[A translation of a post by Anatol Stefanowitsch of Bremer Sprachblog. The original is here.]

Language doesn’t only allow us to exchange information about the world, it also serves to negotiate and signal interpersonal relationships.

This is something we do by means, amongst others, of so-called polite-forms (or honorifics). In the simplest cases, they can involve special forms of address, like sir and ma’am, which are frequently found in American English, or the somewhat superannuated mein Herr or gnädige Frau in German.

But they can also occur as inflectional endings, which constitute a stable component of the grammar of a language, as, for instance, in Korean. If I should like simply to say “I eat lunch” in Korean then the neutral form is as follows: Read the rest of this entry »