50 votes
Accepted

Is there any language that uses different pronouns for "we" depending on whether the spoken to person is included in the group?

Yes, this feature is called clusivity, there are dozens of languages that have it, for example Mandarin Chinese, Vietnamese, Malay, Hawaiian, etc. This article has a list of such languages together ...
user avatar
  • 15.7k
47 votes

Is there a technical name for when languages use masculine pronouns to refer to both men and women?

This strategy to deal with person groups of mixed gender or with single persons of unknown or undetermined gender is named generic masculine. It is quite frequent among languages with grammatical ...
user avatar
38 votes
Accepted

Are there languages that don't have this kind of ambiguity?

Yes there are. Examples include Greenlandic and Cree. It's not exactly what you asked for, as it doesn't depend on whether it's the last antecedent, or second-to-last antecedent. But in these ...
user avatar
  • 4,348
33 votes

Is there a language without gender in third person pronouns?

The World Atlas of Language Structures has a feature about gender distinctions in personal pronouns. According to it, there are at least 254 languages without gender distinctions and even 2 with ...
user avatar
  • 581
31 votes

Is there a language where there are personal pronouns for the first or second person that have gender?

In Thai, 1st person singular pronouns differ by gender: Masc.: ผม [pʰǒm] Fem.: ดิฉัน [dìʔt͡ɕʰán]
user avatar
  • 8,531
28 votes

Is English unusual in having no second person plural form?

English marks plurality in first and third person pronouns (I vs. we, he/she/it vs. they), but not in the second person (you). (The singular thou did exist in English in the past, but is now ...
user avatar
  • 2,705
28 votes

Is there a language where there are personal pronouns for the first or second person that have gender?

Coming at this from a different direction, Japanese personal pronouns (*) are an open class, with many variations in meaning and connotation. So while there's no official "first-person masculine ...
user avatar
  • 52k
27 votes

Is there a language where there are personal pronouns for the first or second person that have gender?

Proto-Afro-Asiatic likely marked gender on second-person pronouns, and many of its descendants do the same. For example, second-person singular masculine is אַתָּה (ʔattāh) in Hebrew, أَنْتَ‎ (ʔanta) ...
user avatar
  • 52k
24 votes

Is there a language without gender in third person pronouns?

There are many such languages. Examples include Turkic languages (as kiyoshigaang's answer mentions), Uralic languages (such as Finnish, Hungarian, Estonian), spoken Mandarin and Cantonese, and ...
user avatar
  • 10.5k
17 votes
Accepted

Pronoun introduced before its antecedent

Yes, it's been extensively studied; perhaps the first paper was Ron Langacker's 1966 "On Pronominalization and the Chain of Command". The major generalization seems to be statable as A pronoun may ...
user avatar
  • 9,645
17 votes

Is there a language where there are personal pronouns for the first or second person that have gender?

In Spanish that happends for plural: nosotros (1st person plural masculine) nosotras (1st person plural femenine) In Japanese there are several forms for the first form depending on gender or even age!...
user avatar
  • 171
15 votes
Accepted

Are there any languages that have a pronoun which is only used to refer to royalty?

From what I've heard, Korean has traditionally had two first-person pronouns reserved for royalty: 과인(gwain, 寡人) and 짐 (jim, 朕). They are both borrowed from classical Chinese, I think. Korea does not ...
user avatar
  • 1,090
14 votes

Do any languages mark social distinctions other than gender and status?

One interesting marker of social distinctions is an avoidance register, a special way of speaking to certain family members. You might also hear this called mother-in-law language or hlonipha/...
user avatar
  • 52k
14 votes

Are there languages that don't have this kind of ambiguity?

In some sign languages, pointing is used as a pronoun. It makes different distinctions to the ones made by English pronouns. In English, he, she, this, that and it are different. He and him are ...
user avatar
  • 281
12 votes

Are there languages that don't have this kind of ambiguity?

Aside from obviative third person pronouns mentioned by OmarL, some languages have what are known as 'reflexive' pronouns. These pronouns refer directly back to the subject of the clause that they are ...
user avatar
11 votes

Is there any language that uses different pronouns for "we" depending on whether the spoken to person is included in the group?

Malayalam (no relation to Malay), a language spoken in the southern state of Kerala in India has this feature. You use "njangal" to exclude the person spoken to and "nammal" to include that person.
user avatar
  • 111
11 votes

Is English unusual in having no second person plural form?

Although largely archaic, in some locations (some parts of Northern England/Cornwall/Ireland, among others) the word "ye" is still used as second-person-plural. It can also be found in some older ...
user avatar
11 votes

Do any languages mark social distinctions other than gender and status?

Niger-Congo languages tend to have a system of noun classes, somewhat similar to gender in Indo-European languages (in terms of adjectives having to agree with nouns, for instance), but consisting of ...
user avatar
  • 1,726
11 votes

Are there any languages that have a pronoun which is only used to refer to royalty?

According to Travis' comment in a Language Log blog post titled Royal Language, a first-person pronoun 朕 (chin) was used exclusively by the Japanese Emperor. (I note that this seems to be the same as ...
user avatar
11 votes

Is there a technical name for when languages use masculine pronouns to refer to both men and women?

The masculine gender/noun class in many languages will be the unmarked option, with other genders/classes being marked. It is often (though not always) possible to use a less marked gender/class. ...
user avatar
  • 5,425
10 votes
Accepted

What is the function of a gender distinction in nouns?

Assigning nouns to a certain noun class, with other words taking various forms by agreeing with that noun class (e.g. adjectives, determiners, or verbs marking the noun's gender) allows you to spread ...
user avatar
  • 4,577
9 votes

Is there any language that uses different pronouns for "we" depending on whether the spoken to person is included in the group?

This is called clusivity, and although not found in European languages (AFAIK), it is found in South Asia and Australasia at least. An example of how this is used (as taken from Fantastic Features We ...
user avatar
9 votes

What is the name for the phenomenon or process by which the brain knows what "it" in a sentence refers to?

Within some branches of linguistics, it may be referred to as any of the following: reference resolution pronoun resolution pronoun reference resolution anaphora resolution Notice that reference ...
user avatar
9 votes

Do any languages mark social distinctions other than gender and status?

Analogous to the word "maestro" in Western classical music to refer to conductors, Hindustani Classical music has "ustad" and "pandit" to address virtuoso performers. While either of them can be ...
user avatar
  • 3,537
9 votes

Do any languages mark social distinctions other than gender and status?

English "honorifics" can denote marital status (for women only) - Mrs. vs Miss. (The newer Ms. marks the addressee as a woman without specifying marital status. All men are Mr. regardless of marital ...
user avatar
8 votes

Has any language ever borrowed an interrogative or relative pronoun?

In general, anything can be borrowed, given intensive and prolonged language contact (Thomason 2001: 63) Borrowed relative pronouns (sources didn't mention examples): Gondi (Dravidian) has borrowed ...
user avatar
  • 4,229
8 votes

'm' in the words meaning first person

For the specific pronouns that you mention, the explanation is that those languages are Indo-European and have a common historical origin (*me, *tu). This happens to extend to Uralic, and the branches ...
user avatar
  • 67.7k
8 votes
Accepted

Why is it thought that definite articles develop from deictic markers, and not the other way around?

For English in particular, we have older stages of the language attested: Shakespeare, Chaucer, whoever wrote Beowulf. And we can see that in Beowulf "the" had the force of a demonstrative, but ...
user avatar
  • 52k
8 votes
Accepted

Are there languages where pronouns are marked entirely with conjugations?

WALS chapter 35, "Plurality in Independent Personal Pronouns", by Michael Daniel, mentions several candidates: two languages reported to have no plural independent subject pronouns or no ...
user avatar
  • 16.6k
8 votes

Why do two English personal pronouns — "you" and "it" — lack an objective case?

I would not say that these pronouns lack an objective case. It is just that the subject (nominative) and object (accusative) forms are identical. In Old English, as in virtually all Indo-European ...
user avatar
  • 22.6k

Only top scored, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible