Language is a beautiful subject; if one spends enough time and effort coupled with interest studying it.
I am not a language freak but reading one of the latest articles on Malaysiakini got me thinking. I did a short research on two main languages in Malaysia — the English and Malay language — and found what I was looking for. By the way, is it called Bahasa Malaysia or Bahasa Melayu now?
Quoting from the mentioned article on Malaysiakini, “Ahmad did it again, told Chinese not be American Jews”:
“I want Koh Tsu Koon and Gerakan to take responsibility for whatever untoward incidents that could happen in this country of ours.”
The word in the quoted text above that sparked the desire in me to conduct my little research is ours. A check on Wikipedia reveals that the possessive predicate adjective of the word we is ours. Some other examples on possessive predicate adjectives include mine, yours, his, hers, yours and theirs.
So, what are possessive predicate adjectives used for? Possessive predicate adjectives are used to show one’s ownership. For example, when I say “The pen is mine”, I meant to say that the pen belongs to me. When I say “That ball is yours”, I meant to say the ball belongs to you.
What really, really sparked the desire in me to conduct my little research is that I noticed a “weakness” in the English language compared to the Malay language. The point is that I noticed how we can’t differentiate the word “We” in English like how we can differentiate the word “We” in Malay.
In the Malay language, we have Kita and Kami at our disposal. Kita refers to the individual speaking, his/her friend(s) and the person/people they were speaking to (inclusive we). On the other hand, Kami refers to the individual speaking and his/her friend(s) excluding the person/people they were speaking to (exclusive we). (I learnt this in school so if I am wrong, don’t put the blame on me.)
In English, there aren’t two words that can clearly distinguish between inclusive we and exclusive we. The only possible method to understand the usage of the word “we” is to fully read and understand the entire sentence/paragraph.
This might be a design flaw in the English language since some other languages have up to six words to differentiate the word “We”.
Author’s note: Here is some salt. Kindly add to taste.