School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

LingLunch | Nate Young (QMUL)

1 May 2019

Time: 1:00 - 2:00pm
Venue: ArtsTwo 2.17

Benim – a new first-person pronoun in Swedish

The Turkish loanword benim has become a first-person (1.PERS) ‘honorific’ pronoun in Stockholm’s multiethnic urban argot. The word has a self-aggrandizing indexicality, which can be intensified with a pronominal illeism (e.g., 1b).

Knowledge about this innovation is sparse. Kotsinas and Doggelito (2004) define benim as I/me (jag/mig). In an earlier analysis I identified benim as especially frequent in Swedish slang (Young 2018:181), but a more thorough account of the pronoun’s pragmatic and social function is lacking.

The data comes from hip hop songs and YouTube vlogs from 2012 to 2019. Over 120 occurrences of benim were examined. Subject (1a, 1b) and object forms (2) are common. Possessive forms (3) are few.

(1a) benim kommer göra shorba
 I come to make mess
 ‘I will make a mess.’

(1b) benim, han e boss
 I he is boss
 ‘I'm the boss.’

(2) du har benim i din mun
 You have me in your mouth
 ‘You gossip about me regularly.’

(3) benims nia, den e ej latch
 My niner it is not nice
 ‘My niner is mean.’

The use of benim resembles the 1.PERS use of man in Multicultural London English (Cheshire 2013) and the Japanese 1.PERS masculine honorific pronoun ore, the use of which elevates the speaker and deprecates the interlocutor (other-deprecatory, Miyazaki 2004).

Interestingly, illeisms as in (1b) occur almost exclusively with a COPULA. In other words, I found very few constructions like (4) in the corpus. Such ‘double subjects’, however, are not particularly marked in Swedish because left-dislocated topicalization like in (3) and (5) are highly typical (Johannessen 2014). Therefore, I suggest that the historical development of the illeism in (1b) could have been encouraged by the frequent occurrence of constructions like (3) and (5).

(4) *benim, hon kommer göra shorba
 I she come to make mess
 ‘I will make a mess.’

(5) Johan, han är bra komisk (Johannessen 2014:1)
 Johan he is rather funny
 ‘Johan is rather funny.’