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6.5 The reverential pronoun

Jie ‘you’ is the plural form of the second person, but it also functions as a reverential pronoun of address, that is, a pronoun used for politeness. It exhibits a mismatch between grammatical number and semantic number.


The reverential pronoun is homophonous to the 2PL pronoun. The reverential pronoun always triggers plural verb agreement, but it can be used as a form of polite address both for one person or for more. So there can be a mismatch between semantic number, which may be singular or plural, and grammatical number, which is always plural. The following examples illustrate the usage of the reverential pronoun as a semantic plural:

Wuchtere, moaten jie ljauer ‘n Monmoanske weze?
girls must.PL you rather a man.human be
Girls, would you prefer to be a man?

The following example illustrates a semantically singular usage, hence a mismatch between syntax and semantics:

Heer Professor, jie konnen jou Houd hier nit fiende.
sir professor you can.PL your hat here not find
But professor, you cannot find your hat here.

Like tensed verbs, the imperative is in the plural in case the polite pronoun is present or in case the reverential pronoun is implied:

Mien Heren, settet Jie Jou man ap‘n Bätern.
my sirs set.PL you REFL but on.the hind.part
Gentlemen, sit on your hind parts.

Mismatches between semantic and grammatical number are quite common with reverential pronouns crosslinguistically.

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