Asked • 07/13/19

Historical Fiction: using you and thou?

Generally speaking, English once used 'you' as the second person plural (equivalent to 'vous' and 'vós') and 'thou' as the second person singular (equivalent to 'tu'). When talking to a person in a higher position, one would use the polite 'you' rather than the informal 'thou'. Nevertheless, as time went by, the polite 'you' (nearly) erased 'thou' from existence and became a simple form of treatment without distinction between formal and informal.I'm attempting to translate a historical novel set in medieval times. The use of the formal/polite 'vous'/'vós' often gives subtle but important cues for the plot, therefore I decided the simplest way of maintaining these cues would be to use 'thou' and 'you'.Technically speaking, 'thou'='tu' and 'you'='vous'/'vós'. However, usage has caused modern speakers (I believe) to see 'thou' as more formal than 'you'.Should I then translate 'vous'/'vós' as 'thou' and 'tu' as 'you'? And would that suffice to transmit to the English readers the aforementioned cues?

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