Wiktionary claims that the etymology of the accusative first person plural pronoun ci is < L. ecce hic "look at this here".

This is uncommon in the Romance languages, which have largely retained reflexes of L. nos.

Granted that sometimes things happen in language change without an obvious cause, was there any reason in Italian why this pronoun alone did not descend analogically like vi < L. vos did? (I know loro did not either, but it does descend from L. illorum so it's still not a novel form unlike ci.)

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    Thanks :) I've wanted an Italian SE for some time, basically ever since this question. In fact, see my comment: "Hopefully we can get Italian.SE started at some point... – jogloran May 10 '12 at 14:06"
    – jogloran
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 6:02
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    Great question! Don't take Wiktionary as gospel truth, though. Actual dictionaries' opinions differ: Treccani gives as its etymology simply hīce, the late Latin form for hīc, “here”, Zanichelli gives the same (in the form hīcce), while De Mauro concurs with Wiktionary.
    – DaG
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 10:17
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    My unsourced, intuitive guess is that the loss of most final consonants from Latin to Italian led to nos being easily mistaken for non (“not”), and so it would have been substituted in the use with something else. Something similar has certainly happened in other cases: for instance, the loss of the distinction between long and short vowels led to abandon ōs for “mouth” (in favour of bucca > bocca, and still surviving in derived words such as orale, “oral”) because it became too similar to ŏs (> osso), “bone”.
    – DaG
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 10:23
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    Note that the same phenomenon hasn't happened in other Romance languages, despite the same similarity (French: nous/non, Castilian Spanish: nos/no, Romanian: ne/nu). Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 7:39
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    Just as an info, in Sicilian ci is also the dative 3rd person singular pronoun (gli and le in Italian) Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 21:08

2 Answers 2


Nice and controversial question. Quite certainly VI doesn't come from VOS but from the adverb IBI. No doubts that in early Tuscan, the pronome atono VO derives from VOS (Guittone d'Arezzo "...gente che vo vede" people see you) but is soon replaced by vi. The source is the bible of the history of Italian grammar: Gerhard Rohlfs "Grammatica storica della lingua italiana" - Einaudi, Vol 2 pag. 161:

(...) Nella lingua letteraria questa vo venne presto sostituito da vi (ve). Che questa forma provenga dal più antico vo per indebolimento (Parodi, R I8, 619) è poco probabile. Questo vi sarà piuttosto da identificare coll'avverbio di luogo vi ( < ibi). Vi scrivo significava dunque originariamente 'io scrivo costì. Questa forma s'è estesa in tutt'ltalia, cfr. già nell'antico milanese ve digo (Uguccione,96), ve stoverà sofrir (97), antico veneto ve domando (Monad, I46), ve voio dire (377), antico napoletano ve scrivo (553) (...)


It could be that as an adverb of place qui (here) making a parallel to vi as abbreviated from ivi (lat. ibi = there), one was referring to where the person that was talking was, while the other referred to a location other than where the person was. As such they could be a sliding from abverb of place to clitic personal pronoun as us intended as "people here" and them intended as "people there"

  • Is there evidence that the second person plural clitic pronoun vi is < ivi and not derived instead from L. vos?
    – jogloran
    Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 21:51
  • No, I was merely trying to make an hypothesis that could explain it as a sliding from the adverb of place, it would make sense if related to vi as also deriving from the adverb of place. I thought that the answer was clear in my intent, I edited it to make that a bit more clear. The usage of ci and vi as location of the person talking and every other location is from an etymological dictionary instead Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 22:18
  • Below, the evidence. Ciao. Commented Feb 11, 2016 at 7:11

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