Which languages ​​do not have personal pronouns and why

How has the grammar of languages ​​developed?

Words wither to the end

An example can give a rough idea of ​​how language and grammatical word endings have evolved. Let's take our past tense with the regular verbs. We add -te: I said, I cooked, etc. The linguists assume that this te, this t-sound was originally an independent word that withered into an ending over time.

This original word is probably related to our little word "tut" or "tat". "I talked" was therefore an expression in Proto-Germanic - as if one were to say today: "I talked did", which was then blurred into a word with the ending - "talked".

Another example: We all know the prefix “un-”: unhappy, bad habit, roughly. This un-, with which we can reverse so many words, was originally a shortened “without”. The word “approximately” is exactly what we know from the Lottofee: namely a number “without guarantee”.

These are just small examples, but they might give you an idea of ​​how language development should be imagined.

How do you explain the cases: genitive, dative, etc.?

Basically similar. There is a need to distinguish between certain situations: does the dog bite the man or the man the dog? The question is: how do you tell the difference? Either through the order of the sentence - as in English today - or through word forms, i.e. endings. One can imagine that it was the same as with the verbs, that the genitive ending was originally a word in its own right, a kind of property indicator. Or that the dative ending originally expressed something like “for” in the various languages ​​- because that's what the dative usually expresses that something is due to someone.

Are languages ​​getting easier?

In fact, languages ​​are not only getting simpler, there are still developments in both directions today. On the one hand, there is the phenomenon that certain elements of language become simpler, more reduced.

An example in German would be the disappearance of the dative-e. Today one hardly ever says: I am “in the house” and indulge in “playing”; this dative e has gone out of style. But such simplification tendencies only last as long as they do not lead to misunderstandings. As soon as there is a risk of misunderstandings, this is compensated for elsewhere.

Here is an example from the Romance languages: Let's compare Spanish with French. In Spanish it is the same as originally in Latin: you don't need any personal pronouns in normal sentences. Let's take the word “Pensar”: If I conjugate this - pienso, piensas, piensa - the verb ending allows the people ich, du, he, she, es etc. to be clearly distinguished. In French, the original word ending is no longer pronounced. Je pense, tu penses, il pense - it all sounds the same. That is why the French need the personal pronoun in order to be able to distinguish who is it all about now?

On the one hand, the verb forms have been greatly simplified, but the additional personal pronoun has made it more complicated again. This is how language develops.

Book tip

  • Steven Pinker: Words and Rules - The Nature of Language

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