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Friday, April 25, 2008

Random Thought of the Day

So, I was chatting with friends via instant messages, while doing some other things. I wrote the emote
*catches up on massive backlog of anime*
You might have noticed before how emotes tend to avoid the use of pronouns referring to the subject. If I had to take a guess, I'd say the reason for this is the fact that the sentence is actually first person (the speaker is also the subject), but the verb forms used refer to the third person; thus any pronoun referring to the speaker would seem out of place.

This got me thinking. While obviously omitting the subject for first-person sentences in spoken English would introduce ambiguity (as unlike in emotes, there isn't any indication that the speaker is referring to themself), in some cases, such as where the subject is the possessor of the direct object, this would not create an appreciable amount of ambiguity. Once convention takes over, you could say "He catches up on massive backlog of anime" (which is currently ungrammatical), and it would be understood that said backlog belonged to the subject. I wonder if we'll see this happen in the future.

For the skeptics, I note that this (not anything having to do with emotes, but rather the omission of the possessive pronoun) has already occurred for some nouns (especially body parts) in Spanish and Italian. For example, taken directly from one of my Spanish books, you would not say "El estudiante levantó su mano"(literally "The student raised their hand"), but simply "El estudiante levantó la mano" (literally "The student raised the hand", which is understood as belonging to the student).

Completely unrelated fact: In Indo-European languages that still have a male/female distinction for nouns, the word for "hand" is female.

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