In many languages, politeness is expressed not only in title nouns (sir, master, etc.), but also in second person pronouns. In the best-known system, exemplified by French tu vs. vous, Spanish tu vs. usted, German du vs. Sie, or Russian ty vs. vy, one form is used for addressing children and intimates (family and friends), while the other form is used for polite address of other adults. But politeness forms can be used for other distinctions as well (special forms for royalty, or special forms for impolite address), and various terms have been used for distinctions of this kind (familiar/polite, informal/formal, plain/honorific, etc.). In this chapter, which is modeled on Helmbrecht’s (2005) chapter in WALS, we ask whether a language has a politeness distinction in pronouns, and if so, whether it is a binary politeness distinction or whether more than two types are distinguished. The exact type of politeness is not important, and it is often poorly investigated for our languages. In addition, we single out languages where title nouns (‘sir’, ‘uncle’) or names can be used as second-person forms.
|No pronominal politeness distinction||46|
|Binary pronominal politeness distinction||17|
|Multiple pronominal politeness distinction||3|
|Titles used as second person forms||8|
The majority of the APiCS languages make no politeness distinction in 2nd person pronouns. The English-based pidgins and creoles generally use the counterpart of you regardless of politeness, like Standard English. Similarly, pidgins do not normally make a politeness distinction (though Chinese Pidgin Russian and Singapore Bazaar Malay inherited their politeness distinctions from Russian and Malay, respectively). This is also the pattern of most of the languages based on non-European lexifiers, as pronominal politeness distinctions are not so common outside Eurasia.
In creoles based on French, Portuguese, and Spanish, the tu forms have typically disappeared, and the older vous/vos forms of the 2nd person plural are used for 2nd person singular reference, often regardless of politeness (the latter development is also found in some non-creole varieties). Examples are Guadeloupean Creole (ou < vous), Reunion Creole (ou), Tayo (u), Casamancese Creole (bu < vós), Papiá Kristang (bos), and Palenquero (bo).
Seventeen languages make a binary politeness distinction. In some of the French-based creoles, the French tu/vous distinction has been preserved in some form: Mauritian Creole (to/ou), Louisiana Creole (twa/vou), and Guyanais (to/ou). However, in Guyanais this distinction is disappearing in the younger generation.
In several of the Spanish-based and Portuguese-based languages, the politeness distinction is between a form that goes back to vos/vós and a form based on the polite pronoun usted/você. Examples are Ternate Chabacano (bo/tédi), Korlai (wɔ/use), Cape Verdean Creole of São Vicente (bo/bosê), and the Imbabura variety of Media Lengua (bos/usti; note that the map reflects the variety of Salcedo in Central Ecuador).
English-based languages often have new 2nd person plural forms distinct from the 2nd person singular form that derives from you. In some languages, such an innovated plural pronoun is used for polite 2nd person singular reference:
In Bahamian Creole, there is a politeness distinction as well, but it is of a quite different nature. While in Nengee and Bislama a polite form was innovated (on the basis of the plural form), in Bahamian the innovated 2nd person plural forms yinna and you-all (the latter illustrated in (3)) can not be used for polite address and is restricted to familiar contexts (probably because of their very basilectal nature). The form you can be used both in polite and in familiar contexts (cf. the first word of (3), where you is used in the same way as you-all). Note that Bahamian Creole is the only language where the politeness distinction is only made in the plural.
A new politeness distinction in pronouns has also been created in the Portuguese-based creoles of the Cape Verdean Islands and the adjacent mainland. In these languages, the familiar form is bo or bu (from vós), and the polite form is nhu (masculine) and nha (feminine), deriving from senhor/senhora.
This is also found in Cape Verdean Creole of Brava and in Guinea-Bissau Kriyol, but apparently not in Casamancese Creole and in Cape Verdean Creole of São Vicente. A similar development has happened in the Gulf of Guinea creoles Santome and Principense, where the forms sun and san are used as polite pronouns, but these forms have not lost their nonpronominal uses yet and are therefore treated as titles (see §5 below).
In one Portuguese-based creole, Sri Lanka Portuguese, the 2nd person plural form botus (< vós outros [you.pl others]) is used as a polite pronoun. But this language also uses titles as pronouns, so it is assigned to type 4.
Sango is the only language with a non-European and non-Malay lexifier that has a politeness distinction: The familiar 2nd person singular mo contrasts with the polite form ala, originally the 2nd person plural. This form can also be used for the 3rd person plural, and in polite reference to a 3rd person singular.
Four languages have a ternary politeness distinction. In Cavite Chabacano and Zamboanga Chabacano, the Spanish form tu has survived, and there is a distinction between (e)bo(s) (intimate), tu (neutral, familiar), and usted (formal, polite).
In Korlai, there is a three-way distinction between wɔ (< vós, informal), use (< você, formal), and udzo (originally 2nd person plural, very formal).
Finally, Ambon Malay has a ternary politeness distinction between the neutral form se, the impolite form os(e), and the intimate form al(e). This language uses titles for polite address, and thus is assigned to type 4, but in addition it makes politeness distinctions in pronouns as well.
In some languages, polite 2nd person reference does not happen through pronouns, but through titles which are used as 2nd person forms, as in ‘I admire Her Majesty’. The distinction between pronouns and titles is not always immediately apparent, because titles can become pronouns (as in the well-known example of Spanish usted, which derived from the title Vuestra Merced 'Your Grace'). We define a 2nd person pronoun as a form that cannot be used with 3rd person reference. Thus, the form Sun 'sir, you' in Principense is regarded as a title, even though it is used in a pronoun-like way, as in example (5).
The pronoun-like trait of Sun in (5) is that it recurs three times, instead of being replaced by a 3rd person pronoun in the second and third occurrence. But Sun can also be used as an ordinary noun with the meaning 'sir'.
One might be tempted to regard this recurrence of a title as a sufficient criterion for pronounhood, but there are languages where an open class of items can be used in this way. In Principense, for example, other nouns such as arê ‘king’, as well as proper names (e.g. Pedu 'Peter') can be used in this way. Other examples come from Papiamentu and Afrikaans:
As these examples show, kinship terms and proper names may behave like titles. If a language allows this use of titles, it is included in the fourth type, regardless of the distinctions among pronouns that it makes.