Results 1 to 4 of 4

    • Join Date: Oct 2007
    • Posts: 13
    #1

    varied usages of the pronoun we: an interesting linguistic phenomenon

    Hi, everyone. Is there anybody whos interested in English linguistics? Recently Ive learned that the English pronoun we can be used as inclusive-of-addresser, exclusive-of-addresser, inclusive-of-addressee, and exclusive-of-addressee. I assume this phenomenon is somewhat similar in many languages, only differing in the respective contexts for the varied usages. Could you give me a few examples common in your speech for each case? Im particularly interested in the exclusive-of-addresser usage of we.
    Ive learned that in English, doctors ask their patients How are we feeling today? instead of How are you feeling today? Here, some differences appear between English and Chinese.
    On the other handwhen a father asks his son about the homework assigned in school, he prefers to useWhat are we supposed to do today? rather than What are you supposed to do today? Chinese is the same in this case.
    Interestingly, I also learn that in some English-speaking countries, a king or a royal member tend to use we to refer to himself/herself when speaking to someone whos in lower social status. I wonder if it is common for someone to use we rather than the supposed I in order to show his authority over the addressees in your daily conversation. Is it likely to occur in the boss-employee relationship, for example?
    Besides, one may ask a gatekeeper May we come in? even when he is alone. Does the speaker use we to refer to himself as well as others who, though not present, also might need to ask for the gatekeepers permission? I suppose in this situation May we come in? sounds more polite to the gatekeeper than May I come in? for the latter is a bit egocentric. Is that so?
    Im sorry for raising so many questions at one time, thanks for your time. I hope someone could help me interpret the different usages of we, thanks a million!


    • Join Date: Nov 2007
    • Posts: 5,409
    #2

    Re: varied usages of the pronoun we: an interesting linguistic phenomenon

    This is no longer used by doctors and nurses, and any person being asked, "How are we today?" would probably regard it as either very old-fashioned, or patronizing. Perhaps it came from the time, 50 or more years ago, when hospital wards were very large, with quite a number of patients. A Nursing Sister or nurse coming on duty might come into the ward, and as one form of the greeting to one person, " How are you today?", they would be speaking to the entire ward and so say, "How are we today?"
    With regard to the royal "we", understand that the Queen of England is not an Absolute Monarch, but represents the people. When she uses "we", she is referring to 'we, the people of this country' For more information on this, look up Pluralis majestatis in Wikipedia. It would never occur in the boss-employee situation!!
    If I were the gatekeeper, and somebody came up and said, "Can we come in", I would have two thoughts: why do you want to come in, and where are the others and how many of you are there? This would only occur if some individual was speaking on behalf of a group.
    Last edited by David L.; 15-Nov-2007 at 07:43.


    • Join Date: Oct 2007
    • Posts: 13
    #3

    Re: varied usages of the pronoun we: an interesting linguistic phenomenon

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    This is no longer used by doctors and nurses, and any person being asked, "How are we today?" would probably regard it as either very old-fashioned, or patronizing. Perhaps it came from the time, 50 or more years ago, when hospital wards were very large, with quite a number of patients. A Nursing Sister or nurse coming on duty might come into the ward, and as one form of the greeting to one person, " How are you today", they would be speaking to the entire ward and so say, "How are we today."
    With regard to the royal "we", understand that the Queen of England is not an Absolute Monarch, but represents the people. When she uses "we", she is referring to 'we, the people of this country' For more information on this, look up Pluralis majestatis in Wikipedia.
    If I were the gatekeeper, and somebody came up and said, "Can we come in", I would have two thoughts: why do you want to come in, and where are the others and how many of you are there? This would only occur if some individual was speaking on behalf of a group.
    Thank you very much, David. I learn a lot from your reply. I realize that the information provided in my linguistic books is actually behind the times. Therefore I need to search for much more updated resources to conduct the research well. Thanks again.


    • Join Date: Oct 2007
    • Posts: 13
    #4

    Re: varied usages of the pronoun we: an interesting linguistic phenomenon

    By the way, David. I sent you an email just now. I hope you have received it and can see the photo. If you cannot open the picture, please let me know. Thanks.

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •