In Russian, there are two forms of the formal 2nd person singular pronoun: lowercase вы (vy) and uppercase Вы (Vy). If I understand correctly, the latter is used in situations where the speaker and the addressee ("you") have more strictly defined roles (for example, in formal business negotiations).

Are there other languages besides Russian that have "pairs" of pronouns distinguished only by capitalization?

Thanks for any info


Yes, in German "sie" means "they", but "Sie" means "you" (polite, singular or plural). Thus also "ihr" ("their") and "Ihr" ("your", polite) and "ihnen" ("to them") and "Ihnen" ("to you", polite).

Similarly in Italian "lei" means "she", but "Lei" means "you" (polite).

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    Is there any pronunciation difference for those pronouns? – curiousdannii Feb 2 '15 at 3:18
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    No, there is no difference in pronunciation. – fdb Feb 2 '15 at 9:23
  • This is not really correct for Italian: lei can mean both she and you (polite), while Lei is just a very formal (and nowadays almost out of use) way to indicate you are in the second case. – Denis Nardin Jan 6 '19 at 10:46

I just remembered that English sometimes uses capitalized pronouns to address or refer to God (Thou, He, etc.).

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    That's not a real feature of the language, just something dumb publishers do. – curiousdannii Feb 2 '15 at 3:18
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    @curiousdannii. If "dumb publishers" means virtually every English book printed before (say) 2000. But I agree: capitalisation is not really a linguistic feature. – fdb Jan 2 '19 at 19:01

It seems that, under the common influence of French, and maybe the capitalisation from German, Russian follows the same paradigm as most if not all the Slavic languages, like Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbo-Croatian, and Scandinavian languages, including Finnish, although they are shifting towards using it less anyway.

It is not actually clear if Russian formal вы is always letter-case, certainly for some of the other languages it is technically not the case, not for Serbo-Croatian.

Another answer mentioned German, which is essentially correct, but it is easy to form a misconception about the role of letter-case pronouns in German - that it specifies the formality, like T-V.

Consider that there is also a letter-case Du. https://www.duden.de/sprachwissen/sprachratgeber/Gross-oder-Kleinschreibung-von-duDu-und-ihrIhr explains well when it can be and should be letter-cased: for direct address.

It just happens that the informal sie is inherently never a direct address, as it is 3rd person, and formal Sie always is, as it is, functionally, 2nd person.

Even after the spelling reform, this differs slightly from case for pronouns in Russian, and there is no corresponding Russian Ты.

In Italian, lei, loro, voi and even ella can be used as formal forms, and as formal forms of direct address they can be lowercase or letter-case, and so can tu, but in practice the formal forms are usually letter-case, even as clitics, and the informal usually lower.

It seems Spanish usted and ustedes are usually lowercase regardless of politeness, but their abbreviations Ud and Uds are letter-case.

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