Tue, 15 Jun 1999 21:37:54 -0700
>  When I first consciously thought about the difference between
> singular and plural pronouns, "you" puzzled me. I knew "y'all" was
> deprecated, but I hadn't heard "you" used as plural frequently enough
> for it to register as correct, and I couldn't figure out what the
> "proper" plural equivalent was. I was living in Texas, you see. :)
What did they use for the second person plural possesive?
"You" actually was the plural, once upon a time. Thou/thee/thy-thine was the
singular equivalent of Ye/You/Your.
The use of the plural for formal address (as in Fr. tu/vous and Ger. du/sie)
makes sense when one considers that patriarchs, nobles, etc. were addressed as
representatives of a group. Use of a geographic title indicates explicitly
what the second person formal/plural does implicitly.
Although English has lost the original second person singular/plural
distinction, we seem to have revived it in different ways. "You all" is well
known; locally I hear "you guys". Francophones require the presence of but a
single male infant to address a convent with the masculine second person
plural; Californians can't even be bothered about the infant.
Along similar lines, the vocative seems to be creeping back into the language,
indicated analytically instead of as a grammatical case.
I've heard a theory that (mandarin?) Chinese has been simplified over several
thousand years of use, similar to how creoles, developing out of contact
languages, have simpler grammars (some claim a single grammar) than the
non-creoles. English seems to be undergoing this process, having lost much
from Old English and Indoeuropean forms. If we look still further, we find
Europanto, a simplifying (and entertaining) proposal based in reaction to