General Question

gondwanalon's avatar

In English language rules, why do we capitalize “I” but not capitalize “me” and “my”?

Asked by gondwanalon (21654points) 1 week ago
9 responses
“Great Question” (3points)

I wonder if there is some grammatical rule that addresses this.
Seems inconsistent to me. Of course the English language is very inconsistent.

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Answers

Demosthenes's avatar

From what I know, “I” is capitalized because it is a single letter and none of the other pronouns are. It’s capitalized more for its form than for its meaning. For a while it was common not to capitalize it, but capitalization became the standard after a point, likely because it was easier to read that way and more obvious that the pronoun was meant and it was not simply a disembodied letter (personal pronouns have a degree of emphasis greater than function words like “a”). But cf. “O”, the vocative particle, which is usually capitalized.

LadyMarissa's avatar

If I’m remembering properly from my younger days, “I” was classified as a proper pronoun & thereby capitalized.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

I don’t know, but having capital “I” look like exactly lower-case “l” is an egregious error. Why would that persist?

JLoon's avatar

According to Thesaurus.com :

As capitalization rules evolved after the invention of the printing press in the 1700s, the letter I retained its capitalization, but none of the personal pronouns received the same special treatment. The letter I continues to be capitalized because it is the only single-letter pronoun. Because the pronouns I and me have different uses, it’s easy to distinguish between the two in terms of capitalization rules.”

So I am always capitalized.

But not you lower-case peasants.

Just one small problem though. The printing press was invented in 1436… I, eye, aye o_0

Lightlyseared's avatar

Probably because the type piece for a capital I is bigger than for a little i and so more robust and easier to type set.

JLeslie's avatar

I always thought it was the proper noun explanation, but also in any language we just accept whatever is the rule whether it makes much sense or not.

In English we capitalize the days of the week, in Spanish we don’t. The English makes more sense to me in that instance. In Spanish the equivalent of “I” is “yo” and that is not capitalized in Spanish.

mazingerz88's avatar

me don’t know…

Forever_Free's avatar

Blame it on the Brits:
England is where the capital “I” first reared its dotless head. In Old and Middle English, when “I” was still “ic,” “ich” or some variation thereof before phonetic changes in the spoken language led to a stripped-down written form the first-person pronoun was not majuscule in most cases. The generally accepted linguistic explanation for the capital “I” is that it could not stand alone, uncapitalized, as a single letter, which allows for the possibility that early manuscripts and typography played a major role in shaping the national character of English-speaking countries.
Graphically, single letters are a problem in typeset. They look like they broke off from a word or got lost or had some other accident. When “I” shrunk to a single letter, one little letter had to represent an important word, but it was too wimpy, graphically speaking, to carry the semantic burden, so the scribes made it bigger, which means taller, which means equivalent to a capital.
The growing “I” became prevalent in the 13th and 14th centuries, with a Geoffrey Chaucer manuscript of “The Canterbury Tales” among the first evidence of this grammatical shift. Initially, distinctions were made between graphic marks denoting an “I” at the beginning of a sentence versus a midphrase first-person pronoun. Yet these variations eventually fell by the wayside, leaving us with our all-purpose capital “I,” a potent change apparently made for simplicity’s sake.

gondwanalon's avatar

Great answers and history lessons. Bravo! Thanks a lot!

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