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Thread: My vs Our

  1. #1
    keannu's Avatar
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    Default My vs Our

    If you ever come to Korea and hear people call their spouse, you will be shocked at the terms' nuance as they call them "our wife or our husband". This makes us think of polygamy or something, but they are never double-married. This comes from groupism which puts a group before an individual. I'm not hundred percent sure of its origin, but according to a book I read in my adolescence, this consciouness stems from Korean's farming culture where they always had to collaborate in seeding, rice-planting, harvesting, etc. Without collaboration and cooperation, they couldn't do farming and that's how the group terms came into being.

    On the other hand, in western culture where nomadic style life was more prevalent than farming, individualism was more dominant as shephards used to spend time alone watching the sheep he took care of. Do you think that is where individual expressions involving "my" came from?
    FYI) I don't think there's no superiority or inferiority between the two different expressions, there's only difference.

    English <=> Korean
    My father/mother <=> Our father/mother
    My country <=>Our country
    My wife <=>Our wife
    My husband <=>Our husband
    Last edited by keannu; 15-Jan-2012 at 08:24.

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: My vs Our

    I am not so sure about the view of western farming. In Britain, sheep farming on a large scale came with the Enclosure, so too late to have such a great on impact on things like pronoun choice. And before that, in feudal times, people were bonded to the land. I have read articles comparing rice cultivation to grain and showing the effects they have on diet and the make-up of society. There may be something in these ideas and probably is, but how much would be the question. Is there a non-groupist rice society, for instance?

  3. #3
    keannu's Avatar
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    Default Re: My vs Our

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    I am not so sure about the view of western farming. In Britain, sheep farming on a large scale came with the Enclosure, so too late to have such a great on impact on things like pronoun choice. And before that, in feudal times, people were bonded to the land. I have read articles comparing rice cultivation to grain and showing the effects they have on diet and the make-up of society. There may be something in these ideas and probably is, but how much would be the question. Is there a non-groupist rice society, for instance?
    Yes, I agree with you. There seems to be no country without farming, so this theory doesn't seem to be solid. It comes from a book that analyzes westerners' consciousness and Koreans', using cultural differences. So I don't know how to explain why westerners use so many "my, me". Koreans' or Jananese' groupism seems to have come from such farming culture or confucianism.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: My vs Our

    It's not so much as why westerners use a singular pronouns for a single person (that seems natural) , but why Koreans use a plural pronoun for a single person - and you appear to have an answer to that.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: My vs Our

    Saying 'our mother' or 'our father' seems more self-effacing and deferential, but the opposite is true of 'our wife' or 'our husband', which makes the speaker out to be more than just one person. It's often called the 'royal we.' So I don't think your observations are clear, much less your conclusion that it has to do with agriculture. Western civilisation hasn't been involved in the hunter-gatherer economy for some 12,000 to 15,000 years, and has had agriculture for about that time.

  6. #6
    dsezdelif is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: My vs Our

    in azeri and persian , they use our too . it is because you don't own your wife . you will sound kinda cocky and a little rude if you say my wife or even my tv . because it belongs to the family and not you .

  7. #7
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    Default Re: My vs Our

    Quote Originally Posted by dsezdelif View Post
    In Azeri and Persian, they use "our" too. It is because you don't own your wife. You will sound kinda kind of cocky and a little rude if you say "my wife" or even "my TV" because it belongs to the family and not you.
    Are you saying that your wife belongs to your whole family?

    If you are a single person, living alone in a house and you own one TV, don't you say "my TV"?

    Please remember the rules of written English:

    - Start every sentence with a capital letter.
    - End every sentence with a single punctuation mark.
    - Always capitalise the word "I" (first person singular).
    - Do not put a space before a comma, full stop, question mark or exclamation mark.
    - Always put a space after a comma, full stop, question mark or exclamation mark.
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

  8. #8
    dsezdelif is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: My vs Our

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    Are you saying that your wife belongs to your whole family?

    If you are a single person, living alone in a house and you own one TV, don't you say "my TV"?

    Please remember the rules of written English:

    - Start every sentence with a capital letter.
    - End every sentence with a single punctuation mark.
    - Always capitalise the word "I" (first person singular).
    - Do not put a space before a comma, full stop, question mark or exclamation mark.
    - Always put a space after a comma, full stop, question mark or exclamation mark.
    sorry my english is not very good . i meant belongs to the house you are living (i know it will sound funny if you take it literally ) . and i don't have a wife if you were trying to be funny . anyway it is a kinda euphemism to not directly say you own it . there are euphemisms in english for saying god or jesus which sounds very weird to other cultures . i hope you can understand that there are differences between cultures .
    someone living alone rarely happens in islamic cultures but in that case people definitely say my tv in case it is necessary to indicate possession . otherwise they just say the tv .
    btw those writing rules are not important to me . if it is mandatory in this website , tell me and then I will try .
    Last edited by dsezdelif; 18-Mar-2013 at 11:25.

  9. #9
    Barb_D's Avatar
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    Default Re: My vs Our

    Quote Originally Posted by dsezdelif View Post
    btw those writing rules are not important to me . if it is mandatory in this website , tell me and then I will try .
    They are mandatory.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: My vs Our

    Those rules of written English are mandatory, in this forum and when writing in English everywhere.
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

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