1pi and 1pe

1pi and 1pe are linguistic abbreviations for first person plural inclusive and first person plural exclusive respectively. Some languages, like Limbu, make this distinction pretty thoroughly. Pronouns and verbs differ in form according to whether they “we, including you” is meant or “we, excluding you” is meant.

anchi we two (me + you) 1di
anchige we two (me + someone else, but not you) 1de
ani we two or more (me, someone(s) else + you) 1pi
anige we two or more (me + someone(s) else, but not you, who I’m talking to) 1pe

Source: A Grammar of Limbu, George van Driem, 1987

It is of this grammatical phenomenon that I have to think about every year, at Christmas when in Church the text “God is with us” is sung during Great Compline. For one thing, because, even after fourteen Orthodox Christmasses, my gut reaction is still “what — with us, and not with everybody else? Can’t somebody fix that text?”

Now, if we were Limbus, we’d probably sing “Mang anilummo yakma” —  and it would be crystal clear that the “us” of the text isn’t some small exclusive we-group, some in-crowd, but an inclusive we.

Mang ani-lummo yakma
God 1pi-MIDST be(LOC)
God is in our (inclusive) midst

(Of course, that’s what our text really means, God is with us on Earth, just-born, in person, so to speak. In the prosophon of the physical presence of the Son. Walking as a man amongst humanity. Limbu would, apparently, seem be really suited as a language for theological conversations.)