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On 7 May 2010 13:10, Njenfalgar <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Hello all,
>
> I am planning to introduce honorific language into Treoygeum, which at this
> point in its history does not have such things. Now I was wondering what
> the
> typical ways are for languages to develop this. Wikipedia is a great help
> to
> understanding *what* honorifics and the like are, but I have not yet found
> anything explaining *how* these languages acquired this. Now I can easily
> imagine several ways, but I'd like to have some guidance from natlangs. Can
> anybody help there?
>
> Greets
> David
>
>
There are many ways for honorifics to appear in a language, but I think the
main principle underlying them all is *indirection*, i.e. the idea that
directly referring to someone or something is somehow unacceptable, and one
needs to use indirect formulae instead. What cannot be referred to directly
is very cultural (taboos, superiors in some hierarchy, unknown people,
special objects culturally and/or religiously significant, a mix of those,
etc.), and the ways to not directly referr to things or people are many, but
it is the main principle. Grammaticalise the various expressions, metaphors
and titles people use to refer to others and things they need to be polite
about, and you quickly get a system of honorifics.
The principle of indirection explains for instance the Spanish "usted" with
3rd person agreement, or the German "Sie" (referring to someone in the 3rd
rather than 2nd person is less direct, and thus more polite). As for the
Japanese system of politeness, it is deeply rooted in the principle of being
as indirect and convoluted as possible (at least in areas that demand
politeness).
Of course, once a honorific system has been grammaticalised, it may become
used so commonly that its politeness erodes, to the point that it ceases to
be polite (for instance English "you", or the various Japanese "personal
pronouns" that used to be very polite and are now shunned as being too
direct), and the process starts again (at least, as long as the culture in
question still values such a system of politeness strongly).

Honorifics are a complex phenomenon, where culture influences language very
strongly. But the main principle stands:
1. directly referring to things or people is deemed unacceptable.
2. various metaphors and/or indirect expressions are developed to circumvent
the taboos.
3 those various expressions become baked in the language, i.e.
grammaticalised, to the point you can speak any more without using them.
VoilĂ ! You've got your honorific system.
-- 
Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets.

http://christophoronomicon.blogspot.com/
http://www.christophoronomicon.nl/