Politeness distinction in pronouns

The expression of politeness through distinct pronouns for the addressed is a phenomenon used by about a quarter of the world’s languages. For this parameter, pronouns are considered to be any bound or free morpheme that expresses such a distinction with respect to only the speaking partner.[1] The choice of pronouns is determined by pragmatic and social factors: the level of respect and intimacy towards the person addressed (in some interpretations, power relations and solidarity). The choice also reflects the speaker’s face.[2]


NoPolit: The language lacks a politeness distinction.

PolitNoPnPronoun avoidance. Certain languages do not use pronouns to express politeness, but have a rich inventory of other strategies for expressing the distinction.

TwoPolitBinary politeness distinction. The language distinguishes two types of relations (pragmatic function): an intimate/familiar relation and a respectful (honorific) relation. Such a binary distinction may also be expressed by several distinct pronouns, with the choice of pronoun depending on the dialectal or grammatical circumstances.

MultPolit: Multiple politeness distinction involves two or more degrees of politeness to express a non­intimate/familiar status.

[1] For example, if a noun with its own lexical meaning can also be used exclusively with the second person to express a politeness distinction, the noun can be considered a quasi­pronoun in terms of this parameter.

[2] Face (public self­image): the social status that the speaker wishes to claim for him or herself and be recognized by others.