International Journal of English and Literature (IJEL) ISSN 2249-6912 Vol.

3, Issue 2, Jun 2013, 127-130 © TJPRC Pvt. Ltd.


Research Scholar & Assistant Professor of English, Arulmigu Meenakshi Amman College of Engineering, Vadamavandal, Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, India

Professor, Heads the Department of English at Sri Muthukumaran Institute of Technology, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

This paper discusses the differences between the use of pronouns and gender identification in English and Tamil – suggests means of resolving the confusion in the use of pronouns in Reported speech in English.

KEYWORDS: Pronouns and Gender Identification in English and Tamil INTRODUCTION
The use of personal pronouns varies from language to language, and culture to culture. Personal pronouns offer the speaker / writer an easy way of referring to the speaker himself, to the listener, and to others. One cannot imagine how language could have been functional without the use of pronouns. Most of the languages identify the speaker/s as First person, and the hearer/s as Second person, and all others as Third person/s. Languages like English and Tamil to a very large extent identify the gender of third persons as masculine, feminine, and neuter; whereas languages like French, Sanskrit etc. try to force-classify inanimate things also as masculine and feminine (they are mainly grammatical categories, and have nothing to do with ‘sex’), though several languages clearly identify all inanimate things as neuter gender. However, to this day, formal English tries to retain gender identification with reference to birds and animals too. Strangely enough feminine gender is attributed in English to certain inanimate things like country, ship and a few other things. Tamil language treats rivers, and countries as feminine forms. Of the three types of pronouns used, those referring to First and Second persons do not have gender identification, since the gender is known by looking at the speaker; or the listener / hearer. It is not known if there is any such gender identification in the First person and Second person pronouns in any language, though the gender as well as the number is revealed by an in-built system in the formation of verb itself in languages like Tamil. Example:வந்தான் [root verb + tense + gender +number] The matter is different with the Third person pronouns. Gender is clearly identifiable mainly in the use of singulars. The same is not true with the Third person plural pronouns and demonstratives –i.e. this, that, it, they, these and those. The genderless characteristic of the First and Second person pronouns is a source of confusion in reporting the speech of someone to somebody else - to put it in other words, in the Reported Speech. In Tamil, for instance, there are two words to distinguish between the third person ‘he’ and the speaker’s own first person pronoun reported as ‘he’. The Tamil pronouns are: ‘avan’, ‘ivan’, and ‘thaan’[தான்]/tha:n/ and ‘than’ /th^n/


J. Charumathi & C. Srinivasan

[தன்]respectively. This goes a long way to eliminate the confusion which is inherent in English, which is often overcome by means of using the name of the speaker in brackets to distinguish it from the reflexive First person. For example’ He said to her, “I like you.” [நான் அவளை விரும்புகிறேன்]= He told her that he liked her. .[அவளைத் தான் விரும்புவதாக இவன் ச ான்னான்]. He said to her, “He(another person) liked her.”[அவன் அவளை விரும்புகிோன்] = He told her that he liked her. [அவளை அவன் விரும்புவதாக இவன் ச ான்னான்] If the Tamil equivalent expression is transliterated it would read as: avalait thaan virumbuvathaaka avan chonnaan. Thaan is the most important distinguishing marker here; its stands for the speaker. The second reporting would read: avan avalai virumbuvathaaka avan/ivan chonnaan. Here, the third person reported is totally different from the speaker. [This kind of distinction is gradually disappearing from careless Tamil speakers, and it is really most disturbing.] The third person pronouns in Tamil indicate proximity as well as respectability. For instance ‘avan’, ‘aval’, ‘avar’(referring to persons at a distance ), and ‘ivan’, ival’ and ‘ivar’(referring to persons nearby) have a corresponding list of respectable expressions, and they are: ‘avar’. ‘ivar’ and a double honorific ‘avarkal’ and ‘ivarkal’, which could also refer to the plural form ‘they’ in addition to referring to nearness or distance. Proximity of the third person to the speaker cannot be indicated by Third person pronouns in English. A few tips as to how to transform the pronouns while changing from direct to indirect speech in English are given below: Students must be made to understand that all words and /or pronouns representing the speaker/s always take first person pronouns, namely, ‘I/we, my/ our, me/us, mine/ours’ within quotation marks; and therefore when the words in quotes are reported all First person pronouns must be correspondingly changed according to the speaker/s, remembering their gender also. Next, it must be pointed out that all Second person pronouns, namely, ‘you, your, yours’ occurring inside the quotes necessarily refer to the Listener/ hearers; and therefore they must be suitably altered to refer to the proper gender and number while using Third person pronouns. The last important point to be stressed is that the Third person pronouns occurring within quotes refer NEITHER TO THE SPEAKER NOR TO THE LISTENER, but refer to people other than speaker and/or listener. It is, therefore, to be understood that THIRD PERSON PRONOUNS NEED NOT change and should be RETAINED as such. So, all

transformations of pronouns are applicable only with reference to the speaker and the listener, and not to any third person. Speaker Listener He said to me, “ I like you.” to him, “ I like you.” to her, “ We like you.” → → → “First and Second Person pronouns.” He told me that he liked me. She told me that she liked him.” They told her that they liked her.

She said They said

Personal Pronouns and Gender: A Comparative Study with Reference to Direct and Reported Speech in English and Tamil


You said

to them, “ I hate you.”

You told them you hated them. I told you that

I said to you, “You should not like anybody but me,” → You should not like anybody but me.

We said to the gate-keeper, “We will be coming late. Do not lock the gate.” We told the gate-keeper we would be coming late and requested him not to lock the gate. The easiest way to solve the mystery of changing the pronouns lies in one’s understanding of the speaker, listener and the persons about whom the talk is about. By proper correlation the correct pronouns can be identified.

English pronouns are deficient in indicating the nearness or distance at which the Third person stands, and that adds to the confusion. The problem can be overcome by referring to the person referred by supplying the name within brackets following the pronoun. The ‘verb’ in English does not reveal the gender and often the number, too, of the person in the subject place. The lack of a reflexive pronoun equivalent to Tamil தான் in English causes problems while transforming sentences. The study dealt with only one aspect of grammar. Several more areas of difficulty are there between English and Tamil, and an understanding of these differences is sure to improve the communicative skill of those who are learning English as a second language.

Since this article is a research study and it warrants any primary, secondary sources and references.

Mrs J. Charumathi (b.1972-) graduated from Arignar Anna Govt. Arts College, Cheyyar affiliated to Madras University; obtained her M.A. from Annamalai University; B.Ed. from Bharathiar University and M.Phil. from MaduraiKamaraj University. She is Associate Professor of English at Arulmigu Meenakshi Amman College of Engineering, Kanchipuram; had earlier been Lecturer at Sri Akilandeswari College, Vandavasi. Submitted her doctoral thesis on feminst study of FitzGeralds’ Omar Khayyam and Poem’s of Pattinathar in Dravidian University, Kuppam (A.P.) Her guide Prof. C. Srinivasan, Heads the Dept of English at Sri Muthukumaran Institute of Technology, Chennai.