Based on the Corpus of Early English
Correspondence (CEEC) and the Helsinki
Corpus of English Texts (HC), this study describes how the
second-person object form you diffused among the population of
England during the late middle and early modern period (1350–1710).
After the take-off in c. 1480, you replaced the old subject form
ye very rapidly, in about three generations of speakers. This
article shows that this was a change from below in terms of social
awareness, because you was preferred in oral genres and informal
registers in the earliest stages of its use. The study suggests that the
social origin of you was among the middle ranks, and women led the
change in its critical period of diffusion. No specific region has been
found as the origin of this change, but London and the Court adopted it
before the North and East Anglia.
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