You, but more respectfull in English

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elgrande (not logged in)

Postby elgrande (not logged in) » 2004-08-25, 21:54

Sorry, that was me again.

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In Brazil...

Postby Psi-Lord » 2004-08-25, 22:24

Well, as most of you might know, in Brazil, the distinction between informal 'tu' and formal 'você' has been lost —'tu' was dropped by most of the speakers, and even those that still use it don't hold that formality distinction, AFAIK. However, it's not like you can't express some nuances of formality / distance, but I wouldn't know how to put the situation in few words.

I used to address my grandfather as 'você', but a few years ago it started to sound awkward, and I ended up shifting to addressing him as 'senhor', which sounded more respectful. Some friends of mine (and some older people) address their parents as 'senhor' / 'senhora', too, but I myself address my mum as 'você', period.

One might say that we use 'senhor' to older people, and 'você' otherwise, but I think it's not so plain either. My mum demanded her pupils to address her as 'senhora', but she refuses to take it from my friends, who give her 'você'. At work, I address older people from different areas using 'senhor', but those of my own area using 'você', even if they're older than the former. And when I'm talking to a client on the phone, I instantly shift from 'senhor' to 'você' if I find out they're about my age, or else it sounds just plain awkward.

At university, the way my class address our professors does depend on some sort of subjective relation between age and position, too, and it's not something we have to decide on —it just comes naturally. And it's not uncommon that some students differ in choice when addressing the very same professor. Depending on the professor, we even address him by his nickname. :) A friend of mine who studied Law, however, would always say they did keep a higher level of formality in his classes between professors and students, always addressing each other by their surnames and on a 'senhor' basis.

It may also be funny to address some women as 'senhora', since some of them might actually dislike it —'Are you implying I'm old?' :oops:

Hmmm, do I sound too confusing? :P
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Postby elgrande (not logged in) » 2004-08-26, 19:22

Darky wrote:I also find it so peculiar everytime I realise that English doesn't distinguish between you-singular and you-plural... It's hard and funny to imagine that situation in a native's mind (as I noticed with some English people that don't know other languages)


German doesn't make such a distinction for formal pronouns either, there is just "Sie". I've never found it confusing or anything, though, and I doubt it has had much of an effect on my mind.

Or should my mind be completely messed up seeing that my mother tongue makes such a distinction for informal pronouns, but not for formal ones? :P

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Postby darkina » 2004-08-26, 20:21

elgrande, I wasn't saying that, but talking with an English guy who only speak English I realise how he considers things differently from me... and I think your point is different from mine, cos I was stating that considering 'you' in general, not as a formal/informal pronoun...
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Postby Psi-Lord » 2004-08-26, 20:30

Darky's point is probably pretty common among Romance speakers —that and the necessity we often have in distinguishing between, let's say, male / female friends, or male / female cousins, and the like, when English speakers (among others) don't care so much about it. ;)
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Postby Phil A » 2004-08-26, 20:57

I'm also glad that English has long abandoned the distinction between formal you and informal you.

There's an irony there, of course, in that many people still think of Britain as a class-ridden monarchy where everyone is mainly concerned about their social status and that of the people they interact with. And yet the English language is clearly more egalitarian than French with its tu/vous, German with its du/Sie, Polish with its ty/wy/Pan/Pani/Państwo, and the languages of various other republics with supposedly egalitarian constitutions.

I realise that the distinction between formal you and informal you is not always about social class (although it often does seem to be), but the preceding comments of others demonstrate that the distinctions are always somehow about the listener's status, even if that status relates to their age or their familiarity with the speaker.

What exactly is gained by maintaining this distinction in the 21st century? Why can't the French decide always to use either tu or vous, for instance?

senatortombstone

Postby senatortombstone » 2004-08-26, 21:31

But why did YOU, an accusative form survive over YE, the Nominative?

also, why is the word YE sometimes used as THE in older english

"ye olde shoppe"

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Postby ekalin » 2004-08-26, 21:43

senatortombstone wrote:But why did YOU, an accusative form survive over YE, the Nominative?


Language evolution can be bizarre sometimes.

senatortombstone wrote:also, why is the word YE sometimes used as THE in older english

"ye olde shoppe"


I believe this is due to a confusion made with a character used to write the "th" in the (I'm not sure if it was a handwritten form of "þ" or another character), which was very similar to an "y".
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elgrande

Postby elgrande » 2004-08-26, 21:43

Darky wrote: cos I was stating that considering 'you' in general


Well, it's not like English sg. and pl. "you" are the same in all forms. English speakers naturally make such a distinction for the reflexive forms "yourself" and "yourselves". So, the distinction between second person singular and plural must somehow exist in their minds, too. :wink:

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Postby Phil A » 2004-08-26, 21:47

senatortombstone wrote:But why did YOU, an accusative form survive over YE, the Nominative?

also, why is the word YE sometimes used as THE in older english

"ye olde shoppe"

1. Not clear. Might just be one of those historical accidents.

2. This one I can answer. YE was never used as THE in older English. The notion that it was used in that way was either a mistake or a deliberate artificial archaicism.

The example you chose to illustrate this is a good one. You can find shops marked YE OLDE SHOPPE in some horribly twee touristy places in England that are too keen to emphasise their so-called 'heritage' in order to impress ignorant visitors.

I repeat: YE NEVER MEANT THE!!!

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Postby Phil A » 2004-08-26, 21:53

elgrande wrote:
Darky wrote: cos I was stating that considering 'you' in general


Well, it's not like English sg. and pl. "you" are the same in all forms. English speakers naturally make such a distinction for the reflexive forms "yourself" and "yourselves". So, the distinction between second person singular and plural must somehow exist in their minds, too. :wink:

I agree. I think that we are perfectly well aware that 'you' can mean 'you as an individual' or 'you as a group'. I don't believe that anyone in the English-speaking countries has a problem with that. We are certainly not suffering any confusion about whether we are talking to one person or more.

elgrande

Postby elgrande » 2004-08-26, 22:03

Phil A wrote:What exactly is gained by maintaining this distinction in the 21st century? Why can't the French decide always to use either tu or vous, for instance?


Why can't you consistantly address everyone as "Sir" or "Madam" including your family and friends? Or why can't Americans decide to always address people by either their first names or Mr/Ms + last name? If you address your boss as Mr/Ms XYZ but not your son or your girlfriend, isn't that against your egalitarian constitution? Why not great everyone including politicians, policemen, etc. with "hey, pal, wassup"? What distinctions are maintained by this in the 21st century?


In Germany, the distinction between "du/ihr" and "Sie" is not about social classes anyway.

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Postby Phil A » 2004-08-26, 22:24

I think that my question is worth posing and that it deserves a rational answer, not because I realistically expect French and German to abandon tu/vous or du/ihr/Sie, but in order to explore a little more deeply exactly what it is that keeps those artificial distinctions in place.

If you want my opinion, it is that the distinction does relate to the perceived status of the listener (not necessarily class, but often age, authority or familiarity). From a philosophical point of view, I'm interested in why - apart from the established linguistic convention - one would address your close friend with one pronoun and verb form and address your boss or your teacher with a different pronoun and verb form. Is it because at some level you consider your boss/teacher to be better/more worthy of respect than your friend?

Since we are taught in the advanced countries that everyone is equal before the law, and that equal treatment in day-to-day life forms the bedrock of our human rights, it would seem rational to me (again, I don't expect it to happen) for everyone in those countries to address all their fellow citizens in the familiar form, whatever the listeners' status.

Obviously, this is not about "hey, pal, wassup", which is slang. I'm talking about standard language here. You don't consider 'du' to be slang, do you?
Last edited by Phil A on 2004-08-26, 22:35, edited 1 time in total.

ttooo

re: artificial distinctions

Postby ttooo » 2004-08-26, 22:35

> realistically expect French and German to abandon tu/vous or du/Sie, but in order to explore a little more deeply exactly what it is that keeps those artificial distinctions in place.


What does "artificial" mean here? I guess I'm asking, are there "non-artificial" distinctions, and if so, which ones are they?

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Postby Phil A » 2004-08-26, 22:48

By artificial distinction I guess I mean the difference in the way that you address (or treat generally) a friend on the one hand and a boss or teacher on the other. It's an artificial distinction in the sense that each of them is a human being, with equal legal status and rights to vote, own property, express opinions and so on. This leads me to think that it would be rational to accord them equal status in the way in which I address them (as I would in English, referring to each of them as 'you'.)

A non-artificial distinction might be about someone's particular skill. For instance, if I needed a brain operation, I would clearly make a distinction between taking the advice of a neurosurgeon and taking the advice of a lawyer. Both are 'high-status', well educated and presumably good at what they do, but with one of them I have a particular reason to listen to their opinion about my operation, whereas I needn't pay much heed to the opinion of the other on the subject. (This distinction should not affect how I address them, by the way, since addressing them differently would be to perpetuate the artificial distinction mentioned earlier. No, this non-artificial distinction would merely refer to how much weight I should give to their opinions on the subject at hand.)

elgrande

Postby elgrande » 2004-08-26, 22:59

Phil A wrote:I think my question is worth posing and that it deserves a rational answer - not because I realistically expect French and German to abandon tu/vous or du/Sie - but in order to explore a little more deeply exactly what it is that keeps those artificial distinctions in place.

If you want my opinion, it is that the distinction does relate to the perceived status of the listener (not necessarily class, but often age or familiarity). From a philosophical point of view, I'm interested in why - apart from the established linguistic convention - one would address your close friend with one pronoun and verb form and address your boss or your teacher with a different pronoun and verb form.


You mean how they have developed? The ones we are dicussing here from plural forms, third person forms or both. I *think* the plural shows more respect originally simply because several people are worth more than just one (similar to the way a king might speak of himself as "we"). The third person avoids directly addressing the listeners, which may originally have shown more or less respect than directly addressing them (the listeners are of such high value that you can't dare to directly address them or you feel of such high value that cannot directly address someone like a servant).

Now those pronouns are of course well-established and in speech no-one thinks about their etymology.

Such pronouns show the relation between the speaker and the listener.

Something like that happens in every language, but not every language uses the same means. In American English, you occassionally throw in a word like "Sir" or "Ma'am" and you address some people by their first name and other by their last name, for example. (In German, nobody usually throws in words like "Sir" or "Ma'am" for instance.) English also has other ways of showing what the relation between the speaker and the listener is like: you don't speak to your boss in the same way as you do to your girlfriend.

In other languages, such as Indonesian, they also have different words for "I" to show such relations.

I'm under the impression that English speakers sometimes think of "du" and "Sie" as pronouns that discriminate against or in favour of someone, which they aren't. At the same time some English speakers forget that they naturally choose whether to address someone on a first name or on a last name basis. Also here the philosophical question of why we would use a different set of names with family members than with officials might arise.

Phil A wrote:Since we are taught in the advanced countries that everyone is equal before the law, and that equal treatment in day-to-day life forms the bedrock of human rights law, it would seem rational to me (again, I don't expect it to happen) for everyone in those countries to address all their fellow citizens in the familiar form, whatever the listeners' status.


Everyone being equal doesn't mean I'm equally friends with everyone. Anyway, following your logic it would seem rational to me that Americans should only use the familiar set of names, given names, and get rid of last names altogether or never use them unless you have to disambiguate.

Phil A wrote:Obviously, this is not about "hey, pal, wassup", which is slang. I'm talking about standard language here. You don't consider 'du' to be slang, do you?


No, but my point was that in English, too, you don't talk to everyone in the same way, even though you want "equal treatment".

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Postby Phil A » 2004-08-26, 23:18

This is just an afterthought, but under Stalinism I believe that people were generally expected to use the familiar forms of 'you' in addressing each other and to avoid the formal 'you'.

I'm certainly not recommending the re-establishment of Stalinism, but do others feel that there was any merit in expecting Poles, for instance, to always use ty/wy - and not Pan/Pani/Państwo - in addressing each other?

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Postby Kubi » 2004-08-27, 11:49

Phil A wrote:but do others feel that there was any merit in expecting Poles, for instance, to always use ty/wy - and not Pan/Pani/Państwo - in addressing each other?

No, I don't see any merit in that. It's an artificial creation of hypocritical equality which did never exist.
People have different kinds of relations to various groups of people, and I don't see any reason to try and negotiate those differences away.
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Postby darkina » 2004-08-27, 16:42

Phil A wrote:
elgrande wrote:
Darky wrote: cos I was stating that considering 'you' in general


Well, it's not like English sg. and pl. "you" are the same in all forms. English speakers naturally make such a distinction for the reflexive forms "yourself" and "yourselves". So, the distinction between second person singular and plural must somehow exist in their minds, too. :wink:

I agree. I think that we are perfectly well aware that 'you' can mean 'you as an individual' or 'you as a group'. I don't believe that anyone in the English-speaking countries has a problem with that. We are certainly not suffering any confusion about whether we are talking to one person or more.


I am not talking of confusion, but I think it's a different way to think of things... I don't remember the specific example but there are times when I realise there's a different approach to things, somehow - i'm not saying it forbids people to distinguish things, but these are little differences that strike me sometimes, like, as Psi pointed out, the absence of a female from of 'friend' that sometimes to us romance speakers seems some sort of lack of information, that gets cleared only when a pronoun becomes involved.

And the news that YE didn't mean THE is quite new to me really... You learn something new everyday :shock:
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Postby DelBoy » 2004-08-27, 17:42

Darky wrote:
Phil A wrote:
Well, it's not like English sg. and pl. "you" are the same in all forms. English speakers naturally make such a distinction for the reflexive forms "yourself" and "yourselves". So, the distinction between second person singular and plural must somehow exist in their minds, too. :wink:

I agree. I think that we are perfectly well aware that 'you' can mean 'you as an individual' or 'you as a group'. I don't believe that anyone in the English-speaking countries has a problem with that. We are certainly not suffering any confusion about whether we are talking to one person or more.


Well, in Hiberno-English, there is a distinction made between singular (you) and plural (yous/yis/ye), and personally, when I hear 'you' I just think of one person (although in writing, yous, yis and ye would not be acceptable, so in that case, I would have no problem distinguishing between singular and plural) Unless it was a very formal/posh occassion, I would never say (or expect to hear) 'you' to refer to more than one person. There's even a plural form of the possessive 'your' in some areas of Ireland, especially in Dublin, where you might hear 'your drink' to refer to one person, but 'yis-er drinks' to refer to more than one! :D
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