Monday, October 1, 2007

Oh Pronouns!

I'm just done with Pimsleur Russian 59, which is quite exciting. As I approach the end of level II, I wonder if I should barrel through into Level III, or take a spacer and work on Mandarin for a while...

Two interesting bits today:
In Russian it's considered bad form to use the same personal pronoun twice in a sentence: You'd never say "I'd like to invite you to my house" - 'I' and 'my" are variants of the same pronoun. So you say "I'd like to invite you to one's house". Other variants, "She was staying with one's friend" or "You are driving one's car".

You can mix pronouns no problem: "She was driving my car" is just fine. So it's not entirely inscrutable.

In Korean, the pronoun for "You" is rarely used - it's considered a bit too direct. So to start taking about "you", you say the person's name. But fear not, it's not as though they're saying names all day and night - there's a second rule that works with this: The "Topic Marker" (neun) is said after the name, and it's assumed that all conversation relates to that person until a new market is set.

While this sounds complex, it's pretty easy.

"As for you, Jim, how are you doing?"
"not bad."
"still going to school?"
"yes - and it's a pretty tough semester"
"Think grades will be a little lower?"
"Maybe. As for you, Keith, how is your school going?"

Where it gets complex is if, in the same conversation they would add "me too", which would reset the topic marker, requiring the person to say the name again to ask the next question. So I think that Koreans must be good at letting one side tell the tale, then letting the other go.

The English tendency to agree with a statement and offer a personal perspective to each question must be suppressed, or you need to say that person's name a lot.

That's it for today!

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