Developments in Personal Pronouns
For this paper, I’ll be addressing the finding of my research, that applies to the topics of personal pronouns. Personal pronouns are words that “substitute and applies to the nouns” (Casagrande, pg.50). Personal pronouns are used to avoid the repetitions of a proper name. Personal pronouns are divided into three categories, including first-person, second-person, third-person pronouns. Each category is presented in the forms of singular and plural, and “refers to the I, you, and she or she” (Lynch, pg.163). The First person’s singulars are I and me, while plural there’s we and us. The third-person singular includes “he, she, it” as normative case, “him, her, it” as objective case, and plural is represented as “they” and “them”. As for the second-person pronouns, both singular and plural forms are represented with the word “you”. This interpretation presents one of the problems in modern English, in regard to the rules and grammar. As in the modern English era, the word “you” is utilized as the only word to be used for both second-person singular and plural.
This isn’t how it used to be, as back in the time period of Anglo-Saxon settlement to the late 11th century, there were still distinct words that represented the category of second-person pronouns. This is due to the old-English grammar, which used the “old oblique non-nominative plural forms were used to address individuals and groups” (Fitzmaurice). During this time, second person pronouns are divided into two categories of singular and plural, with two different form of subjective and objective case. For singular, there’s the word thou, which is subjective form, and thee, which is objective form. For plural, there’s the word you, as an objective form, while the word “thee” is a subjective form. Back then, the usage of personal pronouns are associates with social status, as “you” is a formal word, that was used to address someone with high regards of being superior. The choice of identifying a person with either you or thou were governed as an established social rule, which required a certain of attentions and judgment from the speaker. The word “you” is used to show formal respect, while also signify the distance of social status between the speakers and the recipient in a conversation. In contrast, the word “thou” was used to address those equal or inferior to the speaker, as the word represent a feeling of closeness or familiarity. During the period of old English grammar, these are the distinct words that represent personal pronouns, as a way to differentiated individuals from the low to high class. From my perspective, a reason for the changing of the rules for the word “you”, was so that every individual can be seen as equal status to each other, rather than putting each other in a category of association from low to high.
The distinction of second-person pronoun is not an unusual sight. For there are other languages, such as Spanish and French, in which has and still have utilize the form of distinction that is called as T-V system. This system includes the use of “singular T is to show social closeness/solidarity and plural V to show social distance/status” (Cook). This is the division between formals and informal words, as the attitudes of the conversation depend on the speaker’s usage of the words, by how he/she choose to address during a conversation. This interpretation would develop a social meaning in the topic of personal pronouns. Beside from social status, personal pronouns also associate with the topic of gender. As pronouns help with the indication of an individual’s genders, such as he/she would refer to male/female. In recent years, a word that has gained the title of gender-neutral third-person, is the word “they”. As the word is an alternative pronoun that represents all genders, in addition to avoid any mistakes during a conversation. The English and Spanish languages have similarity, as both languages have words that indicate group or individuals of men, women, or neither. This can be portrayed through the Spanish language, such as words that end in the -o, are refers to the gender of the individuals as male, while the words that end in -a, refers to the genders of individuals as female. For example, the word “macho” is used to describe masculine of men, and the word “amigos” are used to describe a friend, who is a man. For female, the “profesora” is translated as a teacher who is a woman, and the word “amigas” is translated as a friend, who is a woman. However, if there’s no indication of a specific gender, then it would be safe just to use the pronouns of words such as tú or usted, to avoid making the mistake of identification. In contrast to the English and Spanish language, the French language doesn’t have the gender-neutral language. For there are nouns and pronouns that reflects the gender of individuals and groups, such as adding –er for a man, and –ere for a woman”. However, there are no gender-neutral words, as there’s a discrepancy of gender discrimination, such as how students are taught about “The masculine dominates over the feminine” (Timsit). This is a portrayal of how words, in which we speak and writes can have an effect on an individual in the state of mental, emotional, and social.
Personal pronouns are words that substitute for a proper noun, which are the name of a person, place, or thing. By using personal pronouns, you’re able to avoid the act of repetition, as a way to end the awkwardness formality. The usages of personal pronouns are associated in different ways, as in the formality and identification between social status or gender. In regard to the second-person pronouns; the changing of the rules seems to benefit the country as a whole, for we have the rights and freedom to speak however and whenever we want to.
- Casagrande, June. (2018). The Joy of Syntax: A Simple Guide to All the Grammar Yow Know You Should Know. California: Ten Speed Press.
- Lynch, Jack. (2008). The English Language: A User’s Guide. Newburyport, MA: Focus Publishing/R. Pullins Company.
- Cook, ViVian. “Powerful Plurals: Pronouns And Status.” (2008): 1.
- Timsit, Annabelle. “The Push to Make French Gender-Neutral.” 24 November 2017. The Atlantic. 22 June 2019
- Fitzmaurice, susan. “Politeness in Early Modern English: The Second Person Pronouns.” The Story of English (2003): 1.