Swedish: "I" instead of "ni"

eeladvised

Member
Slovene - Slovenia
Hello all,

What, if anything, is the author trying to achieve when he suddenly switches from "ni" to "I" in the following paragraph?

Men Kamba Bombo skrattade och sade: "Du tror att du kan skrämma mig; jag gör min plikt, jag har just angående er redan fått mina order från Dalai Lama och vet bäst själf hvad jag har att göra. Till Lassa få ni icke resa, icke en dag till åt detta håll, nej icke ett steg, det skulle kosta edra hufvuden," och därvid förde han handen, flat som en klinga, utmed halsen. Och han tillfogade, att om han släppte oss igenom, skulle också han själf mista lifvet. "Det gör detsamma hvilka ni äro och hvarifrån ni kommit, men i högsta grad misstänkta ären I; ni ha kommit hit på en bakväg och ni skola återvända till ert hufvudläger." (Sven Hedin, Asien: tusen mil på okända vägar (1903), vol. 2, p. 416.)

(Context: Kamba Bombo is a Tibetan official and he is talking to Hedin and his two companions. In the first part of the quote we see him addressing one of Hedin's companions as "du", later he addresses all three of them as "ni", but one time he suddenly switches to "I". He doesn't use "I" otherwise, I don't think I've seen it anywhere else in this book so far.)

Could this "I" have been intended as the respectful form of the singular you as opposed to the plural you? I tried to check this by looking at the German translation, where such a difference would mean a change from "ihr" to "Sie", but that translation uses "ihr" all the time: "Es ist ganz einerlei, wer ihr seid und woher ihr kommt, aber ihr seid im höchsten Grade verdächtig;" - Im Herzen von Asien (1903), vol. 2, p. 329.

Or perhaps the sudden switch to "I" doesn't mean anything at all. When he re-told this story in a shorter book a year later, Hedin kept this passage almost unchanged but got rid of the "I": "Det gör detsamma hvilka ni äro, misstänkta äro ni alltid, ni ha kommit på en bakväg och måste vända om till ert hufvudläger." - Tibetanska äfventyr (1904), p. 300.
 
  • AutumnOwl

    Senior Member
    Swedish, Finnish
    The "I" is the original word in Swedish for 2 person plural, later on it became "ni" when the letter "n" at the end of the verb was moved to the pronoun "I". One reason for that move was that in spoken language phrases sounded like one word, such as "äreni", "vareni", "skoleni". When the rules for Swedish spelling was set, the "I" became "ni".

    The "ären I" in the text are in reverse word order, the use of "ni" in the other places in the text are in V2 word order. That's why the author has used the older version "ären I" instead of "äro ni".

    See: Ordet "ni" - ett fel som blev rätt - Sveriges kvalitetssajt för nyheter
     
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