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  1. #21
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    "You guys" seems to be very popular throughout the US.

  2. #22
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    Frank Antonson is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    Yes. That's what I call a periphrastic solution to the problem.

    It doesn't really serve in formal speech or writing though. "All of you" can solve the problem better -- also periphrastic,

  3. #23
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by NikkiBarber View Post
    In my opinion there is no problem labeling a linguistic development decay if it has resulted in a clear loss to the language, as is the case with the 2. person pronoun.
    Would you say then that the 2 sing. in English (in, say, Shakespeare's day) expressed something that it is no longer possible for English to express?

    If so, what would that something be?

    Best wishes,

    MrP

    Not a professional ESL teacher.

  4. #24
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    NikkiBarber is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by MrPedantic View Post
    Would you say then that the 2 sing. in English (in, say, Shakespeare's day) expressed something that it is no longer possible for English to express?

    If so, what would that something be?

    Best wishes,

    MrP
    I don't think that it is impossible to express the meaning of the old 1. person singular by other means, but I do think that the alternatives are a lot less simple and often less elegant.
    Thou/thee served a function. The pronouns alone made it clear that they were referring to only one person. In modern English you will need additional context to make your meaning understood. If the separate form for the 1. person singular had been preserved it would be unnecessary to use more complicated structures to specify the number of people you are addressing. Personally, I consider that a loss.

  5. #25
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    Frank Antonson is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    I am not sure that the distinction between Shakespeare's use of "you" vs "thou" is completely understood. I looked into it once and did not find a satisfactory answer. I believe that it might have been in flux at the time.
    For my part I am SURE that there has been a loss in English with what has happened to the second person pronouns.

  6. #26
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    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Antonson View Post
    I am not sure that the distinction between Shakespeare's use of "you" vs "thou" is completely understood. I looked into it once and did not find a satisfactory answer. I believe that it might have been in flux at the time. .
    You might be interested in this: Shakespeare Resource Center - Thou Pesky "Thou"

  7. #27
    Frank Antonson's Avatar
    Frank Antonson is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    Thanks!

    That is the best explanation that I have read.

    I would be interested to hear about how the Quakers of Pennsylvania preserved what Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem"Evangeline" referred to as "the thou and the thee of the Quakers".

    Incidentally, I still feel that it was an instance of "decay" when it is compared to the grammatical nuances available in French and

  8. #28
    Frank Antonson's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    and German. It's like...we English speakers had our chance but lost it.

    (I can't type on a laptop!!)

  9. #29
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Antonson View Post
    Incidentally, I still feel that it was an instance of "decay" when it is compared to the grammatical nuances available in French and German. It's like...we English speakers had our chance but lost it.
    I am inclined to agree with you in the case of 'thou'. In general however, I am unhappy with the use of the word 'decay'. It suggests a deterioration in the language, which some of us do not feel. I now regret saying, in an earlier post, "I think that the subjunctive is 'decaying' in BrE" I should have said, "...is disappearing".

    For the past five hundred years or so there have been people who have lamented the decline in our language, but, as Mr P wisely said (of a different form): "Hence the absurdity of supposing that early to mid 20th-century linguistic habits are in some sense particularly worthy of conservation".

  10. #30
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by NikkiBarber View Post
    Thou/thee served a function. The pronouns alone made it clear that they were referring to only one person. In modern English you will need additional context to make your meaning understood. If the separate form for the 1. person singular had been preserved it would be unnecessary to use more complicated structures to specify the number of people you are addressing. Personally, I consider that a loss.
    That's interesting. I know that I've sometimes caused (or suffered) momentary confusion as a result of "you = 2nd person" vs "you = one", but I don't think I've found number problematic.

    On the other hand, the difficulty of translation into English from a language which observes the distinction might suggest that not every nuance can be expressed in other ways.

    For instance, in this passage from Tolstoy's Family Happiness (translator not identified in the e-text from which I copied it), the thou-ing gives an otherwise simple scene a bizarrely mannered and awkward effect (somewhere between the liturgy and D.H. Lawrence's gamekeeper) which must be quite remote from what the author intended:

    "I want you to say 'thou' to me," I said. [Говорите мне "ты", - сказала я.]
    "I was just going to," he answered; "I feel for the first time that thou art entirely mine;" and his calm happy gaze that drew me to him rested on me.
    ...
    I too wished to say "thou" to him, but I felt ashamed.
    "Why dost thou walk so fast?" I said quickly and almost in a whisper; I could not help blushing.
    But does that indicate a "loss", necessarily?

    MrP

    Not a professional ESL teacher.

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