Login/Sign up

World Association of International Studies

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

Previous posts in this discussion:

Post

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...


SHARE:
Rate this post
Informational value 
Insight 
Fairness 
Reader Ratings (0)
0%
Informational value0%
Insight0%
Fairness0%

Visits: 128

Comments/Replies

Please login/register to reply or comment: Login/Sign up

  • 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.

    Please login/register to reply or comment:


  • 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.


    Please login/register to reply or comment:

    • 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.

      Please login/register to reply or comment:


    • 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.

      Please login/register to reply or comment:


    • 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?

      Please login/register to reply or comment:


    • 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.

      Please login/register to reply or comment:


    • 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.

      Please login/register to reply or comment:

      • 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.

        Please login/register to reply or comment:



    • 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.

      Please login/register to reply or comment:

      • 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


        Please login/register to reply or comment:



    • 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.

      Please login/register to reply or comment:


    • 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.

      Please login/register to reply or comment:


    • 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.


      Please login/register to reply or comment:

      • 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?

        Please login/register to reply or comment:

        • 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.

          Please login/register to reply or comment:




    • 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?


      Please login/register to reply or comment:

      • On Learning Czech; Thoughts on Gendered Languages (Paul Pitlick, USA 10/31/16 4:10 AM)
        My wife Jan and I have been trying to learn Czech, which is a Slavic language. As in Russian (per Cameron Sawyer), "ty" is the familiar second-person form (with the singular verb), and "vy" is used for both 2nd-person formal and 2nd-person plural, both accompanied by a plural verb. Many Czechs speak English, and most of the time we don't have to practice our Czech, so we haven't insulted anyone yet.



        Another aspect of Czech that we don't have to deal with in English is gender. In English, virtually all objects are neuter; in Czech, objects can be masculine (either animate or inanimate), feminine, or neuter. Tea (čaj) is masculine; coffee (kava) is feminine. While it's hard enough to keep track of that, if there's an adjective, the ending must match the gender--so if the liquid is hot, it's "horký čaj" but "horká kava." I'm sure other languages do this, so I'm not introducing anything new. But how will those languages deal with the following modern-day quandary?



        I used to work in New Mexico occasionally.

        Coincidentally, right after one early Czech lesson where we dealt with genders, endings, etc., I had to go to Albuquerque. I happened to pick up the student newspaper of the University of New Mexico, and ran across an article which explained the terminology they had used for an item which concerned a non-gender-conforming person:


        http://www.dailylobo.com/article/2015/04/09-gender-neutral-pronouns



        I asked our teacher how the Czechs will deal with this. She basically said, "To není možné."


        PS:  As per JE's comment, for Czech, "Pan" and "Paní" translate pretty much directly to "Mr./Mrs." in English. For both languages, there is really only one term to address unfamiliar people. In English, even this formality seems to be going by the wayside--I get a lot of e-mails from people I've never of before, which start: "Hi Paul: let me tell you about our new product..."


        JE comments:  I don't think this topic has arisen before on WAIS:  how are highly gendered languages entering our Age of Gender Fluidity?  English, which has no grammatical gender, seems (paradoxically) to be more concerned with gender.  The University of New Mexico student paper opts for "ze" and "zir."  (Some gender-fluid people prefer a plural address:  "they.")  Slavic languages already have a neuter pronoun (ono in Russian and Polish), but to use it to refer to a person would be the equivalent of "it."


        I've noticed one innovation in Spanish of late:  adopting the "@" as an inclusive adjective ending:  "Está muy content@" would translate as "He/she is happy," or if you prefer, "Ze iz happy...."


        Paul Pitlick and I belong to the select group of Anglophones who've struggled to learn a Slavic tongue.  We deserve praise.  Some say Czech is harder than Russian.  Others argue the opposite.


        Next up:  Ed Jajko comments on second-person pronouns in Polish.


        Please login/register to reply or comment:

        • Relative Difficulty of Different Foreign Languages (Luciano Dondero, Italy 11/01/16 3:51 AM)
          With reference to the WAIS discussion on second-person pronouns, a blog at The Economist ran an interesting essay a few years back, see "Johnson: We are all friends now": http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2013/12/formality-language

          For a partial summary of different languages, Wikipedia has a useful article here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T-V_distinction .


          Our editor raised a topical issue in a comment: "Paul Pitlick and I belong to the select group of Anglophones who've struggled to learn a Slavic tongue. We deserve praise. Some say Czech is harder than Russian. Others argue the opposite."


          It goes without saying that there isn't an absolute scale of difficulties in learning a foreign language.  It all depends upon where you start from.


          But one can roughly say that for a speaker of a Germanic language it will be to a certain extent easier to learn another Germanic language rather than a Neo-Latin one, and viceversa.



          Then, it should be easier to learn another Indo-European language as opposed to a language belonging to another family of languages, say a Turkic or an Ugro-Finnic language. They, together with the Basque language, are the only extant non-Indo-European languages used natively in Europe.



          There are some exception, like Swahili, which is rather easier to get into than many other languages--but that perhaps has to do with its origins as an ancient Lingua Franca based on local African languages, on Arabic and on various Southern European languages (basically what was spoken by traders operating in the Eastern African region in the early and late Renaissance periods).



          One issue of great importance in gauging the difficulty of learning a new language is the script used to write it. Most Western European languages use the Latin (or Roman) alphabet, with slight variations. But Greek doesn't, as it has its own script.



          And as soon as you move further East, you get into Serbian, Bulgarian and the Russian family of languages, who all use the Cyrillic script.



          Many other Indo-European languages have their own script: Farsi/Dari, i.e., Persian as used in Iran and Afghanistan, respectively (adapting a variant of the Arabic script); Hindi, Bengali and the other Indian languages have each their own script, following a common pattern, which is adopted also by other Indian but non-Indo-European languages, like Tamil, which is "one of the longest-surviving classical languages in the world" (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamil_language ).



          Nonetheless, the difficulty in learning a language scales up quite a lot as you move out of these languages that have an alphabetical or semi-alphabetical structure and move into the field of the ideogramatic languages of Eastern Asia, i.e., Chinese, Japanese and Korean. These languages use in toto or in part the Chinese characters, in regular format or modified (Korean).



          This is harder and harder for speakers of Western European languages, many of whom only know the Latin alphabet and are at best acquainted with other, similar languages.

          For a discussion of this with Japanese as an example, see https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-specific-methods-for-acquiring-ideogrammatic-fluency-in-a-language-particularly-in-Japanese .



          To sum it up, and to enter the fray, I'd say that Russian is harder to learn than Czech or Polish, simply because you need to learn the Cyrillic script.



          A personal reminiscence. When I began studying it, I noticed that about half of the students gave it up as soon as they had reached the stage of reading and writing words in Cyrillic. Because after all that work (it took about a couple of months in non-intensive studies) you realize that, yes, you can read it, but... at best, you just have a vague idea of what it means.



          Basically, you still have to start learning the language. And that's why many dropped out at that stage.



          I had my own motivations--I was supposed to be part of a glorious Trotskyst-led "political revolution to overthrow the Stalinist bureaucracy and restore Soviet democracy in the workers state"--and that kept me going. It may be one of the few things I don't regret of my previous militancy.


          JE comments:  When I studied Russian, we learned the alphabet in a week.  The rest of the journey lasts a lifetime.  Cyrillic is actually better suited to Slavic sounds than the Latin alphabet.  Some phonemes, such as the tongue-twisting "shch" consonant, take four letters in Polish (szcz) when one will do in Cyrillic:  щ.  Elegant.



          I would argue that some languages are indeed harder than others.  Any inflected or case-intensive language is hellish for speakers not used to them.  Every sentence becomes an exercise in "diagramming" a sentence.  "Gosh, I'm in the middle of a conversation.  What's the feminine instrumental singular of this adjective?"  Another exasperating aspect of Slavic languages is just that:  aspect.  Every verb is two verbs--the "perfective" and the "imperfective."  In Russian for example, the two verbs often look almost alike.  Other times, the "pairs" are completely different.  Diabolical.  And then there are the Slavic verbs of motion.  Feel like "going" somewhere?  In the Slavic world, this takes a few years of study.


          Please login/register to reply or comment:



      • Second-Person Pronoun Usage: Polish and Arabic (Edward Jajko, 10/31/16 9:36 AM)
        The discussion of variations in usage of the second-person singular and plural is of great interest to this philologist by inclination and training. I was raised speaking a language in which I had to be aware of and careful about 2nd-person forms of address, and studied numerous others in several language families that had their own patterns, becoming intimate with a couple of them.

        It has been my experience that native speakers of English have lost touch with the fact that "you" is a plural. For some who try to study other languages, it is difficult to learn and use a 2nd-person singular form.


        Further, the tendency to blur all 2nd person usage into "you" causes problems in translation, notably in sacred scriptures, where the thou/you distinction is of great importance. In the Qur'an, for example, there are places where God addresses Muhammad in the singular, and others where he addresses the community or mankind, in the plural. In many translations, both are now rendered as "you," which leads to ambiguity and confusion, while on the other hand versions that preserve "thou" are derided as old-fashioned. I recently bought a new translation of the Qur'an, "The Study Qur'an: a New Translation and Commentary," by Seyed Hossein Nasr and Caner Dagli (Harper and Row). The work is extensively annotated, but one thing I found especially attractive is that the translator-authors sensibly preserved "thou," the 2nd person singular.


        English speakers are of course accustomed to addressing the Almighty as "Thou." This usage lead to an embarrassing misuse of the language in one of the Star Wars movies. In the film in which Luke Skywalker battles his father--spoiler alert--and the evil emperor is killed, Darth Vader addresses the emperor as "thou," presumably reflecting the reverential use in prayer and missing the point that "thou" is used in prayer not to show respect but rather to express a relationship of familiarity with God.


        My late grandmother, father, mother, and all of our relatives and most family friends spoke Polish. My late brother and I used the language at home and had Polish lessons from the Felician Sisters in parochial school, he for eight years, I for almost six. In church before Vatican II, whatever was not in Latin was in Polish.


        Polish has a complicated system of 2nd-person address. Between intimates, equals, and possibly but not necessarily toward subordinates, one uses the singular "ty," with gender supplied by accompanying 2nd-person singular verb, adjective, etc. (Polish has masculine, feminine, and neuter.)


        To address a group of intimates, equals, subordinates, and sometimes groups in general, one uses plural "wy," with 2nd-person plural verb.


        While there is a certain loosening of things with regard to the 2nd person, an increase in familiarity, Polish nevertheless remains a language of considerable formality.


        When addressing strangers, superiors, or anyone to whom respect is owed or presumed to be owed, Polish requires one to go beyond "Lei" and "Sie" to the sort of language one hears from butlers and valets in BBC dramas, i.e. indirect speech in the 3rd person singular or plural.


        Thus, asking a gentleman if he would like X, one asks, "Does Sir wish...?" In the Polish, "Czy Pan chce...?" which is /interrogative particle--Sir/Lord--he, she, it wants/. This, to express "Sir, do you want...?"


        The feminine would be "Pani," Madam/Lady.


        Addressing two or more, one would use the neuter word "Panstwo," which translates as Lordships but also as State, and would use the 3rd-person singular verb. I believe I can recall it being misused, with the 2nd-person plural verb.


        Polish usage of the indirect 3rd person as the formal 2nd person requires use not just of "Pan," "Pani," "Panstwo," or even the now outdated "Panna" (Miss), but of titles: father, mother, grandmother, aunt, uncle, priest, doctor. My brother was addressed in Polish as "Panie Generale Jajko," Mister General Jajko, or "Panie Professorze," Mister Professor, or a combination of the two, and this plus the 3rd-person singular verb would have been the equivalent of "thou" or "you."


        We spoke this way in my family. My parents, grandmother, aunts and uncles and various others addressed my brother and me in the 2nd-person singular. In turn, we addressed our parents, etc., in the indirect 3rd person.


        "Co Mama chce?" = /what--Mama--he, she, it wants/ = "What do you want, Mom?"


        "Niech Wujancia posiada sie" = /hortative particle--Aunt--he, she, it seats--self/ = "Please have a seat, Aunt."


        Among our friends were a beloved family we would see at most twice a year after an almost 100 mile drive from Philadelphia to Bloomfield, New Jersey. One of the things that I did not appreciate about the friendship of out families until I was of somewhat mature years was that even though my father and the pater familias friend were from the same town in Poland, had known each other there, and had in effect been lifelong friends, they always used the indirect 3rd person form of address with each other, always addressed each other as "Pan," and always maintained that formality of speech.


        I have become somewhat accustomed to the increased familiarity but find it jarring. The indirect 3rd person form of address is deeply ingrained, as is Polish formality. When I visited Poland in 1967, my uncle Wojciech picked me up at a university dorm hostel. He brought along his son-in-law Leszek, my first cousin by marriage. I noticed Leszek addressing my uncle as "Tatu," Dad, and using "ty" and the 2nd person singular. So I addressed my uncle ss "ty" and in the 2nd person singular, and he bristled. I don't recall how, exactly, but my newly-met Uncle Wojciech made it clear that this was unacceptable, so I switched to the indirect 3rd person, and all was sweetness and light.


        Days afterwards, while I was walking around the paternal hometown of Brzozow, I was approached in the street by two women, who identified themselves as daughters of my uncle Michal, the youngest Jajko brother and younger of the two who remained in Poland after the five oldest had emigrated to the US. They insisted on addressing me as "Pan," Sir or Mister, and using the indirect 3rd person. I protested, saying that we were cousins, they should use my Polish nickname, and use "ty." They refused, saying it would not be appropriate since we were really not acquainted. So these newly found first cousins insisted on calling me "Panie Jajko." ("Panie," which I have used before, is the vocative case form of the nominative "Pan.")


        In communist days, Polish governments tried to abolish this grammatical relic of the bourgeois past and to force Poles to use "ty" and "wy," 2nd person singular and plural, in line with Russian usage. While some other Russifications may have succeeded, this attempt failed and Polish conservatism and formality won.


        When I listen to operas, I seem to hear a fluidity of usage, with "tu" and "voi," "tu" and "vous," being used to address a single person. One of these days I will fulfill my resolution and study the libretti. Someday. In the "Ring," at least, Wagner got around the problem of the German 2nd person singular by using "Du" only. I do seem to remember from older German literature read in college the use of the feminine singular as 3rd person indirect.


        It is too many years since I studied Chinese. My recollection of that comparatively and refreshingly easy language is that its simplicity extends to 2nd person usage: "ni," low falling and rising tone, for "thou," and "nimen" for the plural, with an option for "nimendou," "you all," as an intensifier or specifier of the plural. There is no gender; no conjugation; tense, mood, voice, completed action, etc., being expressed by particles or auxiliary words.


        In contrast to Luciano Dondero's analysis (Oct. 25) of Spanish "usted" as deriving from "vuestra merced," I learned the thesis that it came from the days of Arab Spain and the Arabic word "ustadh." This word means "professor, teacher, master." One can be "ustadh kulliyah," college professor, or "ustadh jami'ah," university professor. "Ustadh" is commonly used to mean "mister."


        Arabic is ordinarily or in theory egalitarian in its 2nd person usage--thou and you, with another word expressive of or referring to two people (the "dual").


        The 2nd person singular pronouns for "thou" are "anta" (masc.) and "anti" (fem.), which take verbs, adjectives, etc., in the corresponding gender. Like other Semitic languages, Arabic has masculine and feminine gender.


        The plural "you" for three or more is expressed by "antum" (masc.) and "antunna" (fem.), which take 2nd person plural verbs in appropriate gender, etc.


        In addressing two people, one uses the dual form (there is also a 3rd person dual). "Antuma," long final A, for the masculine "you two" and "antuna" for the feminine, both take the dual verb form and other duals.


        With the minor complication of the dual, this is all straightforward. But in actual practice Arabs tend to add in formality toward betters, superiors, those in authority, and those to whom courtesy is extended. One common way of doing this us to use the plural pronoun and verb forms when addressing an individual.


        Another and very common way is to use the second person singular verb, in the appropriate gender, along with one of the many honorifics that are generally used. Here are some examples from examples from Egyptian colloquial Arabic:


        Siyadtak/siyadtik: Lordship-thy/Ladyship-thy


        Sa'adtak/sa'adtik: thy happiness


        Fakhamtak/fakhamtik: thy excellence


        And the most commonly used:

        Hadritak/hadritik: thy presence


        These expression add formality to the egalitarian-leaning Arabic.


        Wa-'alaykum al-salam wa-barakat Allahi subhanahu wa-ta'ala.


        JE comments: Dziekuje and shokran, Panie Jajko! Intimately related to the second-person pronoun is the vocative case, which English has to render in a stilted "O Edward!" fashion. "Hey" is more appropriate today. The Polish vocative for feminine interlocutors always struck me as bizarre: you change the "a" ending to "o," which to a Hispanist sounds like you're switching gender. Mama, for example, becomes "Mamo," which also translates as "I suckle."

        Please login/register to reply or comment:




Trending Now



All Forums with Published Content (41979 posts)

- Unassigned

Culture & Language

American Indians Art Awards Bestiary of Insults Books Conspiracy Theories Culture Ethics Film Food Futurology Gender Issues Humor Intellectuals Jews Language Literature Media Coverage Movies Music Newspapers Numismatics Philosophy Plagiarism Prisons Racial Issues Sports Tattoos Western Civilization World Communications

Economics

Capitalism Economics International Finance World Bank World Economy

Education

Education Hoover Institution Journal Publications Libraries Universities World Bibliography Series

History

Biographies Conspiracies Crime Decline of West German Holocaust Historical Figures History Holocausts Individuals Japanese Holocaust Leaders Learning Biographies Learning History Russian Holocaust Turkish Holocaust

Nations

Afghanistan Africa Albania Algeria Argentina Asia Australia Austria Bangladesh Belgium Belize Bolivia Brazil Canada Central America Chechnya Chile China Colombia Costa Rica Croatia Cuba Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark East Europe East Timor Ecuador Egypt El Salvador England Estonia Ethiopia Europe European Union Finland France French Guiana Germany Greece Guatemala Haiti Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran (Persia) Iraq Ireland Israel/Palestine Italy Japan Jordan Kenya Korea Kosovo Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Latin America Liberia Libya Mali Mexico Middle East Mongolia Morocco Namibia Nations Compared Netherlands New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria North America Norway Pacific Islands Pakistan Palestine Paraguay Peru Philippines Poland Polombia Portugal Romania Saudi Arabia Scandinavia Scotland Serbia Singapore Slovakia South Africa South America Southeast Asia Spain Sudan Sweden Switzerland Syria Thailand The Pacific Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan UK (United Kingdom) Ukraine USA (America) USSR/Russia Uzbekistan Venezuela Vietnam West Europe Yemen Yugoslavia Zaire

Politics

Balkanization Communism Constitutions Democracy Dictators Diplomacy Floism Global Issues Hegemony Homeland Security Human Rights Immigration International Events Law Nationalism NATO Organizations Peace Politics Terrorism United Nations US Elections 2008 US Elections 2012 US Elections 2016 Violence War War Crimes Within the US

Religion

Christianity Hinduism Islam Judaism Liberation Theology Religion

Science & Technology

Alcohol Anthropology Automotives Biological Weapons Design and Architecture Drugs Energy Environment Internet Landmines Mathematics Medicine Natural Disasters Psychology Recycling Research Science and Humanities Sexuality Space Technology World Wide Web (Internet)

Travel

Geography Maps Tourism Transportation

WAIS

1-TRIBUTES TO PROFESSOR HILTON 2001 Conference on Globalizations Academic WAR Forums Ask WAIS Experts Benefactors Chairman General News Member Information Member Nomination PAIS Research News Ronald Hilton Quotes Seasonal Messages Tributes to Prof. Hilton Varia Various Topics WAIS WAIS 2006 Conference WAIS Board Members WAIS History WAIS Interviews WAIS NEWS waisworld.org launch WAR Forums on Media & Research Who's Who