英語史における thou と you の使い分け，いわゆる T/V distinction の問題については，「#1126. ヨーロッパの主要言語における T/V distinction の起源」 ([2012-05-27-1]) や「#1127. なぜ thou ではなく you が一般化したか？」 ([2012-05-28-1])，そして t/v_distinction の各記事で取り上げてきた．
2人称複数代名詞の敬称単数としての用法の伝統は，4世紀のローマ皇帝に対する vos の使用に始まり，12世紀の Chrétien de Troyes などによるフランス語を経て，英語へはおそらく13世紀に伝わり，1600年頃には慣用として根付いていた．一方，17世紀中に親称単数の thou は衰退し始め，標準英語では18世紀に廃用となった．Johnson (261) が，上記の歴史的経緯を実に手際よくまとめているので，そのまま引用したい．
IN LATIN THE EMPEROR, representing in his person the power and glory of his predecessors, was addressed with vos in the fourth century A.D. By the fifth century, this pronoun was commonly employed to indicate respect. In French by the time of Chrétien de Troyes, vous was not only given to superiors but was also interchanged by equals. In Latin and French works of twelfth-century England, the plural pronoun had been used as a singular by, for example, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Wace, and Marie de France. The practice of using ye and you (the "you-singular") instead of thou and thee (the "thou-singular") apparently spread to English during the thirteenth century and by about 1600 had become established in polite usage. For some time thereafter, however, the thou-singular continued to appear in emotional or intimate speech and in the discourse of superiors to inferiors and of the members of the lower class to one another. Gradually decreasing in use, it became obsolete in the standard language in the eighteenth century and now appears only in poetry and the address of the deity or among Quakers and those who speak a dialect.
Johnson は，thou の衰退する17世紀に焦点を当て，喜劇の戯曲と大衆フィクションの47作品をコーパスとして，you と thou の分布と頻度を調査した．登場人物を職業別に上流，中流，下流へ分類し，以下のような統計結果を得た (Johnson 265)．
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The historical uses of the you-singular, as in respect or irony, and of the thou-singular, as in emotion or intimacy, to an inferior, or in the exchange of the members of the lower class, are exemplified in the various texts throughout the era. However, further demonstrating the meaninglessness of the distinction between them, you may frequently be found in circumstances where thou might be expected to occur, and, at times, thou where we should expect to find you.
・ Johnson, Anne Carvey. "the Pronoun of Direct Address in Seventeenth-Century English." American Speech 41 (1966): 261--69.
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