Caveat: Clusivity

Clusivity, in linguistics, refers to a semantic atttribute of the plural first-person.  Some languages divide the plural first-person into two "sub"-persons:  an inclusive and exclusive.  Hence the term clusivity.   The inclusive plural first-person is a "we" that includes the listener.  The exclusive plural first-person is a "we"  that excludes the listener.

The Korean language has several terms for "we," and they're normally presented as differing in usage related mostly to levels of deference and formality.  우리 [uri] is a sort of familiar or friendly "we," while 저희 [jeohui] is more of a formal, deferential "we." 

Last month, talking with my co-teacher at Hongnong, however, I had a sort of insight, as I was trying to sort out why the one I was using was "wrong":  maybe there's a difference in the dimension of clusivity?  Specifically, 우리 [uri] seems to be inclusive, while 저희 [jeohui] is exclusive.  This could easily semantically transform, over time, into a perception of greater semantic deference for the exclusive version of the pronoun.

I tried to google references to clusivity in Korean and couldn't find any.  So if this has any linguistic validity, it hasn't been discussed in academic settings as far as I can tell.


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