Fourth person verbs?

For the discussion of language mechanics, grammar, vocabulary, trends, and other such linguistic topics, in english and other languages.

Moderators: gmalivuk, Prelates, Moderators General

Fourth person verbs?

Postby ekolis » Fri Jan 27, 2012 10:16 pm UTC

We have first person (I see), second person (you see), and third person (he sees) - but what you do you call "one sees"? Fourth person?
Reading posts on the xkcd forum makes me feel stupid.
User avatar
ekolis
 
Posts: 76
Joined: Sat Nov 19, 2011 11:44 pm UTC
Location: Cincinnati, OH, USA

Re: Fourth person verbs?

Postby eSOANEM » Fri Jan 27, 2012 10:27 pm UTC

I've usually heard it called a generic person. I believe fourth person is sometimes used to describe obviate (distant) third persons in languages with a proximate/obviate distinction.
Gear wrote:I'm not sure if it would be possible to constantly eat enough chocolate to maintain raptor toxicity without killing oneself.

Magnanimous wrote:The potassium in my body is emitting small amounts of gamma rays, so I consider myself to have nuclear arms. Don't make me hug you.
User avatar
eSOANEM
364 days more
 
Posts: 2980
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2009 9:39 pm UTC
Location: Grantabrycge

Re: Fourth person verbs?

Postby Magnanimous » Fri Jan 27, 2012 10:33 pm UTC

That just sounds like a definite/indefinite distinction, like "a person" versus "the person"... I don't know if English has a good example of fourth person.
The card wrote:GO TO THE CIRCUS. FIREWORKS AND WHISTLES, LION TAMERS AND CLOWNS. HOO RAH.
User avatar
Magnanimous
 
Posts: 3333
Joined: Wed Feb 17, 2010 7:11 pm UTC
Location: Land of Hipsters and Rain (LOHAR)

Re: Fourth person verbs?

Postby ekolis » Fri Jan 27, 2012 10:34 pm UTC

What's proximate/obviate? Is that the difference between "Joe hates me" and "Someone hates me"?
Reading posts on the xkcd forum makes me feel stupid.
User avatar
ekolis
 
Posts: 76
Joined: Sat Nov 19, 2011 11:44 pm UTC
Location: Cincinnati, OH, USA

Re: Fourth person verbs?

Postby eSOANEM » Fri Jan 27, 2012 10:52 pm UTC

Magnanimous wrote:That just sounds like a definite/indefinite distinction, like "a person" versus "the person"... I don't know if English has a good example of fourth person.


"One" is more than just indefinite, it's also generic and I've usually seen it described as a generic person.

ekolis wrote:What's proximate/obviate? Is that the difference between "Joe hates me" and "Someone hates me"?


A proximate/obviate distinction is when a language has two different words for "he/she/it" depending on the distance with the proximate form being for close third person and the obviate for distant third persons.

Also, doing a quick wikipedia search told me that the term fourth person is also used for generic pronouns as you suggested although this could cause confusion in languages with both obviate and generic pronouns.
Gear wrote:I'm not sure if it would be possible to constantly eat enough chocolate to maintain raptor toxicity without killing oneself.

Magnanimous wrote:The potassium in my body is emitting small amounts of gamma rays, so I consider myself to have nuclear arms. Don't make me hug you.
User avatar
eSOANEM
364 days more
 
Posts: 2980
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2009 9:39 pm UTC
Location: Grantabrycge

Re: Fourth person verbs?

Postby goofy » Sat Jan 28, 2012 1:37 am UTC

If its formally identical to third person, call it third person.
goofy
 
Posts: 901
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 3:32 pm UTC

Re: Fourth person verbs?

Postby eSOANEM » Sat Jan 28, 2012 8:57 am UTC

It's not identical though. A proximate third is more topically relevant (or near) than an obviate third and for this reason, the obviate is sometimes[1] called the fourth person.
Gear wrote:I'm not sure if it would be possible to constantly eat enough chocolate to maintain raptor toxicity without killing oneself.

Magnanimous wrote:The potassium in my body is emitting small amounts of gamma rays, so I consider myself to have nuclear arms. Don't make me hug you.
User avatar
eSOANEM
364 days more
 
Posts: 2980
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2009 9:39 pm UTC
Location: Grantabrycge

Re: Fourth person verbs?

Postby goofy » Sat Jan 28, 2012 12:58 pm UTC

eSOANEM wrote:It's not identical though. A proximate third is more topically relevant (or near) than an obviate third and for this reason, the obviate is sometimes[1] called the fourth person.


Sorry, I was responding to the original question about "one sees".
goofy
 
Posts: 901
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 3:32 pm UTC

Re: Fourth person verbs?

Postby eSOANEM » Sat Jan 28, 2012 3:49 pm UTC

Ok, sorry, I misunderstood. I still dispute that it is identical to a third person. For one thing, "I", "we" and "you" are all used as generic pronouns and classifying them as 1st, 1st and 2nd persons respectively links them with the person they are only similar to syntactically whilst not linking them to the others which they are semantically identical to. It seems to me that such generic pronouns should be grouped together because they have more in common with each other than any other person. The question then is, what do we call this? A 4th person? Generic person? Hypothetical person?
Gear wrote:I'm not sure if it would be possible to constantly eat enough chocolate to maintain raptor toxicity without killing oneself.

Magnanimous wrote:The potassium in my body is emitting small amounts of gamma rays, so I consider myself to have nuclear arms. Don't make me hug you.
User avatar
eSOANEM
364 days more
 
Posts: 2980
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2009 9:39 pm UTC
Location: Grantabrycge

Re: Fourth person verbs?

Postby Derek » Sat Jan 28, 2012 9:22 pm UTC

While their use may be similar, the are still grammatically 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person ("I am", "you are", "he is"), and that's what's important here.
Last edited by Derek on Sat Jan 28, 2012 11:24 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
Derek
 
Posts: 1595
Joined: Wed Aug 18, 2010 4:15 am UTC

Re: Fourth person verbs?

Postby eSOANEM » Sat Jan 28, 2012 11:18 pm UTC

Syntactically they are, semantically they're not. Grammatically, they're certainly not identical (for the reasons already stated, that one use is general, the other not) but are similar (because they're syntactically the same).

It makes more sense to me to split primarily along semantic lines but then have a rule for conjugating verbs where it does revert back to the same form of the verb as their homophone; kind-of like a singular they which is grammatically singular but syntactically plural.
Gear wrote:I'm not sure if it would be possible to constantly eat enough chocolate to maintain raptor toxicity without killing oneself.

Magnanimous wrote:The potassium in my body is emitting small amounts of gamma rays, so I consider myself to have nuclear arms. Don't make me hug you.
User avatar
eSOANEM
364 days more
 
Posts: 2980
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2009 9:39 pm UTC
Location: Grantabrycge

Re: Fourth person verbs?

Postby dhokarena56 » Sun Jan 29, 2012 4:24 pm UTC

However, I don't think you're going to be studying a language with 4th person anytime soon unless you're a complete language geek. The Algonquian language family does it, and so does the famously insane Salish family, and I think some Iroquoian languages do it too.
Come join Dadapedia- the open-source Dadaist novel that anyone can edit.
User avatar
dhokarena56
 
Posts: 179
Joined: Fri Mar 27, 2009 11:52 pm UTC

Re: Fourth person verbs?

Postby hallux sinister » Thu Apr 12, 2012 9:55 pm UTC

ekolis wrote:We have first person (I see), second person (you see), and third person (he sees) - but what you do you call "one sees"? Fourth person?


One sees is third person. He/she/it. One is no different. It is not the pronoun that determines person number, (at least not in English,) it's position of the subject relative to speaker or voice in a sentence, clause or phrase.

First person: speaker is the group or element of the group, as "I see," or "we see". Singular or plural, both are first person.

Second person: speaker is addressing listener. "You see," the you can be singular or plural.

In hybrid cases, of for example "you and I" in English, it's proper to omit the second person for determining case of the pronoun. "You and I see" (because it's "I see") instead of "You and me see" (that would result in "me see," and "me" is a direct or indirect object, NOT a subject form) nor would it be right to use "You and I sees" as "sees" implies the third person.

In English, as well as, I think many if not most other modern languages, (don't get mad if you know one that doesn't, I wrote "most", not "all") any person noun, pro, proper, or common, can fall in conversation or writing into one of three categories: the one or ones speaking, the one or ones being spoken to, and the third, much broader category, the one or ones being spoken OF, or about. These, third persons, are neither speaking nor being addressed. The English pronouns 'he,' 'she,' 'it,' and 'they' are the principal constituents of this group. He sees, she sees, it sees, they see, etc. By contrast, his, her, hers, them, theirs, are not subject forms of the pronouns, they are objects, ordinary and possessive.

For example: It (third person subject) is (transitive verb of equivalence or state of being) hers (of, pertaining to, or belonging to her, a female person in the third person possessive).

Note how no word in the sentence indicates who is speaking or being spoken to. To do this, you'd have to add symbols representing them, (or one would have to add... more on this in a moment).

So our sentence becomes: "I (first person singular) tell (transitive verb denoting informational conveyance) you, (second person of unspecified number) it (third person subject) is (transitive verb of equivalence or state of being) hers (of, pertaining to, or belonging to her, a female person in the third person possessive). Note how doing this does not change the essential meaning of the sentence, only serves to add emphasis. Whatever "it" is, it is still being alleged to belong to "her", whomever she is, both before and after the addition of the "I tell you". This also doesn't change if you change the persons, "He told them, it is hers," or even "It told me, it is hers." Such as "it" was marked with her initials, as a piece of pottery. "I saw her initials, her mark, on the bottom. It told me, it is hers." And so on and so forth.

Now as for "one", the word is used in the place of "you," in a construction such as "if one could see it" that is pretty strictly a second person. However, it is not specific to the person listening, and implies that the person listening, or someone else perhaps, is taken as the subject. I have also heard it used in the first person, though this is much rarer. It serves to depersonalize the pronoun. It is the linguistic equivalent of using an entire outstretched hand to indicate something visually, rather than a single finger, it is principally a matter of politeness. A servant in a formal situation might say, "May one inquire after the lady's relatives?" however, this is rare nowadays, I think. "It is important that one does not close one's zipper while one's member lies directly in its path," is more polite, despite meaning the same thing, as the expression "Don't zip up with it in the way," (with an implied "you", second person subject.)

The difference I suppose, is that "you" implicitly includes the listener, as either the entire subject, or a member of a subject group. "One," by contrast, may or may not include the listener. It's less finger-pointy. Consider the earlier expression "To do this, you'd have to add symbols representing them." You might feel this is almost a command, and wonder "who the devil are you to imply what I must do?" Whereas "To do this, one would have to add symbols representing them." is much less likely to give offense. I could be talking about ANYONE, not necessarily YOU. Note the difference, going back to the question, between "one sees" and "one see". Since one is inherently singular, one sees is surely third person singular. "One see" would therefore be a subject/verb number disagreement, or "one" is forced into the stead of you, as the uncommon, polite form. It is never used this way, because such a construction would be, for instance, in the place of "you" in "You see?" (Short for "Do you see" or "Don't you see"?) Since the question is being asked of a specific person (the listener,) it makes no sense to try to sidestep the finger-pointing, because in asking "do you see?" I am not asking if some generic, hypothetical person sees, I am asking if THE LISTENER, YOU can see.

One see? ;-)

One thinks one can see, that in this case, "I think you can see," is definitely more appropriate, and doesn't sound awkward or excessively forward.
H.S.
hallux sinister
 
Posts: 5
Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2012 11:24 pm UTC

Re: Fourth person verbs?

Postby eSOANEM » Thu Apr 12, 2012 11:13 pm UTC

As I said earlier, referring to one as an nth person is not going to ever be accurate seeing as it may refer to the speaker (1st), the listener (2nd) or anyone else (3rd). As such, it is most accurate to describe it as generic and to add that, in English, it is syntactically third person (note the distinction between syntax and semantics, the distinction between the two is very important and a lack of appreciation for it can lead to a lot of trouble understanding the grammar of a language.

hallux sinister wrote:It is not the pronoun that determines person number, (at least not in English,) it's position of the subject relative to speaker or voice in a sentence, clause or phrase.


True it is, however "one", being generic, by your own definition is not third person (or second as you later argue).

hallux sinister wrote:In English, as well as, I think many if not most other modern languages, (don't get mad if you know one that doesn't, I wrote "most", not "all") any person noun, pro, proper, or common, can fall in conversation or writing into one of three categories: the one or ones speaking, the one or ones being spoken to, and the third, much broader category, the one or ones being spoken OF, or about.


Whilst languages with a split third person a rare, I would be wary against arguing that this is evidence for some sort of absolute grammar with three persons. The distinction you take as absolute is equivalent to me, this and that yet Spanish for example has "that" split in two so it would go mi, esto, eso, aquel. If a language as common as Spanish violates this three-part distancing scheme, I think it's clear that it is not absolute at all.

hallux sinister wrote:Now as for "one", the word is used in the place of "you," in a construction such as "if one could see it" that is pretty strictly a second person. However, it is not specific to the person listening, and implies that the person listening, or someone else perhaps, is taken as the subject. I have also heard it used in the first person, though this is much rarer. It serves to depersonalize the pronoun. It is the linguistic equivalent of using an entire outstretched hand to indicate something visually, rather than a single finger, it is principally a matter of politeness. A servant in a formal situation might say, "May one inquire after the lady's relatives?" however, this is rare nowadays, I think. "It is important that one does not close one's zipper while one's member lies directly in its path," is more polite, despite meaning the same thing, as the expression "Don't zip up with it in the way," (with an implied "you", second person subject.)


It has evolved a polite meaning, but that is certainly not its origin and, I would argue, is not "principally a matter of politeness". It's origin, and, I would contend, principal use is to distinguish a generic person from some other person (the usual alternative would of course be "you").

That said, "one" is not used in place of "you" in generic statements, rather "you" is used in place of "one" seeing as that is the pronoun "one"'s sole use which is merely appropriated by "you".

Also, in your example of servant, that is a very non-standard usage of "one" as a 1st person formal. The standard usage, as a pronoun, is for generic agents/patients and this example is certainly not generic at all, the speaker clearly means "I". In your second example, the use of "one" would not be a matter of politeness per se, but rather to make a more general statement (although the motivation for this generality may politeness to avoid shaming the other person, this is not its primary role).

hallux sinister wrote: It's less finger-pointy.


As noted above, whilst it can be used to beat around the bush (as is generally considered polite in English), that is not its main use and, in fact, the only person I've ever heard use it that way consistently (so as a standard part of their idiolect) is the Queen (and she only really uses it (outside of its usual usage) as a 1st person) but her English hardly fits any empirical standard.
Gear wrote:I'm not sure if it would be possible to constantly eat enough chocolate to maintain raptor toxicity without killing oneself.

Magnanimous wrote:The potassium in my body is emitting small amounts of gamma rays, so I consider myself to have nuclear arms. Don't make me hug you.
User avatar
eSOANEM
364 days more
 
Posts: 2980
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2009 9:39 pm UTC
Location: Grantabrycge

Re: Fourth person verbs?

Postby zukenft » Sat Apr 14, 2012 2:45 am UTC

This one believes that the original poster's intention has something to do with a sentence that ends with "Mordor".

:oops:
zukenft
 
Posts: 38
Joined: Mon Dec 20, 2010 11:34 am UTC

Re: Fourth person verbs?

Postby Maralais » Sat Apr 21, 2012 8:24 pm UTC

I believe the usage of one as a subject is sort of the equivalent of the pronoun "on" in French, and perhaps a few other stuff(as one has seen with the servant example). Let me explain what "on" does.

Despite being used as a much shorter version of "we" recently, it originally meant that the action presented by the sentence contained a general truth, or that whatever quality the sentence deliever by the verb to be, was common for all. E.g Jean Anouilh's tirade from the play Antigone(I can't recall the exact words, but it was equivalent to this): "On n'a plus qu'à crier, parce qu'on sait qu'on est pris." This sentence could be translated as: "One has nothing but to cry(cry not as in shed tears, but make a loud sound), as one knows that one is taken." Here, the obligation of crying is valid for all, it has no exceptions, and all is taken, and all knows it.

So one could argue that one takes you's place as an informal substitute, but one should keep in mind that the focus here is the fact that one is impersonal, and thus that one is neither speaking, nor that one is spoken to, ergo one falls to the category of 3rd person.

Thus, to answer the original question, one is not the 4th person pronoun.
Maralais
 
Posts: 16
Joined: Sat Jan 21, 2012 11:56 pm UTC


Return to Language/Linguistics

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests