Who Are ‘We’?

Mitla Ruina

Languages have special words that help keep track of the people we speak of, words like I, you, he, she, and we. The languages of Mexico are sometimes clearer about this than English is. 

In English when a person talks about himself, he says “I”. When a person talks to someone, he says “you”. When a person speaks of someone else, he says, “he” or "she". 

But when a person says “we” he can be saying two different things. He can be talking about himself and the person he is talking to. Or he can be talking about himself and someone else. 

Many languages of Mexico have two words for ‘we.’ Izthmus Zapotec is one of those languages. In Zapotec, nu means ‘you and I’, but du means ‘he or she and I’.