All Nordic languages : use of polite forms of "you"

Kenguist

New Member
French (France)
Hi,

my question is about the singular you, and its informal & formal forms (like Fr. "tu/vous" or Esp. "tù/usted")

I think that in Swedish they don't really use "ni" anymore, but only "du"...

What about the other nordic languages ? Do they have and use such polite form of you ?


Tack!
 
  • Göte

    Member
    Swedish
    In Swedish it has been common to exclude the subject/pronoun to avoid choosing between "du", "ni" and titles, at least when directly addressing a person. For example "önskas det socker till kaffet?" meaning "Would you like sugar with the coffee?". It is probably not used by the younger generation, which instead may have learnt to use "Ni" as polite "you", when for example serving in a coffee shop. Older people may not like this and think of "ni" as with:

    somewhat derogatory tone which came to not completely disappear despite repeated efforts from various quarters to make "Ni" into a general address
    Freely translated from the SAOB entry about "I" dated 1933 (The older spelling of "ni".)

    http://g3.spraakdata.gu.se/saob/show.phtml?filenr=1/103/124.html

    Personally I use "ni" only as second person (implicit or explicit) plural, for example when asking a shop assistant about something.
     

    Svenke

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Norwegian Bokmål has the following forms (subject, object, possessive): De - Dem - Deres. Norwegian Nynorsk has the forms De - Dykk - Dykkar.

    However, the forms are distinctly old-fashioned. Their use persisted longest in formal letters, for instance job applications and correspondence from the authorities. Now they are rarely seen in writing, and almost never heard spoken.

    Instead, one uses du - deg - din in both speech and writing, or one sometimes avoids using the second person in writing if the pronoun is felt to be too direct.

    Svenke
     

    bicontinental

    Senior Member
    English (US), Danish, bilingual
    Chiming in for the Danes...
    In Danish the pronouns are 'du' (informal) and 'De' (formal and always capitalized); 'du' is by far the more common.
    Bic.
     

    raumar

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    It may be added that the increasing use of "du" and the decline of the "polite forms" in the Scandinavian languages is a quite recent development. In Norway, most of this change took place between the 1960s and 1980s. When I had a part-time job as a shop assistant in the 1980s, I used to say "De" to elderly customers and "du" to the others. It was not because the elderly should to be treated more politely than others, but because their generation was used to the "De" form. I don't think I ever have said "De" to anybody my own age.

    I believe a similar change took place at about the same time in Sweden and Denmark (Swedes and Danes may confirm it), but there may be some differences between the countries. In post #3, Göte mentioned that the younger generation of Swedes might use "Ni" as a polite "you", for example when serving in a coffee shop. Such a use of "De" would be very unusual in Norway. If a waiter or shop assistant were to say "De" to a customer, it would just create an unwelcome distance between them.
     

    AutumnOwl

    Senior Member
    -
    Swedish
    I believe a similar change took place at about the same time in Sweden and Denmark (Swedes and Danes may confirm it), but there may be some differences between the countries. In post #3, Göte mentioned that the younger generation of Swedes might use "Ni" as a polite "you", for example when serving in a coffee shop. Such a use of "De" would be very unusual in Norway. If a waiter or shop assistant were to say "De" to a customer, it would just create an unwelcome distance between them.
    It's the same here in Sweden, if someone uses "Ni" to me it makes me a bit uncomfortable, and I feel as it's a bit of a snobbishness, that they think they are so cosmopolitan that they can distinguish between "du" and "ni" in other languages. I wonder how they would react if I was to address them as "lilla fröken" or "unge man", as if they were mere servants, like in old films from the 30:ies or 40:ies.
     

    Rubjerg

    New Member
    Danish
    It may be added that the increasing use of "du" and the decline of the "polite forms" in the Scandinavian languages is a quite recent development. In Norway, most of this change took place between the 1960s and 1980s. When I had a part-time job as a shop assistant in the 1980s, I used to say "De" to elderly customers and "du" to the others. It was not because the elderly should to be treated more politely than others, but because their generation was used to the "De" form. I don't think I ever have said "De" to anybody my own age.
    I think this applies to Danish as well. I remember once in the 1970'es, one of my class-mates during a school trip addressed an elderly lady with 'du', without any intention of being disrespectful, but she took it differently. Approaching him with a finger of accusation, she asked: "Sagde du du til mig?" (Did you(INFORMAL) say you(INFORMAL) to me?)

    During the 1980'es, the annihilation of "De" was largely complete, however, and it was only used in very special cases (eg. when required by royal etiquette, which is notoriously archaic anywhere), but in the last decade or two it seems to have made a limited comeback. Primarily as a way for some shopkeepers to "flatter" customers, as described above; although I myself also feel a pang of petulance in these situations. Although my intellect deconstruct it, my feeling is that they want to distance themselves or imply that I'm old and silly.

    Other from such cases, however, "du" is universally used. The prime minister and the leader of the opposition will address each other with "du" during tv debates. Children will address elders with "du". Teachers and pupils, employers and employees, and strangers in the street normally always use "du".
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I think this applies to Danish as well. I remember once in the 1970'es, one of my class-mates during a school trip addressed an elderly lady with 'du', without any intention of being disrespectful, but she took it differently. Approaching him with a finger of accusation, she asked: "Sagde du du til mig?" (Did you(INFORMAL) say you(INFORMAL) to me?)

    During the 1980'es, the annihilation of "De" was largely complete, however, and it was only used in very special cases (eg. when required by royal etiquette, which is notoriously archaic anywhere), but in the last decade or two it seems to have made a limited comeback. Primarily as a way for some shopkeepers to "flatter" customers, as described above; although I myself also feel a pang of petulance in these situations. Although my intellect deconstruct it, my feeling is that they want to distance themselves or imply that I'm old and silly.

    Other from such cases, however, "du" is universally used. The prime minister and the leader of the opposition will address each other with "du" during tv debates. Children will address elders with "du". Teachers and pupils, employers and employees, and strangers in the street normally always use "du".
    We could observe one of the last fights in defence of using the polite address to the royalty in Denmark when queen Margrete reprimanded a journalist addressing her using "du". ("we didn't go to school together, did we?").
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    In Norwegian you can actually discern two ways of pronouncing the pronoun "du".
    One is with the final "u" clearly pronounced, and the other is the sloppy pronunciation "dø".
    Many people consider the second pronounciation as less polite, especially if used by people they are are not at familiar terms with.
     

    Kenguist

    New Member
    French (France)
    Thanks for these answers!! :)

    The last one is very interesting! So a proper pronunciation of "du" makes it more polite? In French we can say tu or t', and the first version sounds more polite, almost snob or theatrical sometimes (but most of the time we don't really need to be polite when using tu cause we wouldn't say it to a stranger/superior/etc.)
     

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    On national Danish Television they still address studio guests with "De". However, before comparing Swedish and Danish one should know that they had totally different reasons for dropping the formal address - which also explains why it seems to survive in Denmark a lot longer ...

    One of the Swedes might be as nice as to explaining us why many Swedes found the formal address inacceptable.
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Thanks for these answers!! :)

    The last one is very interesting! So a proper pronunciation of "du" makes it more polite? In French we can say tu or t', and the first version sounds more polite, almost snob or theatrical sometimes (but most of the time we don't really need to be polite when using tu cause we wouldn't say it to a stranger/superior/etc.)
    AS you can see there is only one form of address in Norwegian nowadays (excluding the King and Queen), but a subconscious need of people to differantiate grades of politeness is stronger. Actually you can dicern many grades:

    1. Very polite: "Du" pronounced clearly and correctly, maintaining eye contact whith the other person, acompagnied by a smile.
    2. Polite: "Du" pronounced clearly and correctly, but poorly maintaining eye contact whith the other person
    3. Little polite: "dø" maintaining little eye contact whith the other person
    4. Impolite/hostile: extremely short "də" with the chin of the speaker raised and pointing at you. May be followed by a brawl.
     

    Rubjerg

    New Member
    Danish
    On national Danish Television they still address studio guests with "De".
    They do? Only rarely, and I bet only if they have grave reasons to think that the guests want it.
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    AutumnOwl

    Senior Member
    -
    Swedish
    One of the Swedes might be as nice as to explaining us why many Swedes found the formal address inacceptable.
    From the Swedish Wikipedia article about the Du-reformen:
    Tidigare ansågs det oartigt att tilltala en överordnad, speciellt någon som man inte kände, med annat än titel. En underordnad tilltalades med ni eller han/hon alternativt personens namn.
    Before the Du-reform the person who addressed someone with Ni was the person who was considered to have the higher social status, and should be addressed by their title (överläkare X; direktör Y, överstinnan Z). So the situation today when the young people in cafés and shops address their customers as Ni, it's the opposite of how the rules were before the Du-reform.
     
    Last edited:

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    They do? Only rarely, and I bet only if they have grave reasons to think that the guests want it.
    Which in other words means that they still do, doesn't it? As opposed to the claim that it is not part of modern language any more.



    AutumnOwl:
    @From the Swedish Wikipedia article about the Du-reformen:

    Thanks, that will be what I was thinking of. I knew I read about it here.
     

    raumar

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    AS you can see there is only one form of address in Norwegian nowadays (excluding the King and Queen), but a subconscious need of people to differantiate grades of politeness is stronger. Actually you can dicern many grades:

    1. Very polite: "Du" pronounced clearly and correctly, maintaining eye contact whith the other person, acompagnied by a smile.
    2. Polite: "Du" pronounced clearly and correctly, but poorly maintaining eye contact whith the other person
    3. Little polite: "dø" maintaining little eye contact whith the other person
    4. Impolite/hostile: extremely short "də" with the chin of the speaker raised and pointing at you. May be followed by a brawl.
    I like this classification, but this variation is -- in my opinion -- quite different from the old distinction between "du" and "De". I don't have any systematic data, but my impression is at least that this variation mainly occurs when a sentence begins with "du". Here, "du" does not really function as a pronoun; it is more like an interjection, just as "Hey!" in English. In addition, I don't think that "dø" versus "du" necessarily is an attempt to be more or less polite -- it can also be a matter of dialect, sociolect or slang.
     

    basslop

    Senior Member
    Norsk (Norwegian)
    I agree with Raumar. My guess is that using du, dø, də this way is short for "Hei du" - which corresponds to "Hey you" in English.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top