Since moving to Barnesville and joining Stillwater Friends, I have been exposed to plain speech, which involves the use of thou, thee and thy. People will approach me, for example, and ask, "Is thee going to the movies?" At first, I was surprised, but I have come to deeply appreciate being addressed in plain speech as a sign of inclusion.
Last week, I needed to write a letter on behalf of a Quaker committee and thought it time to cross the Rubicon into using plain language. As I wrote, however, I realized I really didn't understand the grammar of thou, thee and thine. Thy is clearly the possessive form, but what of thou and thee? I looked them up on two different websites and each concurred with the other: Thou is the subject form and thee is the object. In other words, Thou gave thee a kiss, and not vice versa, if thou wants to be grammatically correct.
But that doesn't accord with what I hear, as I can't remember plain speaking Friends using "thou." It seems that "thee" is pronoun of choice, for either subject or object: "Will thee be at the meeting?" and "Does thee have the minutes of the last meeting" are what I recall, not "will thou" and "does thou."
To make certain the websites I visited for the conjugation of thee and thou were not wrong, I looked up the marriage vows in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. The vows confirmed the website: the wording is "Wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife ... Wilt thou have this man..."
Here is the perplexity. Contemporary grammar tells us that grammar rules exist, but that grammar, like language, is ever evolving. Eventually, how most people speak-- most people in the dominant class-- becomes the correct grammar. So, if most plain speaking Quakers have dropped "thou" and are using "thee" as both the subject and object form of the second person singular (much as we use "you" for both subject and object in modern speech) then is "thee" correct as a subject form? (This is the equivalent of asserting "Him is going to the meeting" as grammatical--but perhaps that is OK.)
I am assuming too that I am at the center of the plain speaking Quaker universe here in Barnesville. Am I? Or are there other places outside of the Conservative (for my non-Quaker friends, this does not mean politically conservative; it is simply an appellation) Friends that use plain speech, and if so, what forms do they use? Also, is written plain speech different from spoken? In other words, would you--or thou/thee--use the "correct" form in writing but the colloquial in speaking? Further, if part of the purpose of using thee and thou is to preserve an archaic form, does a special charge exist to adhere to the formal usage? If so, should we not be using "Art thou" and "Wilt thou?"
I hope people who are more knowledgeable than I will provide answers.