Me

How did the English language develop to use the object pronoun “me” in a subjective manner? This is an interesting point, if you consider how unusual this is among other languages in the same general family.

 

Take a look at this:

 

“Who would like to come?”

“Me!”

 

“Who did this?”

“Me!”

 

Ah! I hear you cry, but it is incorrect! The grammar is wrong! We should be saying “I” in those cases! Enough of the “me”!

 

The fact is, however, that this is an example of normal, everyday English usage, employed by a very large number of native speakers. It doesn’t grate on the ear, it doesn’t sound odd or unnatural. On the contrary, saying “I” in this case sounds a bit awkward, unless accompanied by a verb tag; for example “I do”, “I did”.

 

Perhaps in English we prefer to use the subject pronoun “I” with a verb, it doesn’t lend itself to being used alone, whereas we are used to using “me” with no verb attached – to me, by me, etc.

 

This phenomenon does not seem to be a feature of colloquial speech in all other languages. In Greek, for example, it would be unthinkable to answer with the accusative pronoun “Εμένα!” (emena) in those cases, you would have to use “Εγώ!” (ego), which corresponds to “I”. The same is true of Italian: the response would be “Io!” and not “Mi/me!”, just as a Spanish speaker would not use “mi” here, but would say “yo”. This is also the case in Slavic languages. In Slovenian, for example, you would reply “Jaz” (I) or maybe “Jaz sem”; I am.

 

This brings us on to French, in which it is possible to use “Moi!” to reply; this is indeed along the same lines as the English “me”.

One thought on “Me

  1. >>This brings us on to French, in which it is possible to use “Moi!” to reply; this is indeed along the same lines as the English “me”.<<

    Not "possible" but obligatory in such cases! "Je" can never stand alone, The situation is therefore unlike English, where "I" is highly unlikely but not totally impermissible.

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