Nos, vos in Spanish

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by francisgranada, Apr 5, 2014.

  1. francisgranada Senior Member


    1. When and why did the Spanish substitute the personal pronouns nos and vos by nosotros and vosotros (in the nominative case)?

    My question is not about the existence or meaning of nosotros/vostros, they are understandable and corresponding forms do exist in other Romance languages as well. But why nos/vos do not exist any more in nominative plural, let's say "parallelly", as e.g. in French or Italian.

    An observation for curisosity: the personal pronouns generally tend to be relatively short, but nosotros and vosotros are from the "practical" point of view "inexpectedly" long ...

    2. When and why did vos became os (in dative/accusative)?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. CapnPrep Senior Member

    As subject pronouns, they are used primarily for emphasis, so it is not that surprising that speakers preferred forms with more phonetic substance.
    See the following thread:
    español vos > os
  3. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    Vos had both a singular and plural identity in Old Spanish and as the middle ages went on it gradually increased in use as a singular pronoun (nobility > high ranking > seniority > respect > generalization among social classes). When people said vos alone it was no longer clear enough who was being addressed. Over time the -otros/as option became more regularly used in the plural and finally became mandatory. Vos and Vosotros/as then began to dissassociate themselves from one another.
    Nos changed to nosotros/as slowly in analogy, as the two (nosotros/vosotros) usually go together in speech.
    In the sixteenth century vuestra(s) merced(es) [usted(es)] started to replace vos as a new formal variant. Vos declined in use and mixed with forms in some areas and finally ended up disappearing in Spain by the eighteenth century. Since the vosotros/as and nosotros/as were already well established by that time they didn't lose their increments -otros/as even though they were no longer needed.

    Edit: Considering the length of nosotr@s/vosotr@s, nowadays you frequently find reductions sometimes in popular speech /nootro(s)/, /bootro(s)/, so I guess you're right that people want subject pronouns to be short.
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2014

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