Use of thee, thou and thy (Quaker speech/Yorkshire dialect)

Discussion in 'English Only' started by AmoL'italiano, Apr 10, 2006.

  1. AmoL'italiano

    AmoL'italiano Senior Member

    Also, "thy" is the formal form of "your" and "thine" is the formal one.

    Oh! Thine eyes are beauteous!

    Ah... thy kingdom is grand indeed.
  2. lsp

    lsp Senior Member

    US, English
    I think you should have specified how very limited these forms are, i.e., used seldom other than in the Bible, for example. (Also, did you notice that this thread is 15 months old?)
  3. AmoL'italiano

    AmoL'italiano Senior Member

    Sry, I answered it because I searched for "thou" in the Wordreference dictionary and I saw this thread. I thought there was an Italian archaiac/poetic form for it. Mi scusi.
  4. disegno

    disegno Senior Member

    San Francisco
    United States English
    Not so very limited. Very much alive and kicking in Quaker circles. My parents have used thee and thou and thy all their lives.

    "You" was the formal way of addressing the King, back in the days in England, but the Quakers who believed in addressing everyone equally, continued using "thee and thou". But, as time went by "you" was adopted into everyday speech and it was the "thee and thous" that started to sound formal and foreign. As such, ironically and in keeping with Quaker tradition, my parents didn't teach us to use thee and thou because it would have made us stick out...
  5. DiFossa Senior Member

    United States of America English|Italian Dialect
    In some circles, the third person formal you has been replaced with the pronoun "one." You can write a letter to the Director of Human Relations. One may write a letter...

    It is rather interesting. As someone previously noted, you also changed in Spanish.... many latinos now simply use ustedes...

    I ask you...Do we really need a distinction between you informal, you formal, you plural?
  6. petereid

    petereid Senior Member

    selby yorkshire
    These antique personal pronouns still exist in prayers but also in quite modern (20thcentury) song lyrics and in poetry. Most of the population would use the impersonal You In the form of "You can see London from here"

    The continued usage in the USA of "thee thou ye" etc is the result of the language of the colonists becoming isolated from the language of Britain which has simplified more. I expect that some of the usage in the US is to retain the identities of various populations like the Amish people.
  7. lsp

    lsp Senior Member

    US, English
    Yes, and I'd still call that very limited! :D Especially in a language forum. Wouldn't want to hear someone say thou while buying a train ticket in Grand Central Terminal, for example, followed by, "but I read it in a language forum online!"
  8. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi modus borealis

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    I hadn't realized that there were holdouts! The last Friends I heard using these pronouns died in the seventies, so this is really interesting.

    Yorkshire and the surrounding areas still have many residents who use a variant on "thee", which is "tha". You hear "tha knows", "Does tha want...?", etc.
  9. petereid

    petereid Senior Member

    selby yorkshire
    Eh lad! Th're right.
    I'd forgotten about my adoptive county.
    Yes, "Mind'st thee" and "wi'thee"
    "si'thee" are still heard here in the vale of York, and not only amongst the older population.
    It's even more prevalent in the Dales.
  10. Panpan

    Panpan Senior Member

    Sawbridgeworth, UK
    England, English
    Hope you don't mind me correcting your tyke dialect :D

    (Tha's = Thou is = You are)

  11. disegno

    disegno Senior Member

    San Francisco
    United States English
    Yes that is true. My parents use these terms only amongst themselves and to relatives and not to the general public. If they had, that would have made them stand out, and quite the opposite, as I mentioned earlier, as to why Friends they use the terms in the first place. My father, for instance, who was a college professor, would never have used them with his students.
  12. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi modus borealis

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    That makes sense. I do ocasionally use these pronouns (for those not in the loop, this is known to Quakers as plain speech) with my children, but more in the sense of a linguistic re-enactment, if there is such a phrase. It certainly isn't part of our normal conversation, however, the way it seems to be with your parents.

    In fact, all we've really retained of plain speech is the use of "First Day" instead of Sunday, at least in Canadian circles.
  13. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English
    In former times thou was the singular second-person subject form, and thee was the singluar object form. The possessive was thine.

    Ye was the plural second-person subject form, you was the plural second-person object form. This distinction is observed in the King James translation of the Bible.

    Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you.
    We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced.

    Later ye/you was used as the respectful form (cf. tu/vous in French)
    In Shakespeare's Twelfth Night the usage of thee and you is important in understanding the relationship between Malvolio and Olivia.

    The distinction between you and ye was lost - Shakespeare does not observe it. Eventually, you was used for everybody.

    Quakers used thee both as subject and object.

    The possessive forms were thine and thy, similar to mine and my.
    Thine was generally used before vowels.
  14. COLsass

    COLsass Senior Member

    Wasn't it thou art?
  15. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English
    You're confusing current northern dialects of English with former versions of Standard English.
  16. Panpan

    Panpan Senior Member

    Sawbridgeworth, UK
    England, English
    Your right, we don't really have dialects in England, just heavily accented local vernacular. The only 'real' dialect of English that I know of is the 'Pidgin' spoken in parts of Malaysia and Indonesia, consisting of mainly English words, and corruptions and adaptions of English words, cast in Chinese sentance order.

  17. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    "Friend, John Brown, thee must n't take it unkindly, but thee must n't eat any more now. Thou can'st have some more in the day-time if thou like; but thou wilt make thyself ill, if thou take more now."

    This is an utterance by a Quaker, made in the 19th century in the US.
    I read a few books from this period, mainly British literature, and I don’t remember coming across such forms. Though I don’t rule them out in other English speakers I think they may have been particular to the Quakers.

    I have read a few threads on thou but didn't really find the answer. I also read on Wikipedia that thou petered out of use in the seventeenth century but it prevailed in some English and Scottish dialects as well as in Quakers.

    What I would like to know is:
    Is there any reason for which Quakers spoke like that?

    My conjecture is that it may have to do with their attitude towards egalitarianism. Since they treated all people as equals, e.g.: no hats off nor bowing to anyone, no using honorific terms (Sir, Madam, etc.), and since thou used to be the standard form for the second person plural this might be the reason for their having preserved it whereas you was at that time used for the second person singular as a formal counterpart of thou. Does that hold water?

    My second question is: do the Quakers, or any other groups, still use these forms (thou and its derivatives and appropriated verb endings.)?

    Input appreciated. :)

  18. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English
    thou was the second person singular subject form.
    thee was the second person singular object form.

    And I say unto thee, that thou art Peter [Matthew 16:18]

    ye was the second person plural subject form.
    you was the second person plural object form.

    Blessed are ye when men shall hate you. [Luke, 6:22]

    These niceties were observed in the 1611 King James translation of the Bible.
    However, the KJV was old-fashioned when it was published.

    Most of what you want to know can be found in the Wiki entry on thou
  19. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    There is an old post (1996!) discussing this subject in depth here. It seems to confirm that the Quakers used the singular for egalitarian reasons and that they considered "you" used as singular to be "vain". It also notes that the use of thee and thou was often inconsistent (e.g. using thee in the nominative case).

    It also discusses and compares the Quaker usage with other surviving uses of the second person singular, for example in the north of England (which, incidentally, I used a boy).
  20. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    The discussion in Matching Mole's link mentions the following book, which takes Quaker practice as a particular example of the power of language and its significance in social interaction. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in this aspect of language:
    Richard Bauman, Let your words be few: symbolism of speaking and silence among seventeenth century Quakers. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983.​
  21. girl from rio de janeiro Banned

    Portuguese (Brazilian)
    America, America, God shed His grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood (America the Beautiful).
    Thou shalt has no other gods before me (Exodus).
    What's the difference between thou and thee? I know that they're both archaic forms, do they both correspond to "you"? Thank you very much in advance.
  22. Elwintee Senior Member

    London England
    England English
    Yes. People are welcome to correct me, but I believe the answer is:

    thou = nominative (subject of the sentence)
    thee = accusative (object of the sentence)
    thy/thine = genitive (indication of possession)

    Thou art {= you are] God.
    I see thee [you].
    Hallowed be thy [your]name. Thine [yours]is the glory.
  23. pismo Senior Member

    English -- USA
    They correspond (as Elwintee explained) to the informal form of "you," which is no longer used in modern English.
  24. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    Thou/thee/thy/thine are the second person singular pronoun in English. They correspond to the Latin/French/Spanish tu, and the German du.
  25. Redshade Banned

    The forms are still actually in use by working class people here in the West Riding although with a Yorkshire accent .

    "Tha can't be serious".
    "I'll see thi tomorrow".
    "Is this thar pint?".
  26. Sprache Senior Member

    United States
    The difference between thou/thee is the same as the difference between he/him or I/me.

    Thou seest him. He sees thee.
  27. Chris1 Member

    Yes: thee/thou/thy is alive and kicking in the West Riding- much more widespread amongst the over 65s though
  28. Am I not right in thinking that the Yorkshire usage is not quite grammatical?

    I think I've heard tha's (thou is), but not th'art (thou art).

    I think the usage is (or was in living memory) common in rural Cumbria too.
  29. Redshade Banned

    Good heavens.
    You used the words "grammatical" and "Yorkshire" in the same sentence for which heinous crime you will be incarcerated in a stuck lift for 24 hours with Geoffrey Boycott, Brian Close, Frederick Trueman and Raymond Illingworth":)

    You are quite right of course. Note that I did not include an example for "thine" ( which one never hears these days) as I wanted to keep things simple.
    We would use a bastard construction,ie we would say "thys" ( with a Yorkshire pronunciation)as in "Is this pint thars".

    And thus does the language evolve.
  30. girl from rio de janeiro Banned

    Portuguese (Brazilian)
    What do "tha" and "thys" mean?
  31. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    "What do "tha" and "thys" mean?"

    Are you sure you want to specialize in old dialects of Yorkshire? You'll have to learn to play cricket, too!
  32. girl from rio de janeiro Banned

    Portuguese (Brazilian)
    Actually I love English, so I wish to know also these old pronouns!
  33. Chris1 Member

    As a native of Yorkshire, I hear 'tha' being used as a dialect form of 'thee' "What's tha doing?' =What's thee doing?/ What are you doing? (in contemporary SE). Ditto 'thi' I see thi= 'I see thee/you'. My grandparents use it a great deal- they might say 'Thys been had' as 'You've been had'

    They would also only use it wth family and friends, so it has kept its use as the informal address.

    Without a Northern accent, this usage all sounds distinctly biblical. 'Thou shalt not steal/kill etc...'

  34. Broca

    Broca Senior Member

    Pisa, Italia
    Hi, just a question! When you use words like "thou, thee..." don't you want to underline something? Why would you use such forms?
    Thanks a lot!
  35. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I would only use these forms in jest - never with any serious intention.

    I would of course use them if they appeared in something I was reading or singing - but that isn't me using them, it is the writer of the book or song.
  36. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I never use these forms except, as panj suggested, when reading aloud or singing. Some people use them to refer to the deity when praying aloud, however.
  37. Broca

    Broca Senior Member

    Pisa, Italia
    So they could be used for expressing irony?
  38. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    I would use them with great caution. Many people would imagine that you were imitating Shakespeare since that is the primary source of exposure to "thee" and "thou" for the average person.

    If you use them poorly it might simply sound awkward.
  39. Broca

    Broca Senior Member

    Pisa, Italia
    Thanks, but what do you mean by "if you use them poorly..."?
  40. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    I meant "if you misuse them..."

    For example:

    "Thy art very beautiful, mine lovely!"

    This has two mistakes in it. "Thy" should be "thou" and "mine" is used before words starting in vowels, not consonants.

    You can hear dozens of bad examples in one short visit to a California Renaissance Faire. :)
  41. Broca

    Broca Senior Member

    Pisa, Italia
    Oh, ok! I thought you meant "if you use them rarely..."!
    Anyway, I'm not going to use them! I've just found them in some books and since they do not belong to Modern English, they sounded a little weird to me, that's all!
    Thanks a lot for your help.
  42. girl from rio de janeiro Banned

    Portuguese (Brazilian)
    Why in the sentences "what's tha doing", "what's thee doing" the verb is "is" and not "are" as in "what are you doing"?
    So "thi" is the phonetic transcription for "thee"?
    What's the meaning of "thys"? I don't understand it.
    Is it right to say that "thine" is the plural form of "thy"? And that they respectevely mean "yours" and "your"?
    In this phrase, "is this thar pint?" what's the meaning of "thar"?
    Last question, in phrases like "thou seest him" or "thou knowest me", how to pronounce "seest" and "knowest"? How can you know these old verbs? I can't find them anywhere, do you have any sources?
    I do know that they're a lot of question, but I REALLY appreciate your help. Thank you so much! :D
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2009
  43. Fred_C

    Fred_C Senior Member

    According to what was said previously....
  44. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    I think not. Chris1 was reporting a present day use, in which the old-fashioned pronouns are used with contractions of the current verb form, is.
  45. mplsray Senior Member

    In IPA, that would be /ðiː/. Another pronunciation is /ðɪ/. I presume that the situation is similar to the /ðiː/ and /ðɪ/ pronunciations of the word the.

    I just looked up the word thee in several online dictionaries and the only one which has the additional pronunciation /ðɪ/ is the Oxford English Dictionary. Under the circumstances, I withdraw my speculation about the different uses of the two pronunciations.

    I have not seen that spelling used in this thread, and know of no association with thee, thy, or thine of a word spelled thys.

    Thine is not a plural form of thy, no. Long ago, only thine existed. It was later reduced to thy in front of a consonant other than h, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, so that one would say thine eyes but thy cow. Later, uses such as thine eyes, thine ear were replaced by thy eyes, thy ear.

    Thine is otherwise used as a possessive pronoun, whose modern equivalent is yours.

    Seest and knowest are pronounced like see and know plus -est, pronounced like the end of best or wrist. I know this from having been exposed to these verb forms as a boy when the King James (Authorized) Version of the Bible was the preferred one. There should be some sources on the Internet which discuss the pronunciation, but I could not find any just now.
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2009
  46. girl from rio de janeiro Banned

    Portuguese (Brazilian)
    Here is where I read "thys". I really appreciate your help! Do you know what's the meaning of "thar"?
  47. Redshade Banned

    Hi Girl from Rio.

    Thar is the Yorkshire pronunciation of thy.

    My use of thys would be different to Chris1's (I suspect that he is mis-hearing a thas ).

    Thys (pronounced thars) is a hybrid form and means yours.

    But beware of foreign dialects. My Victorian grandfathers were born just 3 or 4 miles apart but used many different words and pronunciations from each other.

    These things change over time and distance.
  48. Scalloper Senior Member

    UK, English
    "Thys" as quoted is "Thou's", a shortening of "Thou has". It would be more likely pronounced "Tha's" - [ðaz] than however it is that we imagine "thys" pronounced
  49. Whizbang Senior Member

    English - American
    I'm from Texas. "Thar" ain't "here" and it certainly ain't "over yonder."

    I'm enjoying these forums! It's nice to see usage in other dialects.
  50. mplsray Senior Member

    Would thi as shown in your previous example be pronounced /ðiː/ or /ðɪ/? (Thee or thih is how I would represent those sounds when using ordinary letters.)

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