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My current project, via its "stance' system, has five flexible noun classes,
one of which is used for some inanimate objects. Animate nouns can be
classed using any of the other four, depending on circumstance. However, a
lot of inanimate nouns are traditionally "personified" and classed as
animates. To personify inanimate-class nouns, you would just class them
using an animate stance. You could then address them in the second person if
you wished (since there is no second-person form for the inanimate stance),
or just use third person.

I imagine this would work for most languages that make animate/inanimate
distinctions, though folks have probably come up with some fun twists :P

--David

On Mon, Nov 16, 2009 at 7:31 PM, Daniel Bowman <[log in to unmask]>wrote:

> Consider the following text:
>
> Oh love unbound, nothing can withstand you
> You take away peace of mind from those whom you have bewitched.
> You gaze out from the face of a maiden
> as night turns to day.
> You wander the wilderness.
> You haunt the endless sea.
> No god can completely escape you,
> No short lived human can flee from your beauty
> You twist our minds until madness comes
> You cause kin to strike each other
> until hatred comes.
> In the eyes of a bride you are the truth.
> You are beside God
> for aphrodite works her will on her people without resistance.
>
> In English, we use the second person pronoun for an inanimate concept
> (love,
> in this case).  We're addressing an emotion as if it were a person.  While
> considering the above passage, I was wondering how commonly that occurs in
> other languages.  How do your conlang(s) handle personification?  How do
> other natlangs?  What is this called grammatically?
>
> This is one of those things I should probably already know, forgive my
> ignorance!  As for where I got the text, it is the English retranslation of
> my high
> school Angosey translation of a speech in Sophocles' "Antigone."  While
> considering this translation, I started to wonder if the original Greek
> used the
> second person pronoun for "love" in this case, and then I started to wonder
> if
> perhaps Angosey should dedicate a special (vocative?) pronoun to it...
>
> Thoughts?
>