Spanish: Nos/Nosotros Vos/Vosotros

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Rimnii, Mar 3, 2013.

  1. Rimnii New Member

    English - USA
    I understand that vos is used in Argentina in place of tú. And this makes sense as vosotros in spain = Vos y otros
    A long time ago vos used to be extremely formal, like usted on steroids!

    But why does "nos" not have any meaning as "I"? If "nosotros" would be nos + otros
    Maybe it does but it is hard to find any info on its etymology.
    As far as I am aware "nos" only is the object/reflexive/reciprocal form of nosotros. But it isn't parallel to vosotros/vos so I would love some clarification! thanks! I asked a friend from Argentina and Ecuador and no body knew!
  2. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Nos means us and vos means ye in Latin. In Spanish vos got the same meaning as you in English, i.e. polite form of second person singular, but there arose a problem with distinguishing it from second person plural (which is not a problem in English). That's why Spanish added 'otros' (others) to vos. By parallel 'otros' was also added to nos. By the way, French has the form 'vous autres'.
  3. rbrunner Senior Member

    German - Switzerland
    If vos started as a polite form which lost now its "politeness" in Argentina, for my understanding this is already the explanation: There is no need for a polite form nos for the first person singular, so it did not exist then and does not exist now.

    Of course you could ask: Why, after establishing vos as the second person singular, people did not start to feel an urge to use nos to re-establish symmetry, to keep consistency, or however you would call this urge? Well, I can just guess that this was either a step too far, or people simply did not care about symmetry in this way.

    Edit: I just realised that my argumentation begs the question why people did seem to care about symmetry when they turned nos into nosotros to keep it in line with the new vosotros​ ...
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2013
  4. Serafín33

    Serafín33 Senior Member

    I just wanted to point out that the use of singular vos, called "voseo", isn't limited to Argentina, but in fact it's spread all over many places in Latin America. Wikipedia has a good map on its geographical distribution:

    What's special about Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay is that vos is a completely standard 2nd person singular pronoun coexisting only with usted, while in other countries where there is voseo, it coexists with , generally in more informal contexts than it.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2013
  5. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    I think it's just the thing: the "otr@s" marks the opposition to another group, i't even venture to say not only to mark opposition, but to establish borders between different groups of people. Definition may strengthen the feeling of belonging together in the positive way, i. e. by telling what you are. It may also strengther the feeling of belonging together, etymologicaly ("finis" - "border", "frontier"), by what you are not.
    You have this feature in grammaticalized form in bot Spanish & Catalan (I think Catalan in earlier stages of development may even have had the differentiation between masculine & feminine plural forms), and. in colloquial speech, both in French (nous autres, vous autres) and the Romance idioms of Italy (i. e. not only Italian, but also the "dialects").
    Strangely enough, as for all I know, this feature of "otherness" didn't catch on in Portuguese.
  6. Giorgio Spizzi Senior Member

    "...but there arose a problem with distinguishing it from second person plural (which is not a problem in English)."

    Well, Ben, yes and no...
    Very often the need is felt for a "real" second person plural in order to avoid ambiguity. And imagination has done its job: yous, you all, y'all, etc.

  7. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    Is the claim about its near non-existence in Spain correct? I had been taught that it was quite common in Spain but not in Mexico.
  8. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    Castilian Spanish has:

    tú & vosotros, vosotras (2nd person, both informal, singular & plural)
    él, ella, ello & ella, ellos (3rd person)
    usted & ustedes (formal form address, singular & plural).

    Never heard of voseo in Spain.
  9. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Vos was used historically in Spain as a respectful address form to a single person:

    From Wikipedia: Hay que remontar el inicio del voseo español al siglo IV. En ese entonces, el empleo de vos en lugar de tú tiene un valor social de sumo respeto. Se ciñe su uso al trato con el emperador. La expansión del uso de vos se habría vuelto más compleja y extensa durante los siglos VI y VII, según lo prueban distintos documentos que marcan la extensión de vos para una sola persona. En esta evolución del voseo, Páez Urdaneta cree ver dos variantes sociolingüísticas que quiebran la estratificación original de [+ poder] o [+ autoridad]. Son estas variables la pragmaticidad y el sentimentalismo.
    En España, el empleo de vos fue modificándose a lo largo de los siglos. Fue pasando de ser un eje vertical asimétrico de [+ autoridad] o [+ poder], en que vos se empleaba desde el estatus social inferior hacia el superior, a la dirección contraria: de superior a inferior, es decir, para aquellos colocutores que tienen [- autoridad] o [- poder] y, asimismo, del polo de la distancia al de la cercanía. Posteriormente el voseo también se empleó de manera recíproca en personas de igual estatus. Así, tenemos que en los ss. XI-XII el voseo se emplea por rango social, pragmaticidad y virtud caballeresca, mientras el tuteo se reservaba al ámbito familiar. En los ss. XIII-XIV avanza la Reconquista y se consolidan los grupos sociales (nobleza, clero y pueblo llano, compuesto de labradores, artesanos y mercaderes), de modo que el vos cobró fuerza extragrupal, empleándose también de superior a inferior. Sigue existiendo el vos pragmático (cuando se espera un favor o beneficio del colocutor), pero pierde vigencia la virtud caballeresca. A finales del siglo XV, el fin de la Reconquista modifica nuevamente las fórmulas de tratamiento. El vos se utiliza también para quienes tienen igual rango, lo que lleva a un desgaste que hace necesario la introducción de una nueva fórmula, vuestra merced con el verbo en tercera persona.
  10. aefrizzo

    aefrizzo Senior Member

    Palermo, Italia
    El vos se utiliza también para quienes tienen igual rango, lo que lleva a un desgaste que hace necesario la introducción de una nueva fórmula, vuestra merced con el verbo en tercera persona (BenJamin, post #9).

    Vossi'a, supposedly contraction of Vostra Signori'a = Your Lordship
    So my parents, strictly sicilian-speakers, used to address their parents. The following verb was conjugated in 3rd person.
  11. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    Vos(otros) was discussed in this thread. It should give you the information you're looking for.

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