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I'm sorry for the perhaps weirdly worded question, but here's my attempt to explain better what I mean:

In English, if I say

"We went to lunch with Bob" means that the people involved are me, Bob, and at least one unnamed third party, which is included in the "we".

In Russian, on the other hand, you could say

"Мы с Бобом пошли на обед", literally "We with Bob went to lunch", and mean only yourself and Bob.

The only other language I'm fluent in, German, has the same structure as English, "Wir sind mit Bob zum Mittagessen gegangen" would imply at least three people attending.

What I'm wondering is: Is this a trait that is linked to language relationships? Are other Slavic languages like Russian in this regard? And has there been any research on this phenomenon?

  • "On a été dîner avec Bob" is compatible with both readings in French – Eau qui dort Sep 11 at 0:14
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It's not exactly what you are asking, but a similar construction was used in Old Norse.

"A noun (usually a proper name) was often put in apposition, or partial apposition, to a dual pronoun of the first or second person, or a plural pronoun of the third person, as vit Hǫttr 'Hǫtt and I'; þit móðir mín 'you (sg. or pl.) and my mother'. In the third person it is not always clear whether the apposition is partial or complete; thus þeir Grímr ok Helgi might mean 'Grím and Helgi' or 'Grím and Helgi and their men'."

-Gordon, Introduction to Old Norse, para. 164.

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In Logoori (and I think the facts are parallel in most Bantu languages), ndáágéénda na Marova "I walked with Marova" says that exactly 2 people walked and kwáágéénda na Marova "we walked with Marova" implies that at least 3 people walked, that is, it can't be used felicitously for "Me and Marova walked". The conjunction inzí na Marova "Me and marova" induces 1st plural agreement, and inzí na Marova kwáágéénda means only "Me and Marova walked" – there isn't some third person. If you want to unambiguously say, with the un-shifted "and/with Marova" in subject position "Me (and someone else) and Marova walked", you have to use the equivalent of "we" namely kʊnyi, thus kʊnyi na Marova kwáágéénda "We and Marova walked". In this way, I think Bantu languages are parallel to English, in that "we" is only used when you mean "I and someone else".

I don't understand the Russian pattern – are all of these possible, unambiguous, and equivalent? That is, how do you say "Me, someone else, and Bob/Igor went/are going to lunch"?

Я и Игорь собираемся на обед / Я с Игорем собираемся на обед

Мы и Игорь собираемся на обед / Мы с Игорем собираемся на обед

  • In Russian, you'd need to explicitly list more people to show that there's more, otherwise it's ambiguous. For example, "Мы с Бобом и Игорем собираемся на обед" – Marc Vaisband Sep 11 at 9:20

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