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PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post Tutear, and a Franco Quote
Created by John Eipper on 10/22/16 4:39 AM

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Tutear, and a Franco Quote (Paul Preston, UK, 10/22/16 4:39 am)

Regarding the Edward Jajko story (21 October) about Mitterrand and the tu/vous and tú/usted issue, I am reminded of a very similar story about Franco.

José Sanchiz, an habitual hunting companion for more than a decade, a relative by marriage and someone who did property deals for the Caudillo, said to him one day: "¿No le parece que hemos llegado al punto en que nos podríamos tutear?" (Don't you think that we have reached the point where we can use the "tú" form?)

Franco replied glacially, "El trato que me corresponde es 'Excelencia.'" (The manner in which I should be addressed is "Your Excellency.")

JE comments:  I like the excelencia of this story.  If Franco and Mitterrand ever met, at least they would be clear on the protocol...


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  • Informal Second-Person Pronouns: German (John Heelan, UK 10/22/16 5:34 PM)
    Paul Preston's tutear story (22 October) reminded me that when we lived in Germany, my wife had a very close friend and neighbour, a German lady, with young children the same age as ours.

    After some months of meeting for coffee or lunch most days, my wife said to her friend, "When do we start using 'Du'"? The friend blushed and replied, "Well, I was waiting for you to suggest it, as you are older than I." My wife was five days older than her friend! However, it demonstrates how socially sensitive the switch between Duzen and Siezen could be.


    JE comments:  Gary Moore (next) asks the fundamental question: when (and how) do you switch to the informal pronoun?  As John Heelan shows here, it often entails a complex dance of cultural codes.

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  • When Do You Switch to the Informal Pronoun? From Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 10/22/16 5:45 PM)
    Gary Moore writes:

    I have a question for WAISers on the taut pair of anecdotes from Edward Jajko and Paul Preston (October 20-21), re: linguistic protocol, and how two olympian figures, Mitterrand in France and Franco in Spain, kept their dignity on the issue of when to use the familiar form of "you" (tú or toi) when addressing an increasingly familiar acquaintance.


    I've always wondered if you have to ask to make the switch (as the snubbed petitioners did in the anecdotes), or whether you're supposed to just slip into it unheralded--effortlessly moving from you to thou at tea, and drawing on an instinct that unpracticed English-speakers tend to lack--and thus skipping nimbly through the minefield of unintended insult. Are there flags that say when to switch? Does one need to ask? What say thee--pl. theen? y'all? youse guys?


    JE comments: Sometimes you never know. For Spanish, the general trend is towards an increased use of the informal pronoun, especially in Spain. English speakers tend to see the informal pronoun as a "goal," but one can be very intimate with someone without ever making the pronoun switch. In Chile, for example, you see the hyper-intimate "usted," which is common between romantic partners and when addressing small children.


    There's a lot more to say here.  I hope we'll hear from our informants across the language spectrum.


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    • Informal Pronoun Usage: Spanish and German (Enrique Torner, USA 10/23/16 7:38 AM)
      Unless the culture of Spain has changed in the last 30 years (I can't believe I've been away that long!), in my country you are supposed to use the "Usted" form until the other person allows you to use the "tú" form. I would never dare to ask if I could switch to the "tú" form.

      When I was in Germany, my impression was that Germans are even more formal than Spaniards, and use the "Sie" pronoun even when in Spain we would use the "tú" form.


      JE comments: I have observed a general trend in Spain towards more familiarity, akin to the "first name" phenomenon you get in the US at banks and such.


      Cameron Sawyer (next) weighs in on "vy and ty" in Russian.

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    • Informal Pronoun Usage: German and Russian (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 10/23/16 8:30 AM)

      I suppose only native English speakers will be so fascinated with familiar/formal pronouns, as this is an everyday matter for native speakers of other European languages.



      To answer the question posed earlier:



      The practice varies greatly from country to country and time to time. When I was a student in Germany the first time, and so struggling to learn for the first time to hear this, students and children would automatically use "du" with each other; but others were cautious. To address someone as "du" peremptorily was a fairly grave insult. People transitioning from "Sie" to "du" would usually discuss it, and there was a tradition of drinking to it. In the textbooks, it was written that between master and servant, parent and child, Sie/du could be used asymmetrically, but I have never once seen this. God, der Gott, is always addressed as "du," as I learned from textbooks.



      I had an awkward moment once, during my first year in Germany. I had become friends with one of my professors. We used to have meals together and go to concerts. We had moved over to "du." So in the classroom, I felt terribly awkward--do I address him with "du," in front of the other students? I thought that might put him on the spot, so I used "Sie," and he was offended!



      These days in Germany it seems to me that much of the formality of that time has disappeared, and that many adults now go straight to "du," or almost straight to "du," with new acquaintances in many situations, as we students did in the old days. Using "Sie" overly much seems to have an air of stiltedness or pretension. As far as I can feel it now (I do spend much less time in Germany than I once did), the rule is to use "Sie" minimally with even passing acquaintances, and go almost straight to "du" without making a big deal out of it.



      Russia is much further behind in this development, and the distinction between "ty" and "vy" is still packed with nuance and meaning (like everything else in the Russian language, it must be said). "Vy" is a double-edged sword--it can and generally does express respect, but it can also express distance and coldness. "Ty" expresses intimacy, but it can also express disrespect, or haughtiness, when used peremptorily. The rapid transition to "ty" is also an indicator of what the Russians call a "low cultural level"--more educated and refined people stick with "vy" for far longer. Sometimes forever, actually--I know two Muscovite ladies who are business partners and best friends, spend all their vacations together, are godmothers to each other's children, etc., and after 15 years of this friendship, which is more like sisterhood, they still call each other "vy." I asked about this, and the elder of them said "I respect her so much, I just can't imagine using ‘ty.'" In any case, the transition to "ty" is still often a big deal, is discussed, and is not infrequently celebrated with a drink, often taken with interlocked arms, and even a kiss. The ceremony is called "drinking to Brudershaft"--the German word for "brotherhood" is used, and is described here: https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%91%D1%80%D1%83%D0%B4%D0%B5%D1%80%D1%88%D0%B0%D1%84%D1%82



      Ty/vy can be, and is used asymmetrically, as I discovered in my first days in Russia. Your addressing an employee with "ty," did not convey the reciprocal right. Even people with whom I had a very close relationship with might even refuse to address me with "ty," even when I asked them to, if they were in a subordinate position professionally. After a certain period of time, I stopped trying to go over to "ty" in the office, and now only use "ty" with a couple of people I've worked with for more than 20 years. Unlike in Germany, using "vy" does not have any smell of pretentiousness. On the contrary, it expresses respect, a bit of distance, and being well brought up--exactly what you want in the workplace.


      JE comments:  It's interesting that Russian took a German term for the transition to linguistic intimacy.  Click on the link above to see a typical photo of the ritual:  interlocking arms, and a bracing snort of vodka.


      Cameron Sawyer makes a point that English speakers often fail to grasp:  the formal pronoun is not necessarily something to be "overcome."  Sometimes it is maintained forever.  The legendary Chilean comic book hero, Condorito, has used "Usted" with his best friend, Don Chuma, for 70 years.

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    • Informal Pronoun Usage: Danish (Leo Goldberger, USA 10/24/16 3:40 AM)
      On the topic of cultural ways vis-à-vis my own experience growing up in Denmark in the 1930s and '40s, it was unthinkable for a child to address any adult, familiar or strangers, with the now most common informal "Du" rather than "De" or by their first name. Even adults always addressed each other with the formal "De" until they--after some unspecified length of time and increasing familiarity--went through a mutually agreed upon ceremonial moment, drinking "dus," by intertwining their arms as they drank a glass of beer, along with their traditional "Skål" salutation.

      In contemporary Denmark, the use of the formal "De" has all but disappeared--to the chagrin of some of us old-timers, including the Queen herself--who famously scolded a reporter addressing her with a "Du" at her 75th birthday press conference in 2015, indignantly saying: "Did we go to school together?"


      On the same note, I recall an experience I had at New York University with a Hungarian-born visiting professor, much senior to me and known for his formal ways despite his many years in the USA, even with colleagues with whom he had worked for many years. Needless to say, I always addressed him as "Professor" or "Doctor"-- though behind his back he was most often referred to by his initials, certainly never by his first name. It so happened that one evening when he and I were the only ones left in the department, he knocked on my office door and with some obvious hesitation, if not embarrassment, asked me for a small loan; he had forgotten his valet and needed a subway fare. After giving him a dollar, he not only assured me he'd pay me back the nest day, but to my astonishment added: "Please, you may call me David." And here I was, just a young, unknown, aspiring assistant professor. It's still a mystery to me.


      JE comments:  Indebtedness is the great humbling force! 


      Fascinating post, Leo.  It's cheeky to address royalty with such informality.  Only in famously egalitarian Denmark is such a thing even imaginable.


      My five-minute Internet lesson on Hungarian reveals that there is the informal te and two formal pronouns:  ön and maga, as well as the archaic kend. John Torok was recently in Budapest brushing up on his Hungarian.  Can he elucidate?

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    • Informal Pronoun Usage: Spain (Jose Manuel de Prada, Spain 10/25/16 7:46 AM)
      This situation with second-person pronoun usage in Spain certainly has changed.

      Nowadays, at least in my experience, the tendency is to use the "tú" indiscriminately, at least among the younger generations.


      I try not to be a slave of formalities and conventions, but this can often be quite confusing.


      I call my neighbour, who lives in the apartment in front of mine, "Señora Creus."


      She is 80 years old and I feel that not treating her "de usted" would be wrong.


      When I interview elderly people during my fieldwork I also use always the formal address, but there are other situations in which I really don't know what to do and just follow what the other person does.


      Yet I confess that being treated "de usted" makes me feel odd too.


      Part of the confusion mentioned above, no doubt.


      I think this trend started about 20 years ago.


      In Italy, however, as far as I know, people are still very strict about these things.


      JE comments: I can envision Spain losing the "Usted" form altogether in another generation. Latin America may take longer, although "tú" seems to be taking over in addressing the anonymous consumer in advertising.


      As for Italian, see Luciano Dondero, next.

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    • Second-Person Pronoun Usage: Italian (Luciano Dondero, Italy 10/25/16 8:58 AM)
      I'd like to make some comments on Tu/Lei/Voi (in Italian, Spanish, etc.)

      The Italian language splits this usage of formal/informal three ways, with Tu (the normal, singular You), Voi (which is also the normal, plural You) and Lei (which is also the regular third-person feminine gender). The latter is in some situation further embroidered as Ella.


      For several centuries Voi was used to express a form of respect. Then Lei became more frequent, possibly following the Spanish usage (Usted). In the last few years of Mussolini's rule, Voi was restored to formal usage, and Lei was banned as part of a nationalistic push to dismiss supposedly un-Italian things. Opponents of fascism would sometimes make a point of showing this by pointedly using the Lei to address each other.


      After the war, Lei was restored to its normal place, and Voi was not banned. Luckily, because most Southerners still use it instead of Lei.


      Similarly to what happens in Spanish, the formal Lei in Italian requires the verb to be in the third-person singular, while the (deprecated) Voi wants it in the second person plural--thus in order to say "You are" to one person we might utter "Tu sei" or "Lei è" or "Voi siete." If you are addressing a group of people "You are" it's either "Voi siete" or the very formal "Loro sono" (which is identical with the normal third-person plural).


      The German language's use of Du/Sie is slightly different in that the formal Sie (while it can also be the equivalent of she, just like the Italian Lei) wants the following verb to be in the third person plural, because Sie also means they. And given that you use Sie also to speak to a group of people in a formal way, Sie can be four different things. (Informally, the normal "You" plural is Ihr.)


      In Spanish, which seems the be the culprit of introducing this mess into so many European languages, things can get really complicated.


      Apparently Usted is a contracted form of an ancient Vuestra Merced, something like Your Grace. But it has a contracted form of its own, Ud. (always followed by a dot).

      And unlike Italian and German, it seems that it is its own boss--you use Usted only to formally address one person, and that's it.


      But given that Spanish has become the established language on both sides of the Atlantic, in Latin America ancient forms are still current. There instead of using Vosotros to address a group of people, similarly to the Italian Voi, the regular form is Ustedes.


      And Argentina really sticks out. While most Spanish-speaking people use tú in the singular, Argentinians (and a few other Latin Americans) use Vos.


      Thus "You are" to one person in Spanish can be "Tú eres," "Usted es" or "Vos sos."


      If you are addressing a group of people "You are" it's either "Vosotros sois" (most of Spain and a few former colonies) or "Ustedes son" (most of Latin America, and the Canary Islands and parts of Andalusia).


      JE comments: Thank you, Luciano! I am flummoxed by how a regime could ban an entire pronoun.  "Watch out!  It's the pronoun police!"  Is there any chance the Fascists banned "Lei" because it's also feminine?  I associate Mussolini's regime with a sense of hyper-masculinity.


      In the old days in the Spanish-speaking world, "Usted" was more commonly abbreviated as Vd--the vestiges of Vuestra Merced. "VD" used to have a different connotation in English, but that in turn has been replaced by STD. Coincidentally, perhaps ironically, STD could conceivably become another abbreviation of uSTeD.

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      • Tu and Lei in Italian (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 10/27/16 6:30 PM)
        To follow up on Luciano Dondero (25 October), in Italy the tu is now predominant and sometimes I do not like this very much. One anecdote on pronoun usage: For many years I sailed with a Chief Engineer, the late Bruno Pillepich from Fiume. We were close friends, becoming best friends, but as long as we were on the job we kept using the "Lei"; only when retired did we shift to the "tu."

        Bruno also came to US and we lived in Mount Prospect, Illinois, in houses just 20 meters apart.


        JE comments: Sorry about the passing of your friend, Eugenio. Pillepich as a surname has a Slavic sound to it--Croatian? Just curious about the complex history of Fiume/Rijeka.

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    • Second-Person Pronoun Usage: Portugal (Mendo Henriques, Portugal 10/25/16 7:09 PM)
      The first thing you want to do with a language is talk to people. In Portugal, you are liable to be addressed in four or even five different ways, each determining a different kind of relationship. There is some old-fashioned formality of address in Portuguese, almost Oriental.

      The second-person singular Tu is used by adults to children, brothers and sisters, lovers, husbands and wives, close friends and schoolmates. It may be avoided by soi-disant upper-class people. Tu is a most intimate form. Formerly, Tu was also used to indicate condescension to an employee.


      Less close friends and acquaintances are addressed as você, with the verb in the third person. This word, now used as pronoun, is a corruption of the archaic vossa mercê, "Your Honour"; it became in due time vossemecê and now você. Of course nobody remembers the origin of você. If a person is a stranger or not so close as to be addressed as você, he will be addressed as o senhor (the gentleman) or a senhora (the lady), o menino (the boy) or a menina (the girl). Here again the verb takes the third person.


      On TV a celebrity may be addressed with an article prefixed, v.g. O Cristiano Ronaldo (the Cristiano Ronaldo), O Mourinho (the Mourinho); third person again.



      The second person plural Vós, is rarely used, being reserved for Deity--and not ever--or some large audiences.


      Now this a complex system, full of dangers for the uninitiated. Carelessness can bring retribution, though not for the foreigner, who is excused almost everything. Portuguese are touchy in these matters and there is ample scope for many a subtle slight.


      JE comments: This is complex indeed.  Most of Brazil, with the exception of Rio Grande do Sul, has lost the "tu" entirely in favor of "você."


      A language question for Mendo Henriques:  does Portugal use "a gente" to mean "we," as in Brazil?  This is profoundly confusing for a Spanish-speaker, for whom "la gente" means everyone but "we."



      Unlike Portuguese, Spanish uses the informal "tú" when praying to God.  Cameron Sawyer taught us recently that German does the same.  This is a good example of pronoun usage not necessarily reflecting one's power status vis à vis the other person.

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      • Second-Person Pronoun Usage: Brazil (Clyde McMorrow, USA 10/26/16 5:05 PM)
        I am not an expert in Brazilian Portuguese (just a confused listener), but "a gente" is always used with the third-person singular verb "a gente vai" and can be used for we or I (the limiting case of we) at least in Rio. Tu is used commonly by Southerners and in Bahia but is not common in Rio. A Senhora, Dona, Senhor, Doutor, and--in the roça--Coronel are used if there is a perceived social separation, followed by the first name.

        I've never heard the 2nd-person plural used.


        JE comments:  The roça is the countryside--right, Clyde?  On coronelismo, the semi-feudal system that predominated in rural Brazil, see this 2006 post from Istvan Simon:


        https://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=10859&objectTypeId=5109&topicId=1


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    • Tu, Usted, Vos in Spanish America (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 10/28/16 2:31 AM)
      Our recent discussion on second-person pronoun use has been of interest to me, because a long time ago I had noticed its differences in South and Central America and the Hispanic Caribbean regions.

      WAISers have already noted that there is a great variety in the use of the second-person singular tú, Usted and vos, or the plural Ustedes, instead of the vosotros most used in Spain. To make things more confusing, I believe, this variety is surely related to cultural aspects as well as to people's nature, idiosyncrasies, the cultural level or social class prejudices and conventionalism, or even the climate in the different countries.


      Where people tend to be much more open, informal, friendly and somehow irreverent or, better, overly familiar, or when there is greater social permeability, the tú form is more frequently and generally used. This is the case in the Hispanic Caribbean region, Venezuela, the Colombian Caribbean coast, Panama, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The use of form vos in those countries is regionally limited and is the exception; the form Usted is used only to express an exceptional sign of respect, and is very quickly changed, if possible or allowed, to the more familiar tú or vos.


      The Usted form, instead of tú or vos, is more generally used in the Andean countries, Colombia, and partially in the Venezuelan Andean regions, as well as Ecuador and Peru. People in these regions are more traditional, conservative, less open, and more respectful. Although they are generally of a higher cultural or academic level, in many cases they suffer from social sectarianism, or there is less social mobility. In Mexico, the common use of Usted as a sign of respect is changed, depending on the social level, to the form tú, when there is some confidence and familiarity,


      There are perhaps exceptions such as Chile, Bolivia, and Paraguay, where the form tú, vos and Usted are all used, depending on the confident level, being Usted a respectful treatment.


      Of course the vos form is most commonly used in the region known as the Cono Sur, Argentina and Uruguay, almost without exception. The vos also appears partially in Paraguay and in Bolivia. In these place the tú form is considered out of place in normal everyday conversations, except to show some confidence level, vos for intimacy, tú for confidence, and Usted for respect.


      In the countries in Central America I have visited, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and El Salvador, the people also use vos, but they also use the tú or Usted form, depending again on the confidence level and the social status.


      It is interesting to note that the historical origin of the vos form was reverential, used to show respect. Today it is the opposite, as it implies familiarity. According to some linguists, its current use is related to the greater development of cultural Spanish colonialism in some regions over others.


      Of course the plural form Ustedes is commonly used in all the South American countries. Vosotros is only used in Spain, except in the Canary Islands, and in some rare places in Andalucia, where the people use the form Ustedes.


      In conclusion, the use of the second- or third- person pronouns in Spanish-speaking countries, despite showing trends and generalized uses, have no clear rules for the "proper" accepted or conventional use. In my experience it depends on the person and the situation.


      JE comments: One thing I've always understood (and taught to my students) is that the archaic "vos" form survives in those regions of Spanish America that were remote in the colonial times--primarily, Río de la Plata (Argentina/Uruguay) and the forgotten corners of Central America. On a related note, Caribbean Spanish often uses the expressed or stated "tú" in many questions, whereas other parts of the Hemisphere commonly avoid the pronoun altogether, given that the verb form ("s" ending) marks the subject:


      Puerto Rico/Cuba: "¿Tú quieres venir a mi fiesta?"

      Outside the Caribbean: "¿Quieres venir a mi fiesta?"


      Chile is an unusual case, as "tú" is the standard form for familiarity, and "vos" often borders on contempt.  A young man would never address a young lady with "vos," although it's the norm with his drinking buddies.


      Are second-person pronouns swimming in your head?  Maybe they dance?  Gary Moore (next) has sent a detailed summary of our discussion so far.

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    • Gary Moore on the Second-Person Pronoun (John Eipper, USA 10/28/16 3:15 AM)


      Gary Moore writes:




      WAIS has begun an enlightening survey of that social-linguistic minefield that can otherwise be forbidding:
      How do you know, in any given language, when to use the formal or familiar form of "you"?
      In the spirit of preserving the survey, I'll recap.  (I hope I didn't miss anybody!)


      1. Edward Jajko (Oct 21) phrased a haughty rebuff in French:
      Petitioner: "Puis-je tutoyer?"
      Refuser (in this case, Mitterrand): "Comme vous voulez" [using the formal "vous" to icily emphasize his preference].  JE added: "French and Spanish have a verb that cannot be translated into English: tutoyer and tutear. Is it the same in Italian? In Portugal, I believe they say 'tratar-se por tu,' but in Brazil it makes no difference, as they use 'você' for the intimate second-person pronoun."


      2. Paul Preston (Oct 21) then phrased a still haughtier rebuff in Spanish--with some handy twists of phrase:
      Petitioner: "No le parece que hemos llegado al punto en que nos podríamos tutear?" (Don't you think that we have reached the point where we can use the "tú" form?)
      Refuser (in this case, Franco): "El trato que me corresponde es 'Excelencia' '" (The appropriate way to address me is Your Excellency).


      3. John Heelan (Oct. 22) recalled the complexities in Germany:
      "When we lived in Germany, my wife had a very close friend and neighbour, a German lady, with young children the same age as ours.
      After some months of meeting for coffee or lunch most days, my wife said to her friend, 'When do we start using "Du"'? The friend blushed and replied, 'Well, I was waiting for you to suggest it, as you are older than I.' My wife was five days older than her friend! However, it demonstrates how socially sensitive the switch between Duzen and Siezen could be."


      4. Enrique Torner (Oct. 23), on Spain and Germany: "Unless the culture of Spain has changed in the last 30 years... in my country you are supposed to use the 'Usted' form until the other person allows you to use the 'tú' form. I would never dare to ask if I could switch to the 'tú' form.
      When I was in Germany, my impression was that Germans are even more formal than Spaniards, and use the 'Sie' pronoun even when in Spain we would use the 'tú' form.
      [JE thereby commented on "a general trend in Spain towards more familiarity, akin to the 'first name' phenomenon you get in US at banks and such."]


      5. Cameron Sawyer (Oct. 23), on German and Russian.
      "When I was a student in Germany...students and children would automatically use 'du' with each other; but others were cautious. To address someone as 'du' peremptorily was a fairly grave insult. People transitioning from 'Sie' to 'du' would usually discuss it, and there was a tradition of drinking to it. In the textbooks, it was written that between master and servant, parent and child, Sie/du could be used asymmetrically, but I have never once seen this. God, der Gott, is always addressed as 'du,' as I learned from textbooks.
      [...] Russia is much further behind in this development, and the distinction between 'ty' and 'vy' is still packed with nuance and meaning (like everything else in the Russian language, it must be said). 'Vy' is a double-edged sword--it can and generally does express respect, but it can also express distance and coldness. 'Ty' expresses intimacy, but it can also express disrespect, or haughtiness, when used peremptorily. The rapid transition to 'ty' is also an indicator of what the Russians call a 'low cultural level'--more educated and refined people stick with 'vy' for far longer. Sometimes forever, actually."  To this, JE commented:  "Cameron Sawyer makes a point that English speakers often fail to grasp: the formal pronoun is not necessarily something to be 'overcome.' Sometimes it is maintained forever. The legendary Chilean comic book hero, Condorito, has used 'Usted' with his best friend, Don Chuma, for 70 years."


      6. Leo Goldberger (Oct. 24) recalled growing up in Denmark in the 1930s and '40s. "It was unthinkable for a child to address any adult, familiar or strangers, with the now most common informal 'Du' rather than 'De' or by their first name. Even adults always addressed each other with the formal 'De' until they--after some unspecified length of time and increasing familiarity--went through a mutually agreed upon ceremonial moment, drinking 'dus,' by intertwining their arms as they drank a glass of beer, along with their traditional 'Skål' salutation.
      In contemporary Denmark, the use of the formal 'De' has all but disappeared--to the chagrin of some of us old-timers, including the Queen herself--who famously scolded a reporter addressing her with a 'Du' at her 75th birthday press conference in 2015, indignantly saying: 'Did we go to school together?'"


      7. Jose Manuel de Prada (Oct. 25), on the changing linguistic fashions in Spain, with a mention of Italy:
      "Nowadays, at least in my experience, the tendency is to use the 'tú' indiscriminately, at least among the younger generations.
      I try not to be a slave of formalities and conventions, but this can often be quite confusing.
      I call my neighbour, who lives in the apartment in front of mine, 'Señora Creus.'
      She is 80 years old and I feel that not treating her 'de usted' would be wrong.
      When I interview elderly people during my fieldwork I also use always the formal address, but there are other situations in which I really don't know what to do and just follow what the other person does.
      Yet I confess that being treated 'de usted' makes me feel odd too. Part of the confusion mentioned above, no doubt.
      I think this trend started about 20 years ago.
      In Italy, however, as far as I know, people are still very strict about these things." 
      [JE commented: "I can envision Spain losing the 'Usted' form altogether in another generation. Latin America may take longer, although 'tú' seems to be taking over in addressing the anonymous consumer in advertising."]


      8. Luciano Dondero (Oct 25) gave a great historico-linguistic tour of how
      Italian "splits this usage of formal/informal three ways, with Tu (the normal, singular You), Voi (which is also the normal, plural You) and Lei (which is also the regular third-person feminine gender). The latter is in some situation further embroidered as Ella. For several centuries Voi was used to express a form of respect. Then Lei became more frequent, possibly following the Spanish usage (Usted). In the last few years of Mussolini's rule, Voi was restored to formal usage, and Lei was banned as part of a nationalistic push to dismiss supposedly un-Italian things. Opponents of fascism would sometimes make a point of showing this by pointedly using the Lei to address each other."
      [...]  And German:
      "The German language's use of Du/Sie is slightly different in that the formal Sie (while it can also be the equivalent of she, just like the Italian Lei) wants the following verb to be in the third person plural, because Sie also means they. And given that you use Sie also to speak to a group of people in a formal way, Sie can be four different things. (Informally, the normal 'You' plural is Ihr.)" 
      And influence from Spanish:
      "In Spanish, which seems the be the culprit of introducing this mess into so many European languages, things can get really complicated.
      Apparently Usted is a contracted form of an ancient Vuestra Merced, something like Your Grace. But it has a contracted form of its own, Ud. (always followed by a dot).
      And unlike Italian and German, it seems that it is its own boss--you use Usted only to formally address one person, and that's it.
      [...] While most Spanish-speaking people use tú in the singular, Argentinians (and a few other Latin Americans) use Vos."  To this JE added: "In the old days in the Spanish-speaking world, 'Usted' was more commonly abbreviated as Vd--the vestiges of Vuestra Merced. 'VD' used to have a different connotation in English, but that in turn has been replaced by STD. Coincidentally, perhaps ironically, STD could conceivably become another abbreviation of uSTeD."


      9. Mendo Henriquez (Oct 25) captured the complexities of Portuguese:
      "In Portugal, you are liable to be addressed in four or even five different ways, each determining a different kind of relationship. There is some old-fashioned formality of address in Portuguese, almost Oriental.
      The second-person singular Tu is used by adults to children, brothers and sisters, lovers, husbands and wives, close friends and schoolmates. It may be avoided by soi-disant upper-class people. Tu is a most intimate form. Formerly, Tu was also used to indicate condescension to an employee.
      Less close friends and acquaintances are addressed as você, with the verb in the third person. This word, now used as pronoun, is a corruption of the archaic vossa mercê, 'Your Honour'; it became in due time vossemecê and now você. Of course nobody remembers the origin of você. If a person is a stranger or not so close as to be addressed as você, he will be addressed as o senhor (the gentleman) or a senhora (the lady), o menino (the boy) or a menina (the girl). Here again the verb takes the third person." 


      10. Clyde Morrow (Oct. 26) replied on Brazil: " 'a gente' is always used with the third-person singular verb 'a gente vai' and can be used for we or I (the limiting case of we) at least in Rio. Tu is used commonly by Southerners and in Bahia but is not common in Rio. A Senhora, Dona, Senhor, Doutor, and--in the roça--Coronel are used if there is a perceived social separation, followed by the first name. I've never heard the 2nd-person plural used." [In response, JE explained that la roça means the countryside]


      And finally, my comment: What a sweeping panorama--and what a credit to WAIS!


      JE comments:  Absolutely.  I like a self-patting on the back.  A thought:  I'll upload this summary from Gary Moore to our homepage "slider."  (If you've never visited our homepage, shame on you:  waisworld.org). 


      But first we need an accompanying photo or an image to do the sliding.  Any suggestions?  Also, I'd like to add a comment or two on non-Indo-European languages.

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    • Informal Pronoun Usage: Catalan (Paul Preston, UK 10/29/16 6:48 AM)
      In the interests of completeness, may I note that one of the languages that has not figured so far in this debate is Catalan.

      Its intimate form is "tu" in the second-person singular and "vosaltres" in the second-person plural. The most commonly used formal address is "vostè/vostès" in the third person singular/plural. The complication comes with vos, which is used to express the most exalted form of respect for one person and, like the French vous and the Italian voi, conjugates in the second-person plural.


      Theoretically, the tutear/tutoyer equivalent is tutejar but it is never used (as far as I know). The request to move from vostè to tu is "podem tractar-nos de tu?"


      JE comments: The "vos" runs the whole spectrum, from the level of street jargon in Chile to the most exalted form of address in Catalunya.


      It would be interesting to branch out to religiously inspired swearing.  "Tabernacle" in Quebecois French and (egads!) "hostia(s)" in Spain are two examples.  Yes, they are truly, deeply offensive "cuss words" in their respective cultures. 


      I wonder if the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has ever performed in Montreal, and if so, whether they changed their name.


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      • Languages of Spain: Catalan, Valencian...and Politics (Jordi Molins, Spain 11/01/16 3:19 AM)
        Paul Preston wrote on October 29th, in relation to the usage of the second-person singular: "The complication comes with vós, which is used to express the most exalted form of respect for one person."

        "Vós" is rarely used in Catalan, unfortunately. Probably, most Catalans speakers do not even know this word exists (this is one of the consequences of the Spanish nationalist oppression in Catalonia for three centuries). However, a few days ago, and after a Microsoft update, I decided to change the default language settings from English (which I have used for years) into Catalan. I was surprised that Outlook uses "Vós" to refer to my private email address. Could it be that the recovery of proper words in Catalan will come from foreigners, not subject to that psychological oppression, invisible but pretty real?


        That thought is not so far-fetched: Spanish nationalism has been able to create an "inferiority complex" in Catalonia. For example, the usage of Catalan in the justice system is almost negligible. The main reason is that Catalan speakers may feel that using Catalan could lead to a Spanish nationalist judge to have a negative predisposition towards them. Madrid is always pushing to send non-Catalan judges to Catalonia, exacerbating this dynamic.


        Another example of this Spanish nationalist oppression is John Eipper's statement, "Valencians consider their language to be distinct from Catalan." Valencian is a variation of Catalan. Stating otherwise is a boutade analogous to "American is a different language from English" or "Andalusian / Peruvian / Mexican is a different language from Spanish." These statements can only be claimed in the middle of a process of determinate extermination of a language and culture, whereby the "oppressors" decide "truth be damned," and barbaric and surreal lies are worth the effort for the "big cause" of getting rid of the "enemy." This is the reason why those claims still persist in Spain.


        Just two facts on this issue: the Spanish Constitution written in "Valencian" is exactly the same, word by word, as the Spanish Constitution written in Catalan. Secondly, a Catalonian person has a hard time distinguishing the Catalan spoken in the south of Catalonia from Valencian (as opposed to, for example, "Andalusian" from Spanish). In fact, I have had the embarrassing experience of asking a new acquaintance: "You are Valencian, right?" And receiving the reply, "No, I am a Catalan."


        After the Popular Party's Mariano Rajoy became the new Spanish Prime Minister, with the Socialist party having finally given up all the dignity of its fight against the Francoist dictatorship, it is clear that the process of "sub-humanization" of Catalans is advancing with no deterrent whatsoever. Civil rights are being curtailed in Spain at a very fast speed, with no part of Spain (ex-Catalonia) having any kind of remorse about it. Quite soon, we will have Catalan politicians sent to jail just for their political opinions, and no Spaniard (or European!) is moving a finger to do anything. The Spanish Socialist party has decided that between Spanish unionism and civil rights, the former is more important than the latter.


        Finally, in relation to a recent post by José Ignacio Soler, Aranès is not derived from Catalan, but it is a proper language, the Occitan, in the Gascon variation, not the Lengadocian one, which is more related to Catalan. A few years ago, the Catalan Parliament voted to give La Vall d'Aran (where Aranès is spoken) the status of a nation, and to grant it the right of self-determination. Of course, Spain / Madrid does not recognize that right.


        JE comments: I'll take my scolding from Jordi Molins on the Valencian/Catalan issue, but in the past I've been similarly reprimanded by Valencians for not giving their language the status of a language.  Jordi Molins is correct that naming a language is a political act in itself.  Perhaps the Valencians just want recognition, too.  I've seen references to the totally unwieldy "Catalan-Valencian-Balear."  Serbo-Croation used to be one language until the shooting started.


        I'm intrigued that Jordi's Microsoft program would choose the hyper-formal "vós."  All the non-Anglophone computers I'm familiar with, particularly in Spanish and Polish, talk to me as an intimate.  Or as an inferior?

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        • Language and Politics in Spain, Revisited (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 11/25/16 11:36 AM)
          In response to Jordi Molins's post of November 1st, I believe our colleague Jordi seems to have mixed linguistic issues with political issues that are out of context.



          I am afraid that I must comment on remarks of this sort: "Spanish nationalist oppression in Catalonia," "psychological oppression," "Spanish nationalism...created an inferiority complex in Catalonia," "[an] example of nationalist oppression is that... Valencias consider their language to be distinct," and the "sub-humanization of Catalonians," Jordi seems once more to self-victimize Catalonians. I am Mallorquin and Spanish, and I feel offended by Jordi´s insensitive remarks about Spain and the supposed oppression on Catalonia and the Catalans.



          It might be true, to a certain extent, that during Franco´s dictatorship some nationalistic and cultural expressions, such as the languages of Catalonia and Euskadi, were oppressed perhaps as Franco´s personal retaliation for the strong support and resistance to Franco´s forces in these regions during the Civil War, or under other consolidation objectives of his regime. However it is clear that this situation changed after Franco´s death and the 1978 Democratic Constitution approved by the majority of Catalonians. If I remember correctly, there was a participation of about 60% or 70%, and a yes vote of approximately 90% in the provinces of Catalonia.



          This same constitution includes Catalan, Euskera and Gallego as co-official languages with Spanish and constitutionally classifies these communities as Comunidades Autónomas, almost equivalent to Federal States, with their own autonomous government, parliaments and judicial systems. This same constitution, as any other constitution in the world, strives to preserve the territorial unity and sovereignty of the Spanish Nation.



          This is the same constitution that gives the "right" to independentist Catalonians to speak freely and democratically in the Spanish parliament or congress, to express their aspirations, even to offend and insult other fellow members of congress, as they have frequently done, and most recently during Mariano Rajoy´s government.



          I must repeat this again and again to Jordi, if the majority of people in any region in Spain, subjected to a National Constitution, feel they are oppressed and want to be independent, it is obvious and legally required first to change the constitution that guarantees the integrity of the nation. To do so, it is first necessary to reach a political consensus among the political parties involved, and probably a national referendum. To do otherwise is illegal, period.



          Jordi's remark about "Quite soon, we will have Catalan politicians sent to jail just for their political opinions" is absolutely biased. He confuses "Free Speech" as a legitimate Human Right with illegal acts, such as continuous and challenging acts committed by Catalonian politicians against the constitutional norms and laws, or current judicial current decisions, even in Spanish or Catalonian Supreme Courts, and those acts probably deserve some kind of punishment.



          Jordi's statement that an "example of nationalist oppression is that...Valencians consider their language to be distinct" is ridiculous, and only expresses Jordi´s opinion. It is naïve to believe that there is an official or non-official popular conspiracy of the Spanish nation to get rid of the Catalonian language or diminish its influence, as Jordi seems to imply. It is as naïve or unrealistic as believing that Chinese military bases in Barcelona will support the independence of the region.



          I would not be surprised if during Franco´s regime, authoritarian as it was, these cultural-linguistic repressions had also occurred with the strategic objective to consolidate the state through language uniformity. I understand similar "repressive" processes were used in France, against Occitan, Gascon, and other minority languages and dialects, or in Germany with the creation, and its imposition as an official language, of Hochdeutsch with perhaps the similar strategic objective of national consolidation. While different to some degree, they all pursued the same purpose.



          Finally, a small, but important correction, if I remember accurately, and please correct me if I am wrong. The Catalonian parliament in 2013 did not vote to give La Vall d'Aran (where Aranès is spoken) the "right of self-determination." What they voted on was the "right to decide," which is a very different concept, more a political than legal term. In fact, I understand that the "Right to Decide" does not legally exist anywhere for the matter. I discussed this issue with some lawyer friends, and if there is interest I will gladly develop this interesting argument in a future post.

          JE comments: We have many correspondents in California, and after November 8th, the once Quixotic "Calexit" movement is gaining momentum. Anyone care to comment? Calexitistas should send some representatives to Catalonia to learn organizational strategies.


          Finally, my apologies to José Ignacio Soler for the delay in posting this comment. The US elections got in the way.

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    • Second-Person Pronoun Usage: Romanian (Luciano Dondero, Italy 10/30/16 4:20 AM)
      With the help of a young lady who is studying Economics at Genoa university, Lavinia Bura, here is some information about Romanian.

      The singular you is Tu, and the plural you is Voi, just like in Italian.


      These are for informal conversations.


      When addressing someone in polite or formal speech, Dumneavoastră is used in their place. It is abbreviated in writing as dv., dvs., or d-voastră. Dumneavoastră always takes verbs in the second person plural forms, that is, the same forms as Voi.


      Thus "you are" in the singular is Tu esti, the formal (both singular and plural) is Dumneavoastră sunteți and the plural form is Voi sunteți.


      But there is also another form, Dumneata, which is more polite than Tu, but less formal than Dumneavoastră, and it uses the second-person singular conjugated form of the verb, as with Tu.


      "Whenever I speak to my grandmother or grandfather I say Dumneata. I'd never use Tu," says Lavinia. Comparing Italian and Romanian, she says that Romanian is much more conservative in sticking to the more formal pronoun. "I was astonished to hear how students would address their professors in Italy, with just a "Hi Prof" and in general the ease with which people use the Tu even when speaking with people who are older than them."


      This completes WAISdom's excursion into this topic for the main Romance languages (i.e. those "with an army and a navy").


      It would appear that if we take the Spanish (Tu/Usted) and the French (Tu/Vous) formats as reference (just for the sake of clarity), two more Neo-Latin languages follow the Spanish usage and one the French.


      German also adopts the Spanish format, while Russian follows the French.


      It would be interesting to see what the other Germanic and Slavic languages do. Do they follow the lead of German and Russian, respectively, or do something else?


      English, for one, has adopted another path, removing the formal/informal distinction from the verb and pronoun usage, and requiring additional information in order to determine what the reciprocal relationship is.


      Missing from the WAIS investigation so far are several Indo-European languages, some of whom are actually in our membership or in our circle of relatives and close friends, and above all, we have had no contribution regarding non-Indo-European languages.


      Now, the Internet provides ample information about all of these, but this would have to be checked with native speakers (or people who are truly knowledgeable).


      JE comments: Thanks for bringing Ms Bura into the conversation, Luciano!  I invite Tom Hashimoto to give us the story with Japanese. Second-person pronouns don't really exist in that language, if I recall from my studies years ago, although there are three or four different levels of interaction with an interlocutor.


      I have a Polish-speaker at WAIS HQ, and I'll have to ask her for the complete story.  For now, I can say that Polish has the "ty" informal pronoun, as in Russian, plus the "Pan/Pani" combination for polite usage.  This is the equivalent of Mr/Ms, and they take the third-person pronoun.  The plural form is "Panstwo," which translates as "ladies and gentlemen," but also as "state" or "nation."  This is quite unlike the other Slavic language I'm familiar with, Russian.


      Ed Jajko:  Did I get that right?


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