Serbian/Bosnian (BCS): What happens to "I"

katie_here

Senior Member
England/English
In english we say I am happy, I am sad, I am this and I am that.I've noticed in serbian that it becomes Srecen sam, Tuzan sam etc. If you are talking about yourself, do you not say I, or my?
 
  • Thomas1

    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska
    I would like to add that if you use personal subject pronouns in most cases it sounds affected (unless there is a reason for using them).
    If you conjugate a verb in a Slavic language (not sure if this applies to all of them, but I assume that at least to the majority of them) you already know by the ending which person it is (it is recognisable in writing as well as in speech).

    Tom
     

    Denis555

    Senior Member
    Brazilian Portuguese
    It's a little bit like what happens here even in English sometimes. What happened to "I"?
    In those languages including mine the pronouns can be left out because it's clear who is saying what.
     

    katie_here

    Senior Member
    England/English
    It's a little bit like what happens(can't post your link because of subscriber restrictions) even in English sometimes. What happened to "I"?
    In those languages including mine the pronouns can be left out because it's clear who is saying what.


    Can you explain how the article you have linked is relevant. I'm very new to a second language and don't undestand much about how sentence structure works, (except in English) but now I am even more confused about your link.
     

    Denis555

    Senior Member
    Brazilian Portuguese
    I don't know if you could see the article. But it's from the Yahoo Answers site, it begins like this:

    Question: Hi was wondering if anyone has any ideas to help me get my 4 year old girl to shed a few kilos.shes 30kg?

    So without the "I". :D
     

    katie_here

    Senior Member
    England/English
    I don't know if you could see the article. But it's from the Yahoo Answers site, it begins like this:

    Question: Hi was wondering if anyone has any ideas to help me get my 4 year old girl to shed a few kilos.shes 30kg?

    So without the "I". :D

    I think that was a mistake. Because the article does refer to I in other places. From what I can understand, there is no punctuation either.

    I think the opening Hi, was meant to be I, or Hi, as a salutation, but at the very least if it had been a salutation, the next sentence should have started with a capital letter.

    but thanks anyway. I understand what you are getting at, but its not what I meant.

    I understand better now thanks to Thomas's explanation.

    I hadn't thought about the ending and the different ways to end a verb. In English it would be I walk, you walk, we walk. Walk always being the same, but if the verb is different each time, then obviously that would tell the listener who you are actually talking about, whether it is yourself or someone else.
     

    Athaulf

    Senior Member
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    I hadn't thought about the ending and the different ways to end a verb. In English it would be I walk, you walk, we walk. Walk always being the same, but if the verb is different each time, then obviously that would tell the listener who you are actually talking about, whether it is yourself or someone else.

    But there are definitely some examples of pronoun dropping in colloquial English, although of course far fewer than in Serbian. Think about expressions such as "seems to me that...", "makes sense", "can't complain", "ain't got a clue", etc. They're used quite often without a subject in informal speech in at least some dialects of English.
     

    Athaulf

    Senior Member
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    I would like to add that if you use personal subject pronouns in most cases it sounds affected (unless there is a reason for using them).

    That's definitely true for Serbian, although there are also many situations where the pronouns are used for reasons much more subtle than affectation or emphasis (in many cases, I can't even formulate any rational reasons for using or dropping them; it just sounds better intuitively one way or another). Generally, pronoun dropping in BCS is an extremely complicated issue. I've known Croatian heritage speakers from Canada whose spoken Croatian grammar is near-perfect even when it comes to very difficult issues such as the verbal aspects, but who still keep producing strange-sounding sentences because they overuse personal pronouns.

    If you conjugate a verb in a Slavic language (not sure if this applies to all of them, but I assume that at least to the majority of them) you already know by the ending which person it is (it is recognisable in writing as well as in speech).
    For some curious reason, they're dropped much more rarely in Russian than in most (all?) other Slavic languages, even though in present tense, it differentiates between persons as strongly as any other.
     

    Denis555

    Senior Member
    Brazilian Portuguese
    This is exact what I meant. Though it can be different from what you're used to in English I wanted to go to some lengths to show you that occasionally it happens even in English. When you don't have any doubts who's the subject of the sentence. A subtler case is for example here:
    I drank the milk and ___ ate the apples. (The second "I" is left out because it's clear from the context who ate the apples).

    The slavic languages and the romance languages (among others) have different endings for the verbs that enable the speaker to save time and use just the verb without the pronoun (I, you, he, she, it, etc).

    As a differenciation in English we have only the "s" in the present tense.
    I speak
    You speak
    He / she / it speaks
    We speak
    You speak
    They speak

    This small variation makes it virtually impossible to use only the verb without the pronoun. It's even worse when it's the past tense with only one form for all pronouns: spoke

    That's why English is not a pro-drop language. Here's more information on this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pro-drop_language
     

    katie_here

    Senior Member
    England/English
    But there are definitely some examples of pronoun dropping in colloquial English, although of course far fewer than in Serbian. Think about expressions such as "seems to me that...", "makes sense", "can't complain", "ain't got a clue", etc. They're used quite often without a subject in informal speech in at least some dialects of English.

    this makes sense to me, but also, I think most of what you have quoted is really "lazy" speaking, because I (or whoever the subject is) really should be mentioned, its just been dropped.

    Your point as well, about older croatian people using a different way of speaking is true here too, for example, I don't speak in the same way as my son and his friends, even though we have all been brought up in the same district of the same city, they are much more influenced by americanisms they hear on TV whereas we resist using them, although we're all guilty of using slang.

    One that you said was "I ain't got a clue" I would say "I haven't got a clue" or if I was really using slang it would be "I an't got a clue". My sister in law who lives in Yorkshire says "I aren't got a clue" which to me isn't right, because to say it in its proper way, I are not got a clue, is wrong, but its normal for yorkshire folk and they all say it.

    There is an area in England (which is not that far away) where they use really old english, and call each other thee and thou, as in "thee amt got a clue, thou hasn't".

    Its so fascinating, language, when you really get into it. I'm enjoying this conversation.
     

    JakubikF

    Senior Member
    For some curious reason, they're dropped much more rarely in Russian than in most (all?) other Slavic languages, even though in present tense, it differentiates between persons as strongly as any other.

    I think you are right and I don't know the reason why it is so either. I can understand that in Russian we are forced to use pronoun in past tenses because there is no determinant of the person added to the verb. But why in present tense? I believe that vast majority of Slavic languages determine the person in all tenses. Thus Russian doesn't do it, this may be the reason why in Russian pronouns are used more often.
     

    dudasd

    Senior Member
    Serbo-Croatian
    Maybe a couple of examples could be useful. Unfortunately, use of pronouns in Serbian doesn't have strict rules, so these examples mustn't be taken as a generalisation. The list of different contructions and situations where pronounces are used / not used is really endless.

    When giving information about yourself or about your opinion: One "I" is usually quite enough. People who often use "I" are even considered to be haughty. (There's a phrase "ja-pa-ja" - "me-and-only-me", describing a person who always puts himself before others.) So, if you want to say:

    My name is XXX. I work as a YYY. I live in ZZZ.

    it's quite enough to use "I" in the first sentence only (and usually requested, you can't start without "I" out of the blue):

    Ja sam XXX. Radim kao YYY. Živim u ZZZ.

    Any row of similarly arranged sentences will request a minimal use of "I".


    In a dialogue, one can (mostly) be ruled by intuition only. For example, someone asks: "Are you happy?" Usually he/she will ask "Jesi li srećan?" (without "you"). And the answer will usually be:

    Jesam. (Literally: "Am." = "Yes, I am.")
    Srećan sam. (I am happy.)

    But if you want to reply with a counterquestion or to imply something else, then you use "I".

    Ja sam srećan, a ti? (I am happy, and you?)
    Ja sam srećan, ali ne znam je li srećna i ona. (I am happy, but I don't know if she is happy as well.)

    In both of these "Ja" examples there's a kind of "undertext" - "As long as it's concerning me... but..."

    "I" can be used in most of the situations where you want to emphasize your personal attitude: "Ja mislim da...." ("I think that...") is not revealing just what you think, but also implies: "That's my opinion and you may agree or not." If you say "Mislim da..." then you are just giving a sugestion or saying your opinion, but you don't expect a debate. I think that following dialogues show some difference:

    A: "Mislim da bi trebalo da premestimo sto tamo." ("I think we should move the table there." - a suggestion)
    B: "Ja mislim da ne bi trebalo." ("I think we shouldn't." - personal opinion that also implies "I don't agree with you.")
    A: "Šta onda predlažeš?" ("What do you suggest then?" - there's no "you", so this is a peaceful question, not provoking.)
    B: "Predlažem da ostane tu gde je." ("I suggest it should stay where it is." - no "I", so the tone is peaceful again.)

    A: "Mislim da bi trebalo da premestimo sto tamo." ("I think we should move the table there." - a suggestion)
    B: "Ja mislim da ne bi trebalo." ("I think we shouldn't." - personal opinion that also implies "I don't agree with you.")
    A: "Šta onda ti predlažeš?" ("What do you suggest then?" - "you" implies that A is alightly offended; undertext: "Well, let's see is your idea better, you smart!!!")
    B: "Ja predlažem da ostane tu gde je." ("I suggest it should stay where it is." - undertext: "That's what I think and I hope you won't argue with me, otherwise we'll have a nice quarrel.")

    Well, it's not always like that, of course, but generally "I" is omitted whenever there's no strong need for it. A wise politician will avoid it, for example, and he/she will never start his/her speech with "I". ;)
     

    katie_here

    Senior Member
    England/English
    Which is?

    Barnsley

    Barnsley

    And it costs 'ow much? Bloomin' 'ummer! Does tha not know 'ow far it is to Morecambe from Barnsley, all across't Pennines for a start? Cost me an arm an' a leg it 'as, and now tha wants t'other arm and leg. Does tha think ah'm made of bloomin' money? Don't grow on trees, yer know. Cost me honest sweat and hard labour.
    Mind you, that'll be the price you charges before me discount. What discount? Ah'll tell thee what discount, lad, the discount as tha's going to give me for patronising this establishment and not goin' to Blackpool.

    (can't post where I've quoted from. )
     

    Athaulf

    Senior Member
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    this makes sense to me, but also, I think most of what you have quoted is really "lazy" speaking, because I (or whoever the subject is) really should be mentioned, its just been dropped.

    True, in English it probably makes more sense to think of it as "lazy speaking", since unlike in real pronoun-dropping languages, you can't use subjectless sentences for arbitrary syntactic purposes. For example, in colloquial English you can say "Looks OK!" without a subject as a separate sentence, but you can't use it as a subordinate clause: *"He says looks OK." You have to say "He says it looks OK." In contrast, in a real pronoun-dropping language like Croatian/Serbian, you can use subjectless sentences in any syntactic roles.

    Your point as well, about older croatian people using a different way of speaking is true here too,
    Actually, by "heritage speakers" I mean children of Croatian immigrants who grew up in English-speaking countries as native English speakers, while they also learned some Croatian at home to varying degrees. Such people often speak very good Croatian, but most of them still have problems with limited vocabulary and some finer points of the grammar. In my experience, their clumsy handling of pronoun dropping often sticks out even when the other aspects of their Croatian are near-perfect.
     

    arwyn

    Member
    Croatian - German
    Actually, by "heritage speakers" I mean children of Croatian immigrants who grew up in English-speaking countries as native English speakers, while they also learned some Croatian at home to varying degrees. Such people often speak very good Croatian, but most of them still have problems with limited vocabulary and some finer points of the grammar. In my experience, their clumsy handling of pronoun dropping often sticks out even when the other aspects of their Croatian are near-perfect.

    True, but is there a general rule for the appropriate use of pronouns?
     

    Athaulf

    Senior Member
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    True, but is there a general rule for the appropriate use of pronouns?

    These rules are very fuzzy and impossible to formulate precisely in a way that would cover all cases. It's like with e.g. English articles: you can give some general guidelines that will cover many cases, but ultimately, you just have to develop the intuitive feel for it by practicing.

    Generally, my advice to learners of BCS would be to avoid worrying too much about this issue before reaching an advanced level of fluency. Before that, it's better to err on the side of overusing the pronouns, since this will never make a sentence ungrammatical, but merely clumsy at worst. Dropping the subject pronoun can have implications on the permissible word orders, so a sentence can become ungrammatical if you just drop the pronoun without adjusting the word order.
     

    katie_here

    Senior Member
    England/English
    for myself, who asked the question, I'm only used to english and a little french where you do mention "I" before the verb or whatever.

    Some of the explanations have gone over my head, but none the less, I appreciate the time and trouble people have took (taken) to reply to this.

    I think I understand it now, that it isn't so much saying I or we, or they, its the ending of the verb that is the indicator as to who you are talking about.


    I'm editing this because its been pointed out to me via private message, that I've used the wrong word. I am not used to writing English with non English speaking people reading it (except for my own family who are Danish), and perhaps my own grasp of written English isn't good enough for these boards. So I apologise for anyone who doesn't understand me, and hope that people will bear in mind that I'm not perfect in writing in grammatically correct English.
     

    floridian002

    Member
    Fl
    USA English
    I can't speak for British English, but I can vouch that here in the States, we definitely drop pronouns in informal circumstances (with less frequency of course.)

    Want a big mac?
    Nope, just had a whopper.
    (typical conversation in America :) )
     
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