Page 5 of 6 FirstFirst 1 2 3 4 5 6 LastLast
Results 41 to 50 of 54
  1. #41
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Other
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    2,585
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    The change is sociolological/psychological as much as linguistic, but I feel that we have lost more in the area of 'language as a useful sign of relationships' than we have gained in 'language as a pretence that we are all equal'.
    And yet the non-use of "thou" significantly predates any "pretence that we are all equal".

    You could even say that the pronoun fell into disuse at the very time its distinctions might have seemed most useful (C17/C18: the beginnings of empire and the establishment of the "middle classes").

    MrP
    ·
    Not a professional ESL teacher.
    ·

  2. #42
    5jj's Avatar
    5jj is offline VIP Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Retired English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Posts
    28,168
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by MrPedantic View Post
    And yet the non-use of "thou" significantly predates any "pretence that we are all equal".

    You could even say that the pronoun fell into disuse at the very time its distinctions might have seemed most useful (C17/C18: the beginnings of empire and the establishment of the "middle classes").
    So?

    Consistency isn't everything!


  3. #43
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Other
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    2,585
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    When I worked in Germany in the 1960s and 1970s, the ritual(s) of moving from the equivalent of 'you' to that of 'thou', and from the equivalent of 'Mr X' to 'Jed' were important. When I returned to England in 1975, I missed the former;
    Now that you mention it, I don't recall any texts in English where a "you > thou" ritual occurs (of the kind that appears in the Tolstoy passage, for instance). There isn't an equivalent of "tutoyer" in English, either.

    It also seems to me that the business of suggesting that "thou" forms should be used would be exactly the kind of situation that most English people would prefer to avoid.

    There is a possibility that the 2nd person singular died of embarrassment.
    ·
    Not a professional ESL teacher.
    ·

  4. #44
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Student or Learner
      • Native Language:
      • Polish
      • Home Country:
      • Poland
      • Current Location:
      • Poland
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Posts
    5,099
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    In my language, in which there is a clear distinction between "tutoyering" and not, situations occur in which people cringe because they have no idea which form to use, especially nowadays, when the addressee's expectations are often impossible to guess. Some people still cultivate the tradition of Brüdershafttrinken but many do not. A young person may feel offended when addressed as "pan" or "pani" (sir, madam) but it may be the other way around too.

  5. #45
    Frank Antonson's Avatar
    Frank Antonson is offline Senior Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Posts
    1,151
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    I find myself returning to the idea that one has to have become completely fluent in a language that retains in its grammatical structure the nuances of the 2nd person situation to understand what has been lost with its reduction in English. How can someone who has only ever spoken English understand that there are these other grades of relationship?

    The matter of WHY? remains unanswered. Could the answer improbably lie in the imperialistic history of English? When you try to think about what would make English different, certainly the fact that it was the language of an empire comes to mind.

  6. #46
    NikkiBarber's Avatar
    NikkiBarber is offline Junior Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Academic
      • Native Language:
      • Danish
      • Home Country:
      • Denmark
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Posts
    93
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    Historically I can't think of a satisfactory reason for why "thou" disappeared. I agree with the posters who have said that the class distinction was still of great importance when the "loss" occurred. Maybe social development has nothing to do with it? I believe in equality - politically I am all the way to the left - and I still prefer to address strangers with the more polite plural pronoun. To me it is like "please," "thank you," and "yes, mam." It has nothing to do with someone's social superiority/inferiority, it is simply a matter of being polite.
    In a way it is odd that we still use the plural pronoun to address strangers in Danish while we at the same time call teachers by their first names. I have no good explanation for that either, but didn't someone just say that consistency isn't everything?
    If Shakespeare wasn't able to be consistent with his use of thou/you then
    it seems likely that the average speaker was even more confused about the distinctions. It might just be a random accident that made "you" more popular than "thou?"

  7. #47
    Frank Antonson's Avatar
    Frank Antonson is offline Senior Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Posts
    1,151
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    Well, I LOVE the input from you various posters.

    I don't know if we will be able to come to any satisfactory conclusion here.

    Frankly, I have drunk enough beer tonight that I don't know if what I am about to say will even make sense, but here goes...

    Could it be that the very success of English as a language of empire, or as a language "invaded" by so many influences (from Old Norse through Anglo-French to Hindi), has required that its grammar become more simple? If that were (be [ note the confusion over subjunctive]) true, it could follow that languages with less vast vocabularies and hegemonies might retain a private realm lost to the only-English speakers.

    English, by that measure, might be a casualty. I am not the first to suspect that this may be the case -- as was the case with Latin.

  8. #48
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Other
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    2,585
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Antonson View Post
    I find myself returning to the idea that one has to have become completely fluent in a language that retains in its grammatical structure the nuances of the 2nd person situation to understand what has been lost with its reduction in English. How can someone who has only ever spoken English understand that there are these other grades of relationship?
    That may be the case; but then again, other languages can be charmingly delusive, even for those who have acquired some fluency.

    Even if a Russian or Italian 2nd person singular can provide an English speaker with unaccustomed nuances and pleasures, that doesn't mean that his experience corresponds to the experiences of a native Russian or Italian speaker.

    Similarly, though a Russian or Italian speaker may feel a loss, when speaking English, that may simply be because they're not attuned to the ways in which English speakers compensate for the absence of the verb form.

    MrP
    ·
    Not a professional ESL teacher.
    ·

  9. #49
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Other
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    2,585
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    In my language, in which there is a clear distinction between "tutoyering" and not, situations occur in which people cringe because they have no idea which form to use, especially nowadays, when the addressee's expectations are often impossible to guess. Some people still cultivate the tradition of Brüdershafttrinken but many do not. A young person may feel offended when addressed as "pan" or "pani" (sir, madam) but it may be the other way around too.
    That's very interesting. My tentative speculation would be that the "tutoyer" distinction requires a certain kind of cultural structure to maintain itself.
    ·
    Not a professional ESL teacher.
    ·

  10. #50
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Student or Learner
      • Native Language:
      • Polish
      • Home Country:
      • Poland
      • Current Location:
      • Poland
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Posts
    5,099
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: "Decay" in aspects of English grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by MrPedantic View Post
    That's very interesting. My tentative speculation would be that the "tutoyer" distinction requires a certain kind of cultural structure to maintain itself.
    The structure exists, I may have exaggerated the problems. In most situations it's obvious which form to use. Actually, I think this is what causes the trouble. We have in mind the idea that there is always the right form to use and when it happens that we don't know which one it is we feel very bad about it.

    The structure is changing too. The strive for juvenility demonstrates itself in various ways, one of them being addressing other people, and expecting to be addressed, as "you".

Page 5 of 6 FirstFirst 1 2 3 4 5 6 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. [Grammar] Can we omit "is","am","are" in spoken english?
    By DEBASIS1983 in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 24-May-2010, 12:42
  2. The English Future Tense: Progress or decay?
    By sveta774 in forum General Language Discussions
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 22-Jan-2010, 03:55
  3. Replies: 2
    Last Post: 08-Sep-2008, 08:27
  4. confusing words "expressed" or "express" and "named" or"names"
    By Dawood Usmani in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 26-Oct-2007, 19:33
  5. Grammar "related to" versus "relating to"
    By Anonymous in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 21-Jan-2004, 21:14

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •