Languages shape how we think. People who use different languages think differently; switching between languages, whether in speech or just in your head, literally change how you think. I’ve got like a zillion beef that starts with this phrase, but I’ll try to stick with one for this post: pronouns.
Ah, the magical element of pronouns. Without it, our sentences will be a bland mess of names and objects. Funny thing is you monolingual English-speakers may never realise how lucky you are to be blessed with so many usage for your pronouns. I’m a bilingual, I bask in this blessing half the time, and when switching to the other half, Indonesian, I have to wrangle with my head to cross the gap. I lose the blessing, although there are always some other merits.
For example, it. Such a wonderful word, it. Without it you’ll be stuck repeating the same nouns over and over again. Fun fact: Indonesian has no it. We have no second-person pronoun usable for dead objects. “A cat jumps onto the table, knocking over a vase. It falls and crashes to the ground”. Note the “it” I used to begin the second sentence. If you want to translate that to Indonesian, you have to change the “it” to, approximately, “that vase”, which has about the same level of awkward as it does in English. (We can’t say “the vase” either; Indonesian has no definite article like “the“). Imagine having a string of sentences that start with that it. A translator’s nightmare. Continue reading “The Ballads of Pronouns”