LINGUIST List 2.615

Mon 07 Oct 1991

Disc: Polite/Plural Pronouns

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  1. Swann Philip, 2.608 Polite Pronouns
  2. Geoffrey Russom, Re: 2.608 Polite Pronouns
  3. , 2.608 Polite Pronouns
  4. , Re: 2.605 Polite Pronouns
  5. , You/youse and politeness

Message 1: 2.608 Polite Pronouns

Date: Fri, 4 Oct 1991 08:16:53 +0100
From: Swann Philip <>
Subject: 2.608 Polite Pronouns
RE: Lei in Italian
If I remember correctly, "Lei" in Italian derives from forms such as
"la sua altezza" (your Highness). It is the standard polite/formal 2nd
singular pronoun in Northern Italy, but I think that Voi is more
frequent in some other regions. "Lei" is not the same as the 3rd
singular feminine pronoun "lei".
Once on Italian television Racquel Welsh was a guest with an
Italian actor, with the show's host acting as interpreter. At
one point the actor said to the host "Lei e' molto ridicolo"
(You are very funny), which the host translated as "She is very
ridiculous"... the look on Welsh's face was memorable.
Philip Swann
University of Geneva
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Message 2: Re: 2.608 Polite Pronouns

Date: Fri, 04 Oct 91 08:45:20 EDT
From: Geoffrey Russom <>
Subject: Re: 2.608 Polite Pronouns
In Providence we have a you/yous (not youse) distinction with a
voiceless final -s. It seems to function entirely as a singular/
plural distinction, with no implications of politeness, though of course
the difference in phonology would tend to discourage one from
using you/yous usage as a guide to usage of you/youse (with final -z).
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Message 3: 2.608 Polite Pronouns

Date: Fri, 04 Oct 91 07:57:40 EDT
From: <elc9jprime.acc.Virginia.EDU>
Subject: 2.608 Polite Pronouns
"Y'all" is sometimes used, at least in Virginia, as a polite form of
address to a single person, as in "Y'all come back, now", said by
a shopkeeper to a customer. Of course, this could just be a standardized
greeting formula. We're looking for more data on this.
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Message 4: Re: 2.605 Polite Pronouns

Date: Sat, 5 Oct 91 19:23 MST
From: <>
Subject: Re: 2.605 Polite Pronouns
Just a note on tu/vous in Belgian French: there have been several people who
have suggested that non-French French varieties have different usages
concerning the T/V distinction in pronouns. Sorry for not remembering who all
mentioned this. My own experience is the following (I was monolingual Dutch
speaking till the age of eight, then moved to Paris and learned French there,
 and then moved back to Belgium at the age of eighteen, and got my first
to Belgian French only then.) I did not notice any differences between the way
Belgians use the tu/vous distinction and the Parisian way, even though I did
carry around a notebook in which I recorded any tiny differences (phonological,
lexical, syntactic) I could detect. I do remember snooty right-wing kids from
Paris addressing their mom with 'vous', but I bet even those have their
 equivalents in Belgium. One thing that struck me in Belgium is a very great
of the existence of a class of people who use tu where they should use vous a
lot. This is supposed to be typical of uneducated lower class Brussels people
who are ethnically Flemish, and are more proficient in the Brussels Flemish
dialect than they are in French, but nevertheless consider themselves French-
speaking. As far as I can tell, there is such a class of heavy tu-users, but
they are not nearly as numerous and stereotypable as popular opinion would have
you believe. The Flemish dialects do not have a T/V distinction but Standard
Dutch does. (Actually the Flemish dialects (that of Brussels, at least) uses
something corresponding to an archaic-biblical type 2nd person sg. subject
pronoun in Standard Dutch (can also be pl.), and what is related to the
 StandardV pronoun for an object 2nd person pronoun. So you never sound very
 rude in hteFlemish dialect). I suppose, then, that speakers of Flemish
 dialects would be
tempted to use tu as a general equivalent for their 2nd person pronoun. But
since the Flemish dialects are disappearing fast in Brussels and are being
replaced by French and by more mesolectal varieties of Flemish, which are
 closerto standard Dutch and can do the Standard Dutch T/V distinction, one can
understand how French speakers who do not have a T/V distinction are disappear-
ing fast. There is a lot of stigmatizing against this in Brussels, but as we
know Brussels is at least (if not more) prescriptive than Paris (Grevisse was
from Brussels), so the proper T/V usage is a big deal for Bruxellois French
Willem J. de Reuse
Department of Anthropology
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721 U.S.A.
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Message 5: You/youse and politeness

Date: Mon, 7 Oct 1991 8:04:30 GMT
Subject: You/youse and politeness
With reference to Herb Stahlke's report of polite (rather than plural)
use of "youse" in Ohio, I am wondering if there may be comparable
things happening in Australia. Many Australian English speakers have
the you/youse distinction marking number (my own children for instance -
I don't as I'm a Pom i.e. from England). However my students often insist
that they have heard "youse" commonly in a singular sense. Whether it has
to do with politeness, power/solidarity etc. I don't know. I don't think
I've heard it. It occurs in Barry Mackenzie cartoons and films in a singular
sense but since this is an exaggerated portrayal of Broad Australian
speech and manners in part for an overseas audience this may be stereotyping
involving unnatural extension of "youse".
On Michel Grimaud's contribution on "mixed style" in plays involving
T/V rapid switching between the same people, Brown and Gilman give a
(presumably parallel) example from Marlowe:
TAMBURLAINE: Here, Turk, wilt thou have a clean trencher?
BAJAZETH: Aye,tyrant, and more meat.
TAMBURLAINE: Soft, sir, you must be dietee; too much eating will make you
Brown and Gilman point out that the V is sarcastic when used t a prisoner,
but also recalls the fact that Bajazeth is an emperor. This makes me wonder
to what extent theatrical dilogue mirrors everyday usage or goes beyond
it to create a special mixed style.
Going back to "youse" one of the problems in this developing a polite
connotation, at least in Australia, is the fact that it is a stigmatised
substandard form. If it did occur this would be an interesting case of
very widespread linguistic tendencies (for plural second plurals to
become polite forms) overcoming local language attitudes.
Patrick McConvell, Anthropology, Northern Territory University
Darwin, Australia
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