Honorifics: Formal vs. Informal Speech

What are honorifics?

Honorifics are ways, in languages, that we show special respect or honor for a person to whom or about whom we are speaking.

For example, in English, one might call someone Ma'am or Sir or refer to them as Mr. So-and-so or Mrs. Such-and-Such. In Japanese, one might refer to someone as So-and-so San or Such-and-such Sama or conjugate their verbs in a different way (or have completely different verbs altogether for a few words).

Neutral = Formal / Polite

Some nouns in Kryptonian can reflect gender (please see the page on gendered nouns for more information). All gendered nouns come in three types: feminine, masculine, and neutral. It is considered polite and respectful to defer to the neutral form whenever possible. If a distinction needs to be made for clarity, it is perfectly acceptable to use the gendered form, but one should be careful to revert to the neutral once clarification has been established. Some examples:

In this text, you can see that the pronoun referent is clear from context, thus, no gender specificity is required.

Example 1

Translation: Open     Gloss: Open Pop-up
.skilö( 
.skilor-ahzh
ski.loɹ.ɑʒ
see-PST
X 
khuhp
xʌp
N\1s
W 
w
OBJ
,bab, 
,bahb,
bɑb
Bob
I (Neut.) saw Bob.
.?skilö( 
.ta-skilor-ahzh
.ski.loɹ.ɑʒ
Q-see-PST
q 
rraop
ra͡ʊp
N\2s
W 
w
OBJ
,bab, 
,bahb,
bɑb
Bob
Did you (Neut.) see Bob?
.non 
.non
non
PST\be
C 
zhehd
ʒɛd
N\3s
W 
w
OBJ
:jEvÁ 
:jev-ia
.ʤev.
joy-ADJ
He* (Neut.) was happy.

However, in this text, the gender is needed in the second and forth sentences to establish the referent. In the third and fifth sentences, though, since our subjects have not changed from the previous sentence, the gender is dropped back to neutral. Technically speaking, the subject could (and normally would) be omitted entirely from the third and fifth sentences.

Example 2

Translation: Open     Gloss: Open Pop-up
.?skilö( 
.ta-skilor-ahzh
.ski.loɹ.ɑʒ
Q+see+PST
q 
rraop
ra͡ʊp
N\2s
W 
w
OBJ
,bab, 
,bahb,
bɑb
Bob
c 
chao
ʧa͡ʊ
and
,suzi, 
,suzi,
su.zi
Suzy
Did you (neut.) see Bob and Suzy?
.non 
.non
non
PST\be
<C 
zhed
ʒed
F\3s
w 
w
OBJ
:jEvÁ 
:jev-ia
.ʤev.
joy-ADJ
She* (fem.) was happy.
.so:gOlom( 
.so-:gaolom-ahzh
so.ŋ̩.ga͡ʊ.lom.ɑʒ
PST\want-learn-PST
C 
zhehd
ʒɛd
N\3s
W 
w
OBJ
kryptanúo 
kryptahniuo
kɹɪp.tɑn.ju.o
Krypton-language
She (neut.) wanted to learn Kryptonian.
.non 
.non
non
PST\be
>C 
zhod
ʒod
M\3s
W 
w
OBJ
doSå 
doshai
do.ʃa͡ɪ
sad
He (masc.) was sad.
.ZAso:gOlom( 
.zhaso:gaolomahzh
ʒæ.so.ŋ.ga͡ʊ.lom.ɑʒ
NEG-PST\want-learn-PST
C 
zhehd
ʒɛd
N\3s
W 
w
OBJ
L 
gehd
gɛd
3s(inanim.)
He* (neut.) did not want to learn it.

Masculine / Feminine = Informal / Impolite / Familiar

Be careful when applying gender to all of the gendered nouns in speech. This can be considered intimate or rude depending on context. A Kryptonian will only use gendered speech when speaking with nuclear family members or close friends. Outside of these contexts, it can potentially be taken as disrespectful or, in some cases, insulting. If you are uncertain which to use, it is almost always better to err on the side of caution rather than clarity, i.e., use the neutral if you are unsure.

Here are the same example sentences from above in the familiar form. In these examples, I'm making the 1st-person pronoun masculine (because that's what I am), and I chose the opposite form (feminine) for the listener. Obviously, be sure to adjust appropriately when speaking/writing.

Example 3

Translation: Open     Gloss: Open Pop-up
.skilö( 
.skilor-ahzh
ski.loɹ.ɑʒ
see-PST
>X 
khahp
xɑp
M\1s
W 
w
OBJ
,bab, 
,bahb,
bɑb
Bob
I* (masc.) saw Bob.
.?skilö( 
.ta-skilor-ahzh
.ski.loɹ.ɑʒ
Q-see-PST
<q 
rrip
rip
F\2s
W 
w
OBJ
,bab, 
,bahb,
bɑb
Bob
Did you* (fem.) see Bob?
.non 
.non
non
PST\be
>C 
zhod
ʒod
M\3s
W 
w
OBJ
:jEvÁ 
:jev-ia
.ʤev.
joy-ADJ
He (masc.) was happy.

Example 4

Translation: Open     Gloss: Open Pop-up
.?skilö( 
.ta-skilor-ahzh
.ski.loɹ.ɑʒ
Q-see-PST
<q 
rrip
rip
F\2s
W 
w
OBJ
,bab, 
,bahb,
bɑb
Bob
c 
chao
ʧa͡ʊ
and
,suzi, 
,suzi,
su.zi
Suzy
Did you* (fem.) see Bob and Suzy.
.non 
.non
non
PST\be
<C 
zhed
ʒed
F\3s
w 
w
OBJ
:jEvÁ 
:jevia
.ʤev.
joy-ADJ
She (fem.) was happy.
.so:gOlom( 
.so-:gaolom-ahzh
so.ŋ̩.ga͡ʊ.lom.ɑʒ
PST\want-learn-PST
<C 
zhed
ʒed
F\3s
W 
w
OBJ
kryptanúo 
kryptahn-iuo
kɹɪp.tɑn.ju.o
Krypton-language
She (fem.) wanted to learn Kryptonian.
.non 
.non
non
PST\be
>C 
zhod
ʒod
M\3s
W 
w
OBJ
doSå 
doshai
do.ʃa͡ɪ
sad
He (masc.) was sad.
.ZAso:gOlom( 
.zha-so-:gaolom-ahzh
ʒæ.so.ŋ.ga͡ʊ.lom.ɑʒ
NEG-PST\want-learn-PST
>C 
zhod
ʒod
M\3s
W 
w
OBJ
L 
gehd
gɛd
3s(inanim.)
He (masc.) did not want to learn it.

*These pronoun forms don't have a direct translation into English.

Titles

Much like "Mr." or "Mrs.", Kryptonian has a few honorific titles. These titles are postpositional, i.e., they always follow the person they are describing. Note: one never applies an honorific to oneself.

There are four honorifics that indicate family relationship:

H
Kryptonese / te /  :: 
IPA [ te ]  :: 
Font H
Description: 1st-Person Singular Familial Possessive / Honorific
J
Kryptonese / kah /  :: 
IPA [ ]  :: 
Font J
Description: 1st-Person Plural Familial Possessive / Honorific
N
Kryptonese / ni /  :: 
IPA [ ni ]  :: 
Font N
Description: 2nd-Person Familial Possessive / Honorific
B
Kryptonese / cheh /  :: 
IPA [ ʧɛ ]  :: 
Font B
Description: 3rd-Person Familial Possessive / Honorific

There is one non-familial honorific.

M
Kryptonese / jran /  :: 
IPA [ ʤɹæn ]  :: 
Font M
Description: Non-Familial Honorific

Showing Respect or Admiration: Talking to Someone

Using an honorific when talking directly to someone is somewhat uncommon and usually requires some kind of personal relationship to the person to whom you are speaking. The casual use of honorifics when speaking to someone will usually be perceived as insincere and will probably cause people to question your honesty. It's best to err on the side of not using honorifics—especially if you are trying to conduct business or trade. Below is a rough guideline of who you should use an honorific with...

Always with these people...

Often with these people...

Seldom with these people...

Never with these people...

The "seldom" and "never" categories can be overridden by the "always" and "often" categories. For instance, if you are an entomologist and you meet for the first time the world's foremost authority in entomology--all of whose work you've studied--it would be perfectly acceptable to address them with an honorific.

In or Out?

So now you know when to use an honorific in talking to someone, but which honorific do you use? For direct speech this is very simple: if the person is related to you, you use H /te/. If the person is not related to you, you use H /jran/.

If you are speaking for a group of people and everyone is related, then use the plural familial honorific: J. For example, if you and your siblings were asking: "Mom, can we all go to the movies?" then you would switch to the plural form ("our mom"). If the group included non-relatives (friends), then you would retain the singular form ("my mom").

Examples:

Example 5

Translation: Open     Gloss: Open Pop-up
.ëoS 
.ehrosh
ɛɹ.
journey
:bEm 
:bem
.bem
good
,byl,H 
,byl,te
bɪl te
Bill 1s.POSS.HON
Hello, Mr. Bill. (in-family)
.ëoS 
.ehrosh
ɛɹ.
journey
:bEm 
:bem
.bem
good
,byl,M 
,byl,jran
bɪl ʤɹæn
Bill HON
Hello, Mr. Bill. (out-of-family)

Example 6

Translation: Open     Gloss: Open Pop-up
.ukr,H 
.ukr,te
u.kɹ̩ te
father 1s.POSS.HON
, 
,
 
 
nan 
nahn
nɑn
PRS\be
>q 
rrup
rup
M\2s
W 
w
OBJ
ZRigÁ 
zrhigia
ʒ͡rig.
wisdom-ADJ
Father, you are wise.
Note that the honorifics are always separated from their noun with the name punctuation mark without spaces: ,

Respect and Family Relationships: Talking about Someone

When talking about someone (3rd-Person), usage of the honorific is dictated by the same rules as above: someone respected, that you know or whose work you know, etc. However, the familial honorifics are utilized more often, and more extensively, to indicate family relationships. In fact, this is the sole means by which you indicate a possessive for family members, i.e., my mother, our father, your sister, his cousin, etc.

For more information on the use of the familial honorifics as possessives see the Familial Honorifics page.

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