Thou Ye, You
By the way, the "Ye" is not related to the "Ye" in store signs that say "Ye Olde...". Y was sometimes used by typographers instead of the Old English letter Þ(Thorn), which makes a "Th" sound, so those store signs should be pronounced as "The Old..."
The usage of "You" instead of "Thou" began in the 14th century. It was originally used in token of respect when addressing a superior, and eventually began to be used when addressing equals.
EDIT: Removed part about "you all", because some things I said were wrong and others I will have to look up.
Edit: I looked this up and found this page: http://brandplucked.webs.com/theeandye.htm
It seems to infer that "thou, thee" etc. are only about distinguishing between singular and plural. There's no mention of them being an informal form, at least not in the King James Bible.
"As William Tyndale translated the Bible into English in the early 16th century, he sought to preserve the singular and plural distinctions that he found in his Hebrew and Greek originals. Therefore, he consistently used thou for the singular and ye for the plural regardless of the relative status of the speaker and the addressee. By doing so, he probably saved thou from utter obscurity and gave it an air of solemnity that sharply distinguished it from its original meaning. Tyndale's usage was imitated in the King James Bible, and remained familiar because of that translation."
Then more from Wikipedia - the plot thickens!
"Early English translations of the Bible used thou and never you as the singular second-person pronoun, with the double effect of maintaining thou in usage and also imbuing it with an air of religious solemnity that is antithetical to its former sense of familiarity or disrespect."
Also, apparently French uses the informal (see "toi" in the Lord's Prayer), whereas Dutch uses formal (U/uw).
But I was surprised to hear people addressing God in a Christian prayer using a form of you that is both more formal than the form I described above (no surprise so far), yet less polite (there's the surprise.) It's not an impolite form, just a form that makes it clear in a formal ("at attention") setting that you are speaking to a peer, not a superior.
Korean honorifics were puzzling enough to me without this mystery, and it was only later that I discovered that Western languages that still distinguish between a simple formal and informal you seem to always choose the latter.
I've always speculated that the Korean pronoun choice is a result of translating the Western practice to Korean. I've never been able to test that, though, because older Korean religions such as Buddhism don't talk directly to any deities (that I've ever witnesses, anyway), so there isn't any form of "you" used at all.
Any formalness ascribed is due solely to changes in the vernacular.
You mean, it seems to imply. You're suffering from the common confusion between "infer" and "imply". Generally, a writer or speaker implies, while a reader or listener, or an observer of a situation, infers something about what was said or observed.
The confusion stems, I suspect, from the fact that there are contexts in which either word could make sense. Consider:
(1) Are you inferring that layoffs are coming?
(2) Are you implying that layoffs are coming?
By the way in the Hungarian language the informal 'te' is used to address not just friends, family and God, but also the king/queen. (Well, was used when there was a Hungarian monarch.)
Apparently almost every language has its own way:
"Vous" is formal but it doesn't necessarily mean that "tu" is informal, it just implies a certain form of intimacy.
Also, I'd like to point out that using the plural "you" as polite/formal also kind of works with plural "we" as in the "royal we": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_we
I'm not sure if both are directly related though.
But I do love the thy, thee,thine olde English, has period character and if you use those terms, or indeed any term that is out of fashion in todays evolving languages. Well you either seem educated or odd by others in general. Though word racisim comes in many forms.
- The third person plural set (they, their, them) was borrowed from Scandinavian (it's pretty uncommon for languages to borrow 'core' vocabulary such as pronouns).
- Old English (Anglo-Saxon) also had dual forms of the pronoun. Those were lost by Chaucer's time though. Not sure if they are reflexes of early PIE dual forms or a more recent development from Proto-Germanic.
[Sara Malton]  has some interesting ideas about how the you/thee distinction developed in the semantic dimensions of power as well as familiarity in Early Modern English.
There are many new 2p. plural forms developing in English that vary regionally and socially, e.g y'all, you guys, yous, you'uns (-> yinz), all y'all.
I'm guessing it stands for "Proto-Indo-European", a phrase I'll bet nearly no one outside advanced degree word nerds (invoked lovingly) uses or has heard.
Sorry for the soapbox.
I studied rhetoric and technical communication for some time, and know quite well the usefulness of field-specific terminology for initiated readers. This, however, is not a comparitive-historical linguistics symposium and, as a multidisciplinary forum, I find no reason we should not to expect commentators to write to their actual audience.
Down-vote all you like, it doesn't change the fact that jargonistic writing for general audiences is rarely necessary and most often laziness.
I recommend you avoid throwing around accusations of laziness: if you're genuinely not aware that PIE stands for Proto-Indo-European language, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PIE acts as a perfectly good source.
I've assistant edited academic journals and spent years as a copywriter/editor at a consulting firm that worked in many specialized industries. That accusation was leveled with purpose and from experience.
This is not only about the acronym above, though PIE does have many meanings. That an acronym has a specific meaning to a specific group is why it is jargon. That it is "not a novel concept in the field" further reinforces that and is justification for writing it out, given the audience. It's really that simple.
The primary effect of acronyms on a non-indoctrinated audience is to reduce the writing's accessibility.
Simply, this is not a linguistics conference nor journal forum, and it is inappropriate to assume the folks here will know field specific acronyms.
Does it make any difference that it is spelt in full in the linked question?
> From the top of my head, Danish "de" (practically never used), German "Sie", Chinese "您", French "vous", Spanish "usted" are a formal way of addressing someone, especially if one isn't familiar with the addressee. Did English ever have this? It sounds as though Proto-Indo-European might have had this (based on my 4 examples), but perhaps someone can enlighten me?
You think the use of PIE is bad, just wait until they bust out the ASCII IPA.
(I am thick as 2 short planks but I've heard of PIE. HN should be a place where people like me need to work hard to keep up.)
If you don't read the page people are talking about, don't be surprised if you can't follow the conversation.
I'm referring to the linked page. That's the one you're supposed to read, not just the HN comments.
There are probably others. Archaeologists would probably run into it and people into old english lit are likely to roll the clock back, perhaps genetic analysis of migration would inadvertently discuss PIE.
Its like demanding we talk in detail about an obscure deep dark corner of the C programming language without confusing slang like "pointers" or "function". Well, good luck with that.
Even worse this isn't a discussion about lisp lambdas this is specifically a discussion about a weird corner of historical linguistics. Demanding that it be presented in "up goer 5" format isn't going to work.
Singular: Thou would like Bob to give thee thy ball. It is thine, and then thou will feel good about thyself.
Plural: Ye would like Bob to give you your ball. it is yours, and then ye will feel good about yourselves.
Not really sure how to ask "Are you okay?" of a singular person, though...
Thou wouldst like Bob to give thee thy ball. It is thine, and then thou wilt feel good about thyself.
Art thou okay?
Generally thou forms ended in -st or -t: do/dost, are/art, shall/shalt, go/goest. Third-person forms ended in -eth: do/doth, go/goeth.
"Don't thee tha me, tha them that tha's thee" - a Yorkshire admonishment against over familiarity.
The glyph for Eth looks like delta (as in calculus) with an extra cross atop it, so, distorted, looks very much like a script y.
You can see at least thorn still in use in Icelandic, by the way.
I was wrong about the pronunciation of "Ye Olde". When it is used as a spurious indication of antiquity, the Oxford English Dictionary says it should be pronounced (jiː əʊld) or (jiː ˈəʊldiː).
The OED merely reflects the fluidity of the English language, even when that language picks up idiocies such as 'Ye' being pronounced 'ji'.
Thorn is a fascinating letter, and I'm glad you drew attention to it in your original post. Sometimes I wish English would begin to re-incorporate some of those old words, or (as in this case) a letter.
(I thought I knew less English than I actually do!)
Thou is the subjective form. "Thou art wise." Thee is the objective form. "My lord did kiss thee in the garden."
Thee can be any object, such as the object of a transitive verb in the above example.
My native language -- Sinhalese -- has two forms: written and spoken. The written form, which has a grammar very similar to Latin, does have a universal "you", but the spoken form, which is largely grammer-less except for tense, does not. You literally cannot address someone without knowing their status/relationship to you. This leads to some difficult and sometimes hilarious situations:
- Children, family members and lovers are often addressed "oya". Using this on your boss or teacher could lead to problems. More acceptable when used by women and girls than by men.
- There's no way to informally address a superior without a salutation or a name. This leads to people repeatedly using a person's name or salutation in the same sentence. E.g. "Sir, should I have that report sir asked for on sir's desk before sir leaves for sir's doctor's appointment?"
- Some old fashioned couples have entire conversations (and sometimes marriages) without using second person pronouns because they don't have a single version they feel comfortable with.
- Male friends of roughly equal age tend to call each other "machang" -- a term that is well known to those who have known Sri Lankans, and roughly translates to "dude".
- There's no safe version of "you" that a young man can use on another that he has just met. Most risk using "machang", but could result in offense if addressing someone of higher social standing. This is solved by constructing sentences that avoid the word entirely.
- Most children, especially from my generation, do not feel comfortable using second person pronouns on their parents. They just repeat "mother/father" wherever the word "you" is supposed to appear.
- Sometimes the sentences are spoken with the word entirely omitted (like in Latin) -- "Can come over here?", "Did lock the door?"
That means, just life in Sinhalese, it is correct to address the individual in the third person with the most appropriate title (and falling back on Sir/Madam when the title isn't known). E.g. "Could Sir help me find the nearest bus stop", etc. (The Polish for Sir/Madam here is the same as Lord/Lady).
In other circumstances things tend not to be as strict. For example among equals of lower social rank (e.g. younger people), often singular grammatically implicit "you" can suffice. Or, when addressing one's closer superior kin, you would be only partially formal, for example: "Could [you] o mother, pass the salt". This example does not translate very well into English. It helps that Polish verbs carry the information about the pronoun of the person being addressed as part of their grammar (e.g. "I eat" = "jem", "you [singular] eat" = "jesz", "we eat" = "jemy", "they eat" = "jedzą", etc). The personal pronoun can be used explicitly for additional emphasis, but in some circumstances using an explicit singular "you" can be considered less polite (like pointing you finger).
There are other quirks when some level of familiarity is attained (and thus the formality can be reduced). In such a circumstance for example, to say "Could you pass the book?", one could say "Let it be that Sir passes the book", or even less formally, "Sir will pass the book." It sounds impolite when translated into English because in Polish, familiarity/closeness is expressed by an assumption of the other party's willingness to help.
Hey maybe English speakers still use the archaic 'ye' - in phrases like 'didya' and 'doya'?
Japanese is also often used without pronouns (in general it can be a surprisingly terse language for having rather few grammatical markers).
I have no knowledge of Sinhalese -- but from the description above it sound surprisingly similar to Japanese. Incidentally, Japanese is so different (grammatically) from many other languages that it is allowed as a "other" language when studying linguistics -- along with Maori and certain tribal languages. I wonder if Sinhalese wouldn't qualify as well.
I have always found this really annoying.
Male friends of roughly equal age tend to call each other "machang"
It's interesting how the subsequent 'you' turn 'umba'.
Dude, you didn't tell me about the class.
The 'you' there is usually turned in to umba.
No need to deprecate your mother-tongue. I bet there's plenty of grammar, it's just different from the written form.
(I see a similar inferiority complex with speakers of Singlish here in Singapore. It's a great language, if you ask me.)
It's also a great language to tell jokes in. We have a lot of delivery-based humor that gets completely lost if only the meaning is translated (which is often the case when the destination language is English).
Some of our original deficiencies: we didn't have punctuation or even spaces before they were introduced by European colonists (Portuguese, Dutch and British, in that order). So our ancient writings LOOKEDKINDOFLIKETHISANDWENTONFORPARAGRAPHS.
For example, the letter "d" in German corresponding to "th" in English:
die/der/das -> the
drei -> three
Donner -> thunder
Ding -> thing
daher -> therefore
du -> thou
Originally, it was inhabited by gaelic-speaking Celts. Some of their words that are still used today ():
plaide -> plaid
tàrmachan -> ptarmigan
triubhas -> trousers
peata -> pet
Then, it was conquered by the Romans. Latin words that found their way into English (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Latin_words_with_Engli...):
honor -> honor
imbecillus -> imbecile
inferus -> inferior
vulgus -> vulgar
Then, after the fall of the Romans, Britain was conquered by the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, who brought the old German words mentioned below.
After this, the area was Christianized, and the priests and proselytizers brought even more latin with them because that was the language of the Church.
After this, large portions of England were conquered by the Vikings, who introduced more Scandinavian-origin words that others have mentioned here. In fact, King Canute was once simultaneously king of England, Denmark, and Norway.
After the Vikings, England was conquered by the Normans by William the Conqueror in the Battle of Hastings. The Normans were Viking raiders who settled in northwestern France and who had turned in francophones. They introduce french-origin words like:
boef -> beef
mouton -> mutton
veal -> veal
porc -> pork
After which, all these language influences congealed, vaguely, into the English we know and love today.
For this graphed: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Origins_of_English_PieCha...
Edited for formatting.
But the words for prepared foods tend to be French in origin (the French conquerers were the ones who needed fancy terms for their food). So, as you pointed out, beef, mutton, veal, and pork are all French words.
de -> the
drie -> three (ie and ee got the same pronunciation)
donder -> thunder
ding -> ding
daarvoor -> therefore
dit -> this
dat -> that
donderdag -> thursday
vader -> father
moeder -> mother
school -> school
week -> week
weekend -> weekend
maand -> month
vrijdag -> friday
maandag -> monday
uit -> out
goed -> good
voor -> for
je -> you
mij -> my (pronounced the same)
wij -> we
auto -> auto
wagen -> wagen
kar -> car
slaap -> sleep
schip -> ship
English, Dutch and German are all classified as western germanic languages, meaning they probably derived from a single ancestor language some time ago. Note that 'germanic' has nothing to do with German or Germany, a common misconception because the two words are similar in English.
Dutch is often more similar to English because German underwent the so called high german consonant shift (essentially changing t -> s or z, p -> pf and some others I think), in which Dutch and English didn't participate. There are some words that highlight this quite nicely:
english dutch german
appel appel apfel
plough ploeg pflug
better beter besser
toth tand zahn
tre -> drie -> three (ie and ee got the same pronunciation)
torden -> donder -> thunder
ting -> ding -> ding
derfor -> daarvoor -> therefore
dette -> dit -> this
det -> dat -> that
torsdag -> donderdag -> thursday
far, but also the informal/slang "fatter" and the old-fashioned "fader" -> vader -> father
mor, and the older/slang form "moder" (mødre, transliterated "moedre" is the plural form of
both versions) -> moeder -> mother
skole -> school -> school
uke in bokmål, but "veke" in Nynorsk (based on spoken Norwegian dialects) -> week -> week
weekend (though that is a modern import from English) -> weekend -> weekend
måned (maaned) -> maand -> month
fredag -> vrijdag -> friday
mandag -> maandag -> monday
ut -> uit -> out
god -> goed -> good
for -> voor -> for
du -> je -> you
min -> mij -> my (pronounced the same)
vi -> wij -> we
auto -> auto -> auto
vogn -> wagen -> wagen
bil (we got our word from the end of automobil;
English got its from old French, I assume that's where yours come from too) -> kar -> car
singular plural (majestic)
2. person du ihr
3. person er (sie)
"the" doesn't have a direct equivalent in modern Norwegian - we add the article as a suffix instead (a car = en bil; the car = bilen), but for the rest:
drei -> three / tre
Donner -> thunder / torden
Ding -> thing / ting
daher -> therefore / derfor
du -> thou / du
Older Danish is even more similar to German, though I don't remember it off hand. At school, when I wanted to get my German grade up, I got a copy of Faust, which was way above my German level, and then I got hold of an old Danish translation (1920's or so). The old Danish translation was much closer to the German, so it was reasonably easy to figure out how they corresponded, yet still close enough to modern Danish (and by extension Norwegian) that I could read it fairly quickly when I couldn't figure out the German.
And if you really want to see close relationship between German and English, read some Dutch. Dutch to me reads like German and English lightly mixed, with some other random letters thrown in.
God but I hated pronouncing the umlauts.
That's interesting, what's your native language? I found that the umlauts map pretty well to how a lot of people from GB pronounce their Us, As, and Os. If I had to transliterate the word "use" for example I'd write that as "jüs" in German.
How comes you hate pronouncing umlauts and don't hate these various sorts of t-th-d sound? As in think-tank-they-did?
The angles and saxons spoke a western germanic language, whereas modern danish is a northern germanic language.
EDIT: as a side node: Frisian is the language commonly regarded as being closest to English
die/der/das -> [see below] -> the
drei -> tre -> three
Donner -> torden -> thunder
Ding -> ting -> thing
daher -> derfor -> therefore
du -> du -> thou
ein Haus -> et hus -> a house
das Haus -> huset -> the house
When you know Norwegian or Danish you can see a lot of similarities. The explanation I got was that around year 1000 Norway/Denmark was pretty much a naval superpower.
The union lasted until 1814, when Denmark (and by extension Norway) had supported Napoleon, and Sweden had joined the other side. Sweden got Norway as a "price". But during that period, a lot of people had started preparing for an attempt at Norwegian independence. And while we entered into a looser union with Sweden, there was a long ongoing debate about creating a new, formalised Norwegian language.
We ended up with two, but one of them - bokmål - was basically Danish + Norwegian pronunciation + various spelling reforms, as this was effectively what was spoken amongst the upper classes in the cities, and this (with further spelling reforms) is the dominant written language today (the other was based on spoken dialects, and is further from Danish but not that much) .
So we've "only" had about 200 years for the languages to diverge again.
Place with the google translate pronunciation button for some simple sentences for a while - you'll be surprised how much you understand
Of course there are a few exceptions, most notably when addressing members of the royal family. If you ever get to speak with one of them, the correct way is to address them by title, in third person ("would her majesty like fries with that?").
Around 8 or 10 years ago I started to notice a trend, particularly among younger people (in their late teens maybe), typically working in shops and cafes, who started once again to use singular ni with customers, but I haven't lived in Sweden for several years now and don't know if that's continued. I hope not!
I've only ever known du, would never use ni except for a group, and feel odd being called ni myself. Not insulted mind you, closest I can describe it is like when a small child refers to you as "that man" but you're only 16 or 17. :)
Ok, did some googling...
This from P1 Språket says that it wasn't a trend in 2004 (but then why were they asking?):
And this blog from 2008, in response to a column in DN that I can't find in their archive:
And finally this in DN from 2013:
So trend or not, it certainly seems to be a recurring topic of discussion in Sweden!
I hasten to add that "y'all" is clearly not used exclusively by Texans.
edit also, if there's a possessive it gets pretty crazy, for example a tour guide, assembling several groups for a tour might say "Let's get together for alls y'all's tour".
"All y'all come by for supper" meaning you and your close family. And maybe even some other people as well, if there's room at the table for them.
47% of Australians are functionally illiterate - http://www.abc.net.au/local/videos/2012/09/07/3585457.htm
Illiteracy in Texas (still ranked #1 in US?) - http://www.literacytexas.org/literacy_in_texas/facts_statist...
I can't add a reply though, because apparently I need 50 reputation. I can't upvote, because I need 10 reputation. You know what, StackExchange? I'll just stay away from your site with all the barriers to participation that you throw up.
Have you really never used any StackExchange site, though? Once you've used one, you get 100 free rep when signing up on any other StackExchange site, which is enough to perform all the basic actions (posting, commenting, voting, etc).
The informal one, "tu", is common on all the peninsula.
The formal version "voi" (2nd person plural) is more common in the south of the Italy (it's a reminiscent of the spanish invasions).
The formal version "lei" (3rd person singular) is more common in the north of the Italy.
The version I heard is roughly that, though I recall a professor blaming it on Cromwell's commonwealth rather than the Quakers (after the commonwealth fell thee/thou went completely out of favor.)
Makes everyone sound like a wedding invitation. :)
"You often see cars speeding along this road" <- perfectly valid and the context can be taken from the way it is delivered in speach, but could be misread to imply that the writer thinks the person they are addressing sees the cars.
"One often sees cars speeding along this road" <- unambiguous.
We use "friend/friends" (we don't distinguish between plural and singular) for a generic "you". Otherwise, in social situation, we have to figure out the relative social order to address the other person, i.e. calling them by titles/roles such as aunt/uncle/mom/dad etc.
It's a big headache cause it can be very awkward to use one pronoun (for example, calling a woman was "younger sis") and she turns out to be older - it can be impolite, but then some women will be offended if you call them as "older sister" right away, because, ugh, you consider them older. God, it's a convoluted mess of pronouns :(
I always thought it odd that Esperanto adopted this "feature", presumably from English:
first person mi (I) ni (we)
second person vi (you)
masculine li (he) ili (they)
feminine ŝi (she)
epicene ĝi (it, s/he)
I don't know Spanish well, but it probably contradicts this as well. Usted and Ustedes are not related to vosotros (informal second person informal, not used in the Americas) and take the verbs for third person like German.
It's not anything so specific as a group. It's about distancing or impersonalizing the speech. It's too direct to say "Do you want something to drink?" and instead the phrasing could be "Does the gentleman want something to drink?"
We do something similar with phrasing like "if you would like" or in German using subjunctive forms of many verbs like "I would like" / "Ich möchte" / "quisiera" instead of "I want" / "Ich mag" / "quiero".
Wasn't vosotros used as a formal tu at one time, especially with regard to royalty? I seem to recall reading that, but I can't say it with any degree of confidence.
The same thing in German:
Formal : Sie,
I am not a linguistics guy but I think that Thou, Du, Tu have all the same origin as they sound so similar.
I think they're all Indo-European in origin, not a result of the Roman empire:
(next time, examples of present continuous in modern french)
So there was really a 'ye'? Explains the confusion I guess.
I don't really understand this attitude. I once made a joke about the Swedish word for sandwich - which is literally "butter goose" - and a humorless immigrant got all pissy about how Swedes are so ignorant, they don't even know that "butter goose" doesn't refer to actual geese etc etc. (Coincidentally, I did know the etymology but knowing it would not detract from the joke.)
See declensions in Wiktionary: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ego#Latin
It's interesting in that the assumption of formality in 'you, sir,' suggests the speaker is about to be rather discourteous in the following clause.