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2nd person inanimate

From:Jim Grossmann <jimg4732@...>
Date:Friday, June 18, 2004, 6:11

I like the idea of distinct grammatical marking for 2nd person inanimate.

People with an animistic world view might have frequent occasion to use it,
especially if they also believed that they could influence the behavior of
inanimate things, like weather and germs, by talking to them.   Talking to
images of deities might be a common usage analogous to your "talking to
paper" example;  the speaker talks to an image in order to send a prayer to
the deity it depicts.

For more skeptical speakers of the language in question, second person
inanimate could be used more-or-less idiomatically in exclamations or
comments about inanimate things.    "You stupid car," instead of  "Damn this
car";   "You're sticky," instead of "This paper is sticky," etc.

If ideals or other important abstractions were referenced with inanimate
forms in the language in question, people might sometimes use 2nd person
inanimate when speaking about such ideas:  "Liberty, I would give my life
for you."  "Thrift, you frustrate me sometimes."

The use of 2nd person inanimate could be common in hypothetical scenarios or
didactic contexts:  "If you're a poison, but you're not absorbed through the
skin, your victim will be safe as long as you don't get into the mouth."

You speak of a "language" in which 2nd person inanimate would be useful.
But wouldn't the utility of the form depend, not just on the language, but
on the world-view and common practices--the culture--in which the language

To put it another way, you don't have to worry about inventing a *language*
in which 2nd person inanimate could be useful.  Addressing inanimate things
could be useful for the speakers of any language.   Simply invent the 2nd
person inanimate form, then explore how you want to use it.

I'm not sure that your "talking to the paper" scenario works.  Unless the
message written on the paper were jointly addressed to the paper and the
letter's recipient, the speaker/writer would not have the same things to say
to the paper and to the letter's recipient.   To the paper, the writer might
write:  "You keep letting the ink bleed through you," or "O Paper, tell Jane
that I love her."    But if the writer wrote to Jane, "Jane, I love you,"
this would constitute a message directed to Jane, not to the paper.

On the other hand, the idea of an "epistlatory 2nd person" sounds just as
much fun as inanimate 2nd person to me.  You could easily invent a language
that has both!

Jim G.

Trinsic wrote....

"But wouldn't it be interesting to invent a language in which a 2nd
person inanimate is useful? Maybe a language where it is used when you
are writing a letter? Viewing it as yourself talking to the paper, and
the paper later talking to the intended recipient. I am sure there must
be other interesting ways of making 2nd person inanimate useful as well.
Or maybe I am just a sucker for bizarre languages ;)"