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I // is the first-person singular nominative case personal pronoun in Modern English. It is used to refer to one's self and is capitalized, although other pronouns, such as he or she, are not capitalized. In Australian English, British English and Irish English, me can refer to someone's possessions (see archaic and non-standard forms of English personal pronouns).
|Subject||Object||Possessive determiner||Possessive pronoun||Reflexive||Subject||Object||Possessive determiner||Possessive pronoun||Reflexive|
English I originates from Old English (OE) ic. Its predecessor ic had in turn originated from the continuation of Proto-Germanic ik, and ek; ek was attested in the Elder Futhark inscriptions (in some cases notably showing the variant eka; see also ek erilaz). Linguists assume ik to have developed from the unstressed variant of ek. Variants of ic were used in various English dialects up until the 1600s.
The Proto-Germanic root came, in turn, from the Proto Indo-European language (PIE). The reconstructed PIE pronoun is *egō, egóm, with cognates including Sanskrit aham, Hittite uk, Latin ego, Greek ἐγώ egō and Old Slavonic azъ, Alviri-Vidari (an Iranian language) اَز (az)
The oblique forms are formed from a stem *me- (English me), the plural from *wei- (English we), the oblique plural from *ns- (English us).
There is no known record of a definitive explanation from around the early period of this capitalisation practice.
It is likely that the capitalization was prompted and spread as a result of one or more of the following:
- changes specifically in the pronunciation of letters (introduction of long vowel sounds in Middle English, etc.)
- other linguistic considerations (demarcation of a single-letter word, setting apart a pronoun which is significantly different from others in English, etc.)
- problems with legibility of the minuscule "i"
- sociolinguistic factors (establishment of English as the official language, solidification of English identity, etc.)
Other considerations include:
Capitalization was already employed with pronouns in other languages at that time. It was used to denote respect of the addresser or position of the addressed.
There is also the possibility that the first instances of capitalisation may have been happenstance. Either through chance or a sense of correctness, in the practice or the delivery, the capitalisation may have spread.
There are failings of many of these explanations based on other words, but there is the possibility that the factors or factor that prompted and/or spread this change may not have been applied to all similar words or instances.
|1st||Singular||iċ||[ɪtʃ]||mec / mē||mē||mīn|
|Plural||wē||[weː]||ūsic||ūs||ūser / ūre|
|2nd||Singular||þū||[θuː]||þec / þē||þē||þīn|
|First||ik / ich / I||me||my(n)||we||us||oure|
|Second||þou / thou||þee / thee||þy(n) / thy(n)||ȝe / ye||ȝow / you||ȝower / your|
|Third||Impersonal||hit||hit / him||his||he
þei / they
þem / them
þeir / their
|Feminine||ȝho / scho / sche||hire||hire|
|1st person||singular||I||me||my/mine[# 1]||mine|
|2nd person||singular informal||thou||thee||thy/thine[# 1]||thine|
|plural or formal singular||ye, you||you||your||yours|
|3rd person||singular||he/she/it||him/her/it||his/her/his (it)[# 2]||his/hers/his[# 2]|
- The possessive forms were used as genitives before words beginning with a vowel sound and letter h (e.g. thine eyes, mine heire). Otherwise, "my" and "thy" are attributive (my/thy goods) and "mine" and "thine" are predicative (they are mine/thine).
- From the early Early Modern English period up until the 17th century, his was the possessive of the third person neuter it as well as of the third person masculine he. Genitive "it" appears once in the 1611 King James Bible (Leviticus 25:5) as groweth of it owne accord.
"Etymology of I". etymonline.com. Douglas Harper, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2010.
"Etymology of Me". etymonline.com. Douglas Harper, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2010.
Halleck, Elaine (editor). "Sum: Pronoun "I" again". LINGUIST List 9.253., n.p., Web. 20 Feb. 1998.
Jacobsen, Martin (editor). "Sum: Pronoun 'I'". LINGUIST List 9.253., n.p., Web. 20 Feb. 1998.
Mahoney, Nicole. "> Language Change". nsf.gov. n.p. 12 July 2008. Web. 21 Dec. 2010
Wells, Edward. "Further Elucidation on the Capitalization of 'I' in English". (a paper in progress). Lingforum.com. n.p., Web. 25 Dec. 2010
- Howe, Stephen (1996). The personal pronouns in the Germanic languages: a study of personal pronoun morphology and change in the Germanic languages from the first records to the present day. Studia linguistica Germanica 43. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-014636-3.
- Gaynesford, M. de (2006), I: The Meaning of the First Person Term, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-928782-1.
- Wales, Katie (1996). Personal pronouns in present-day English. Studies in English language. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-47102-8.
|Look up I, me, mine, or my in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Video: Saul Kripke, The First Person, January 2006 — an analytic philosophical perspective. 70 minutes, hosted by Google video. [Kripke is sick with bronchitis and doesn't always speak into the microphone.]