inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (2Cor. 2:15)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

The Warlpiri and the Copainalá Zoque translators chose an exclusive form, because “we take this to refer to Paul and his associates speaking of their ministry” (source: Carl Gross and Roy and Margaret Harrison in Notes on Translation with Drills, p. 173ff.). SIL International Translation Department (1999) mentions the possibility that the inclusive form could possibly also be used.

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