24-Y by Roger

 



I don’t think I considered it until I took French in high school, but I realized at that point that standard English was deficient. While French has tu for second person singular and vous for second person plural, English uses the word you for both. I subsequently discovered that most languages followed the French rule, such as German du/ihr and Russian ty/vy.

So some groups have developed their own set of second person plural pronouns, such as y’all and yous. Some Australians, just like some Americans and some Brits, have for many years now been happily using valid second person plural pronouns. It helps in clear communication, allows succinctness of expression, and, sadly, has invariably been associated with a lack of education and low socio-economic status.

But it is not the failure of the speakers, it’s the failure of the language. These words do not reflect ignorance on the part of speakers who use them, but a legitimate linguistic development called leveling by morphological analogy, whereby missing pieces of the grammar are generated by analogy with other parts of grammar. In other words, people instinctively create words when the meaning would otherwise be ambiguous.

Thus English is lacking here, but it was not always so. The King James Bible, e.g. has a perfectly useful pairing, thou for singular, ye for plural. Over the years, however, the terms meshed.

My basic point is that perhaps we ought not to deride those people who have creatively addressed a linguistic need.

Twelve years ago, the TIME person of the year was YOU. Read all about it.

Here are three songs, all very different, called You:
Marvin Gaye
George Harrison
R.E.M.

I am hoping YOU will visit YOUR compatriots on the ABC Wednesday platform.

(Yes, I stole this post from myself in January 2011. If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you!)