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Icelandic: Vér/Þér/Oss/Yður

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by ShakeyX, Aug 24, 2013.

  1. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    2. GESTUR: Nú dettur mér snjallræði í hug. Við skulum binda fyrir augun á þjóninum og láta hann ná okkur. Sá, sem hann handsamar fyrst, skal borga reikninginn.

    3. GESTUR: Já, það er ágæt hugmynd.

    4. GESTUR: Eiginlega er það ég, sem á að borga. En það væri samt gama að leysa vandamálið á þennan hátt. Hvað segið þér um þetta, þjónn?

    So the story is some guys go into a bar, "Gestir" drink, can't pay, and trick the þjónn into blindfolding himself so they can dip out. Now the word "yður" has already been used so due to the fact "Segið" is in the plural form I can assume that Þér is effectively the old "Þið"? Right?


    But there only one þjónn? Just wondered if I am thinking about it correctly and it is infact just a old Þið
  2. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Errrr, kinda.

    What happened was, pronouns denoting singular and plural were not used as honorifics (polite forms of pronouns) but as the system started to change, plural forms became used to address people in the singular but with the tone of politeness. This is exactly what happened to the English 'you' as well (it used to be plural-only but after we lost 'thou' it went plural->honorific->singular) but what's going on here is a plural form with a singular referent. So, yes you're right that there is a plural verb, but there is also a plural pronoun (þér). You need to disassociate this form as being from the dative singular of þú. This form is the same as the honorific nominative form of þér.


    Hvað segir þú? - normal second person singular
    Hvað segið þið? - normal second person plural
    Hvað segið þér? - honorific reference (þér = nominative)

    The different forms are in that of the pronoun, while the relevant verbs still take the plural because that's what it historically was (before the dual took over the plural in Icelandic, this honorific used to be the old plural for more than two people being referred to). English dropped the dual (so we lost forms like wit [við] and inc [ykkur]) but Icelandic went the other way and budged the plurals out and the dual took over the other plural, and the old plural became these honorific, respectful terms of address. It's easy to see the similarity between "oss" and "us" in our pronoun system but when you get something like þér I can imagine it might be a bit confusing at first. The plural form of address is used for singular referents though, so even though there is only one waiter, things can be a bit different with honorifics.
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2013
  3. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    English - UK
    I don't know how much you already know about "þéra-ing" and "þúa-ing", but you will almost never encounter this form in modern day Icelandic. It used to be standard practice to use these different terms of address to indicate respect or familiarity respectively (just like French uses vous and tu, if you've ever learned any French at school or anything you'll remember that vous is both the second person plural and the polite/formal second person singular), but it is well on its way to slipping out of the language now. You may see it in very formal contexts (I gather it is still sometimes used by lawyers, for example) and in fictional writing set in the past, and of course in genuine old texts.
  4. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    Oh I had no confusion about þér being the dative of þú. I understand it in it's own archaic form as 2nd person plural (Þér, Yður, Yður, Yðar) such as Vér Oss Oss Vor is the old "We/Við"

    I just didn't know it was also used as a polite form.

    So it's much like Russian... Ты is þú, Вы is þið but then Вы is also used to mean þú but to someone you haven't met (polite). So in this case it's polite but to what effect.. is it being used in mockery of him? This story is from 1963, or atleast that's the date of the timarit it is printed in.
  5. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    English - UK
    To the best of my knowledge, the þér / þú difference in terms of address was still common in the 60s. Definitely the 50s. It's not that archaic. It could be mocking, or it could be genuinely polite; you'll have to decide how to interpret it yourself based on the context.
  6. Hjalti Junior Member

    Yup, it's used in some legal documents.

    I personally don't have a problem with understanding if someone is using "þérun" but I really couldn't use it (at least without having to pause and think about the forms and so on)! :l

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