It appears that the current form of English only has the casual or irreverent form of pronouns like "you" and "I"; English lacks the formal or respectful version, which is present in many other languages. By contrast, in formal Hindi conversations, one refers to the first person as "hum" which roughly translates to the regal "we" in English. One refers to the second person as "aap", which translates to "thou" in archaic English, but appears to have no equivalent in current English.

In which historical era did English shed the respectful forms of pronouns? What was the historical context of such linguistic pruning?


1 Answer 1


Actually, it has shed some casual terms and kept the formal ones.

Thou, Thee, Thy, Thine were once the colloquial norm. "You" was more formal.


However, it seems that many people get this backwards, and regard these archaic forms as more respectful, perhaps because they are used in the King James Bible, even when addressing Jesus or God.

This article http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~cpercy/courses/6362Yaswen2.htm attempts to explain when, where and how the change occurred. It mentions that the Quaker habit of using thee and thou when addressing all persons, regardless of social status, was meant as an egalitarian gesture, showing equal respect (or lack thereof, if you think of it that way) to everyone.

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