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OT: Spanish pronouns ("usted", etc.)

From:Javier BF <uaxuctum@...>
Date:Thursday, May 17, 2007, 22:55
On Wed, 16 May 2007 17:48:48 -0400, Alex Fink <a4pq1injbok_0@...> wrote:

>On Wed, 16 May 2007 02:50:54 +0100, Jeff Rollin <jeff.rollin@...> wrote: >>In the last episode, on Tue, 15 May 2007 17:49:39 -0700, "David J. >>Peterson" <dedalvs@...> wrote: >>> Jeff wrote: >>> << >>> Depends on your perspective, really. In (Peninsular) Spanish, with >>> formal forms of address (using the polite "2nd person" pronouns >>> "Usted" (sg) and "Ustedes" (pl), you use 3rd person agreement on the >>> verb (since the forms originate in the formula "Vuestra Merced" "Your >>> Grace" and, accordingly, refer obliquely to a second person using a >>> 3rd person term). >>> >>> I always thought it came from Arabic "ustaadh" [?us.'taaD], a >>> way to address someone with respect. It always seemed like >>> far too much of a coincidence that two words pronounced >>> almost identically and with almost the exact same usage should >>> be totally unrelated. Apparently history says it's so, though. >> >>Well, my explanation is the only one I've heard right now, but that one >>(yours) actually seems more plausible to me. > >I recall reading somewhere that the Romance-internal etymology of _Usted_ >was indubitably the correct one, since the timing was off for it to be an >Arabic loan. I tried finding the source again, though, and Google is much >less certain than I expected. > >Anyway, why the insistence on deriving it from one xor the other? I think >the most likely scenario is that _vuestra merced_ and various contractions >of it were a Romance-internal development, but pressure from Arabic helped >select _Usted_ as the contraction that eventually won out. > >Alex
Spanish "usted" is not related to Arabic "ustaadh", the resemblance is due to mere chance coincidence. Quoting from the sci.lang FAQ: <QUOTE> Usted Some people have wondered if the Spanish formal second person pronoun Usted came from the Arabic honorific 'usta:dh. It doesn't; it's a well-attested abbreviation of vuestra merced 'your mercy'. There are transitional forms such as vuasted, vuesarced, voarced as well as parallel constructions like usía from vuestra señoría, ucencia from vuestra excelencia. Compare also Portuguese vossa mercê --> vosmecê --> você, as well as Catalán vosté and Gallego vostede. Finally, note that the abbreviation Usted doesn't appear until 130 years after the Moors had been kicked out of Spain. </QUOTE> There are transitional forms showing clearly the origin for the parallel constructions, too, such as "ucencia", "vuecencia" and "vuecelencia" from "vuestra excelencia" (all three appearing in the RAE dictionary). As a side note, the system of 2nd person pronouns used in Castilian is symmetrical with formal/informal distinction both in the singular and the plural: "tú" vs. "usted", "vosotros" vs. "ustedes". The original Latin forms for the 1st and 2nd plural, "nos" and "vos", had become formal singular in meaning during the Middle Ages (a development similar to the "royal we" and the singularization of plural "you" in English), prompting the repluralizations "nosotros" and "vosotros" with suffixed "otros" (others) (similarly to how "you" is now repluralized in English dialectal forms like "youse" and "y'all"); which, by the way, also introduced gender distinction in these forms: "nosotros" (we male) vs. "nosotras" (we female), "vosotros" (y'all male) vs. "vosotras" (y'all female). The forms "nos" and "vos" are nowadays archaic (like English "thou"), except in certain parts of Latin America where a separate use of "vos" as informal pronoun has developed. In all of Latin America the singular informal pronoun "vosotros" has also been lost in favor of "ustedes", now used both in formal and informal situations, but the 2nd person singular still distinguishes between "tú" (or "vos") and "usted" (in some areas all three are used, with "vos" now being the _lowest_ in the honorific scale). However, in certain dialects of Central America the asymmetry introduced into the system by the loss, only in the plural, of the formal/informal distinction, has been resolved by dropping the honorific distinction altogether and generalizing the use of the originally formal pronouns "usted" and "ustedes" to all cases regardless of formality, using "usted" even to talk to a child, so in those dialects the verbal person paradigms have been efectively reduced to only four: (yo) canto / bebo / parto / soy / he (usted/él/ella/ello) canta / bebe / parte / es / ha (nosotros/nosotras) cantamos / bebemos / partimos / somos / hemos (ustedes/ellos/ellas) cantan / beben / parten / son / han The full system of personal distinctions in Spanish is rather convoluted, with up to 8 distinct verbal person paradigms (1st sg/pl, 2nd sg/pl, 3rd sg/pl, Argentinian/Chilean voseo): (1st sg) canto / bebo / parto / soy / he (2nd sg) cantas / bebes / partes / eres / has (3rd sg) canta / bebe / parte / es / ha (1st pl) cantamos / bebemos / partimos / somos / hemos (2nd pl) cantáis / bebéis / partís / sois / habéis (Arg vos) cantás / bebés / partís / sos / has (Chil vos) cantai / bebís / partís / soi, erís / habís, hai (3rd pl) cantan / beben / parten / son / han matched in a complex system of agreements with around twenty different pronoun forms (not counting the aformentioned variations in transitional forms of "usted", "usía" and "vuecelencia"), which show various distinctions of gender and formality: 1st person singular - "yo" (standard) - "nos" (royal we, 1st-person plural agreement, nowadays archaic) - "menda" (very informal/vulgar, 3rd-person agreement, usually though not necessarily preceded by an article or demonstrative, which allows gender distinction: "[el/este/un] menda" (I male), "[la/esta/una] menda" (I female); it can also be used to refer to an indeterminate 3rd person; the word is originally from Caló, the Spanish-Romani dialect of Spanish gypsies, and appears to have been the dative form of the 1st person pronoun, thus sharing origin with Spanish/English forms like "me") 1st person plural - "nosotros" (male or gender-neutral) - "nosotras" (female only) 2nd person singular - "tú" (standard informal in most areas; also used with Chilean voseo verbal agreement in Chile) - "vos" (two separate kinds: the reverential "vos", which is formal, archaic and uses same verbal forms as "vosotros"; and the Latin American "vos", which some dialects, notably Rioplatense, use as the standard informal, while others use it as a more vulgar alternative to "tú", and which can be used with four verbal paradigms depending on dialect: the "tú" forms, the "vosotros" forms, the Argentinian voseo forms, or the Chilean voseo forms) - "usted" (3rd-person agreement, standard formal, also used informally in Andalusian and Central American dialects; also used with 2nd-person verbal agreement in Andalusia; variants include "uced", "vusted", "vuasted", "vuesarced", "usarced", etc., all of them contractions from "Vuestra Merced" meaning "Your Mercy"; the abbreviation "Vd." for "usted" comes from the original "Vuestra Merced", although nowadays it has become common to abbreviate it "Ud.") - "sumercé" (3rd-person agreement, used in some parts of Latin America with same meaning as "usted"; contracted from "Su Merced" analogously to how "Vuestra Merced" contracted to "usted", but this time with the 3rd-person possessive form "Su" instead of the reverential possessive form "Vuestra", because 3rd-person agreement of semantic 2nd person had already become associated with formality because of "usted") - "usía" (3rd-person agreement, usage restricted to overly formal or sarcastic; variants include "vusía", "usiría", "vusiría", "useñoría", "vueseñoría", etc., all of them contractions from "Vuestra Señoría" meaning "Your Lordiness") - "vuecelencia" (3rd-person agreement, usage restricted to overly formal or sarcastic; variants include "vuecencia", "ucencia", "usencia", "vosencia", etc., all of them contractions from "Vuestra Excelencia" meaning "Your Excellency") 2nd person plural - "vosotros" (informal, male or gender-neutral, currently used only in Spain) - "vosotras" (informal, female only, currently used only in Spain) - "ustedes" (gender-neutral, 3rd-person agreement, formal in Spain but both formal and informal in Andalusia and Latin America; also used with 2nd-person verbal agreement in Andalusia) - "sumercedes" or "sumercés" (ditto as above for "sumercé") - "usías" (ditto as above for "usía") - "vuecelencias" (ditto as above for "vuecelencia") 3rd person singular - "él" (male or gender-neutral) - "ella" (female only) - "ello" (neuter, usage limited to abstractions) 3rd person plural - "ellos" (male or gender-neutral) - "ellas" (female only) The picture gets further complicated when considering the full declination, which introduces an additional 3rd person reflexive oblique pronoun (se); has distinct prepositional case (mí, ti, sí) and comitative case (conmigo, contigo, consigo) only for the 1st-sg, 2nd-sg and 3rd-reflexive pronouns; distinguishes between accusative and dative only in the third person (la[s]/lo[s] vs. le[s]); and neutralizes all gender distinctions in the 1st- and 2nd-person oblique case forms (me, te, nos, os) and in the dative case forms of the third person, while introducing gender distinction in the accusative of the 2nd-person pronouns that prompt 3rd-person agreement. The phenomena of "leísmo", "laísmo" and "loísmo", affecting the usage of the oblique forms of the third person pronouns, are related to these asymmetries in the gender and accusative/dative distinctions, compounded with the fact that Spanish further blurs the morphological distinction of direct and indirect objects by marking dative phrases with the preposition "a" (to), but also animate-referent accusatives so as to prevent semantic ambiguity between subject and object given that word order is not enough unlike in English ("El perro mordió a Juan" or "A Juan mordió el perro" meaning "The dog bit John", vs. "Al perro mordió Juan" or "Juan mordió al perro" meaning "John bit the dog"). In the Castilian dialects of northern Castile, such as the one of Valladolid, both leísmo and laísmo are widespread, effectively eliminating the accusative/dative distinction from the system in favor of gender distinctions. Additionally, the form "se" has many other uses apart from 3rd-person reflexive, such as marking medial-voice and impersonal verbal forms; particularly, it replaces the dative "le[s]" when followed by an accusative to avoid cacophonic alliteration (*le las doy > se las doy, *les lo dije > se lo dije). Since this causes the number distinction of the dative to be lost, in Latin American dialects it prompts the accusative to take the plural mark of the dative (*les lo dije > se los dije). So, in a word, the system of personal pronouns of my native language is *weird*. :o)


Jeff Rollin <jeff.rollin@...>
Jeff Rollin <jeff.rollin@...>
Eric Christopherson <rakko@...>