home edit page issue tracker

This page pertains to UD version 2.

Polite: politeness

Values: Elev Form Humb Infm

Various languages have various means to express politeness or respect; some of the means are morphological. Three to four dimensions of politeness are distinguished in linguistic literature. The Polite feature currently covers (and mixes) two of them; a more elaborate system of feature values may be devised in future versions of UD if needed. The two axes covered are:

Changing pronouns and/or person and/or number of the verb forms when respectable persons are addressed in Indo-European languages belongs to the speaker-referent axis because the honorific pronouns are used to refer to the addressee.

In Czech, formal second person has the same form for singular and plural, and is identical to informal second person plural. This involves both the pronoun and the finite verb but not a participle, which has no special formal form (that is, formal singular is identical to informal singular, not to informal plural).

In German, Spanish or Hindi, both number and person are changed (informal third person is used as formal second person) and in addition, special pronouns are used that only occur in the formal register ([de] Sie; [es] usted, ustedes; [hi] आप āpa).

In Japanese, verbs and other words have polite and informal forms but the polite forms are not referring to the addressee (they are not in second person). They are just used because of who the addressee is, even if the topic does not involve the addressee at all. This kind of polite language is called teineigo (丁寧語) and belongs to the speaker-addressee axis. Nevertheless, we currently use the same values for both axes, i.e. Polite=Form can be used for teineigo too. This approach may be refined in future.

Infm: informal register

Usage varies but if the language distinguishes levels of politeness, then the informal register is usually meant for communication with family members and close friends.

Examples:

Form: formal register

Usage varies but if the language distinguishes levels of politeness, then the polite register is usually meant for communication with strangers and people of higher social status than the one of the speaker.

Examples:

Elev: referent elevating

This register belongs to the speaker-referent axis and can be seen as a subtype of the formal register there. As an example, Japanese sonkeigo (尊敬語) is a set of honorific forms that elevate the status of the referent.

Humb: speaker humbling

This register belongs to the speaker-referent axis and can be seen as a subtype of the formal register there. As an example, Japanese kenjōgo (謙譲語) is a set of honorific forms that lower the speaker’s status, thereby raising the referent’s status by comparison.

References


Polite in other languages: [ca] [da] [de] [es] [eu] [hi] [sa] [ta] [u]