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A manuscript I'm currently editing has brought up a new (to me) problem - There's a character who speaks in archaic forms ("thee" and "thou", essentially). I've noted to the writer that this is coming across oddly.

After some thought, I realized that the problem is that the character's speech is a mix of modern and archaic English. Can anyone point out any references to using this kind of grammar effectively? The only fairly complete one I've found is at a site on fantasy art, so I'm not sure this is a good source for language advice.

Fantasy Art Resource Project: 'Thou' in Archaic Grammar

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    Can you post an example sentence or two? This sounds interesting, but I'm not sure how to answer.
    – mmyers
    Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 20:03
  • If it's one character who is meant to be Amish (or similar), that may present a slightly different problem. I'd guess (and it's a guess - someone else will know more than I) that groups like the Amish have their own grammar which has evolved to something distinct from older English grammar, so that even finding rules of old grammar may not get you quite where you need to be. Commented Sep 23, 2010 at 0:18
  • I actually don't know the nationality of the character, and the fact that I can't tell that is part of the problem. I'd prefer not to post example sentences, since this is a work in progress and is a client's confidential document, but I'll inquire if I an do that. Commented Sep 23, 2010 at 2:13
  • Oh ye dude of little faith!
    – Oldcat
    Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 18:09

2 Answers 2

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What year? I assume this is 100+ years ago. After you decide on the year, go find the books published that year in Guttenburg. Read those and absorb the manner of speech. More importantly, decide what your readers can put up with. I can't bear to read authentic archaic anything. "He said 'What's up?' in a quaint Kentish dialect." work great for me as a reader. On the otherhand, the thee's and thou's are just as much an intellectual speedbump as if someone replaced all the she's and he's with ze (one of the proposals for a gender neutral pronoun!) In any case, as a reader, the fact someone is saying hither and thither at all is what sounds wrong, not that they are failing to use it to mean "to here" and and "to there", or in the case of thee and thou, if they are using it in the nominative or accusative slot.

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  • I'm choosing this as the most useful answer because it'll allow me to point the author at something to be used as an example. (Oddly, I never thought of this, but it seems distressingly obvious in hindsight.) Commented Oct 1, 2010 at 22:57
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I only skimmed the link you posted, but it seems quite useful. Wikipedia also has a worthwhile discussion.

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