Saturday, July 15, 2006

First Person Plural

This is a very short paper I composed during the Law & Society Association meeting, July 6-9, in Baltimore:

Like most other Indo-European languages, English does not distinguish between the inclusive and exclusive uses of the first person plural. By contrast, languages as diverse as Tok Pisin, Samoan, Taiwanese, and Cherokee take care to distinguish between first person plural pronouns that include the listener and those that exclude the listener. This linguistic difference sheds light on the use of we throughout the foundational documents and the authoritative interpretations of the American constitutional tradition.
I invite you to download the paper via my SSRN page.


Blogger Edward said...

An interesting paper.

Those of us in the South have attempted to reverse the thou-you conflation with you-y'all, but I now realize we must also work on the inclusive-exclusive "we." I like yumi and mifela. Since I am in Alabama (a small part of the pre-Jacksonian Cherokee nation), I might opt for the Cherokee just out of nostalgia for another Lost Cause, but you did not reproduce the Tsalagi we's.

Keep up the good work.

Ed Still, Birmingham

7/15/2006 11:07 AM  
Blogger Jim Chen said...

Edward, thanks for the comment. I appreciate how you're one of my first visitors to leave a substantive note.

As a fellow native of the pre-Jacksonian Cherokee nation, I too admire the greatest of the southern Iroquoian peoples. I'll have to work in the Cherokee we's in a subsequent revision of First Person Plural. It would also be criminal, even in a short paper on linguistic analysis of law, to omit any mention of Sequoyah. I'll post a notice when the revision is available on SSRN.

7/15/2006 11:31 AM  

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