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Besides English, is there any other language where the 2nd person singular converges with the second person plural?

And is there any other language where the informal singular 2nd person converges with the formal one?

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  • Pocomchí, a Mayan language, doesn't distinguish 2sg and 2pl. I don't know if this is a common Mayan pattern, but Mayan languages do resemble one another rather closely in grammar. – jlawler Sep 11 '14 at 14:54
  • Are you asking about languages that simply do not distinguish between 2sg and 2pl, or languages that used to distinguish them but no longer do? – Joe Sep 21 '14 at 0:31
  • @Joe: both of them. – sergiol Sep 22 '14 at 8:44
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It happened to Dutch much longer ago than in English. The original Germanic 2nd person singular pronoun is no longer recognised as a Dutch word, unlike "thou" in English which is still recognised as an archaism. The word "du" got replaced by the plural form "gi" (later "gij") in Middle Dutch, as it was polite to use the plural form. This politeness eventually spread, replacing "du" entirely.

"Gij" developed into "jij" in standard Dutch and the old form "gij" is now recognised as an archaism and regarded as the Dutch counterpart of the English "thou". At that time the 2nd person singular and plural were the same, just like the current situation with English "you".

This situation didn't remain stable, however, as people started to say "je lieden" (meaning "you people") for the plural meaning. This developed into the current 2nd person plural, which is "jullie".

The Dutch language also gained a new polite 2nd personal pronoun. People started using "uwe edelheid" ("your nobility") as a formal form of address, which was shortened to "u.e." and subsequently simplified to "u". (Note however that there already was a word "u", which was the oblique case of "gij" and goes all the way back to the time it was still only plural.)

In sum: the Dutch 2nd person singular converged with the 2nd person plural. But then Dutch developed a new plural and a new polite form.

Sources: my personal knowledge and Wikipedia.

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  • I think we are talking about two different things. In English "you" is used to address one person, or more than one. In this sense it is correct to say that the 2nd person sing. "converges" with the 2nd person plural. In Dutch, on the other hand, there are still discrete forms for the singular and the plural. "Jullie" is plural only, I think. – fdb Sep 17 '14 at 19:50
  • Also: are you really suggesting that the spoken pronoun "u" derives from the abbreviation "u."? Are you not confusing spoken language with orthography? – fdb Sep 17 '14 at 19:52
  • I noticed my answer wasn't very clear and wasn't quite complete, so I edited it. So basically what I wanted to say with this answer was that this convergence used to be the case in Middle Dutch. I just wanted to make it clear that it is no longer the case in modern Dutch because of the new forms. – Tai Ferret Sep 18 '14 at 23:36

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