The notion of ‘ego’ plays a central role in every communication process. Crosslinguistically, the notion of ‘ego’ is mainly codified by pronominal forms and agreement markers on the verb. The aim of this paper is the comparison of the expression of this central notion in two very different cultural and linguistic environments: the Sino-Japanese world on the one side, the Indo-European world on the other. After a description of general parameters useful for the analysis (§ 1), the paper presents a sketch of the great polymorphy of the forms for ‘ego’ in Chinese and Japanese, both from a diachronic and synchronic point of view. § 3 is a description of the complex morpho-phonological relations between pronominal systems and verbal endings in Indo-European languages.
The analysis shows that, whereas in Indo-European languages first person forms are relatively ‘autonomous’ (or context-free), in Chinese and Japanese they are highly relational: the relationship between speaker and hearer and the sociopragmatic context are fundamental for the linguistic expression of the self.