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16/07/2014

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John Cowan

The English T > V shift happened in early modern times, when it was no longer obvious just who your social inferiors were, especially in towns and cities, and it was just safer to use V with everyone. The voseo in certain Latin American countries descends from the same idea, as does Brazilian Portuguese vôce (historically and in Europe = Usted). In France and Russia, V is still strongly associated with equality rather than inequality; it was one of the points of the Russian Revolution that non-officer ranks were to be addressed as V rather than historical T.

Alon Lischinsky

There are sharp differences in T/V preferences within Latin America, which is hardly uniform linguistically speaking. Argentine Spanish and a number of other dialects completely lack the “tú” paradigm, having adopted various adaptations of the second person plural instead. Uruguayan Spanish makes a three-way distinction between intimate “vos”, egalitarian-but-not-intimate “tú” and distant “usted”. Costa Rican Spanish has completely collapsed the distinction, using “usted” in all cases. And those are just the grammaticised differences; sociolinguistically, the situation is vastly more complex.

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