pəjˈje paːm]!" which I guess you could literally translate as 'in that case, let's go slowly!' but really means something closer to "I don't know about you, but I think we should go home now."

Isn't this a completely different case? What you describe is just "we" used as the first person plural pronoun that it is. After all, it means that your parents are both going, and not that your dad is saying it in order to express that your mom should leave while he stays, right?

Yes, it does mean they're both going (or should be!), but the point of the expression isn't so much "both of us should leave" as it is "come with me." Like "I am already doing x, and you should do the same."


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