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Formal/informal pronouns

From:Benct Philip Jonsson <bpj@...>
Date:Friday, April 25, 2008, 7:26
Modern Icelandic uses the old dual pronouns _við, þið_ as
ordinary/informal plural pronouns and the old plural
pronouns _Vér, Þér_ as formal pronouns unmarked for
number, with corresponnding to the royal _We_ and a Spanish
Usted or a German Sie. However _Þér_ is nowadays only used
when speaking formally to the bishop or the president, and
presumably when translating formal speech addressed at
similarly high-ranking people abroad. AFAIK nobody used
_Vér_ about themselves anymore.

Note: the formal nominative _Þér_ coincides with the
       dative of the informal _þú_. This is only a
       coincidence of course!

FWIW my lady once met the man who in younger years
instigated the Swedish reform to use informal address with
everyone. The old Swedish system was nowhere near as simple
as using the plural pronoun to address a single person
formally, but involved using the other persons *title*, i.e.
academic or occupational title. _Min Herre, Herrn, Frun,
Fröken_ 'Sir, Mr, Ma'am, Miss' were only used when/until
you knew the correct title, so you'd e.g. say something like
_Vill Kandidaten ha en kopp kaffe?_ for 'Would you like a
cup of coffee, sir?' when speaking to someone who happened
to have a B.A.!

/BP 8^)>
Benct Philip Jonsson -- melroch atte melroch dotte se
   "C'est en vain que nos Josués littéraires crient
   à la langue de s'arrêter; les langues ni le soleil
   ne s'arrêtent plus. Le jour où elles se *fixent*,
   c'est qu'elles meurent."           (Victor Hugo)


Tristan McLeay <conlang@...>
Carsten Becker <carbeck@...>