LINGUIST List 4.724

Mon 20 Sep 1993

Disc: Y'all

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. laurel, Re: 4.701 Y'all
  2. , -0400 (EDT)
  3. Natalie Maynor, Re: 4.720 Y'all
  4. John Nerbonne, Re: 4.718 Y'all

Message 1: Re: 4.701 Y'all

Date: Sun, 19 Sep 93 16:34:52 ESRe: 4.701 Y'all
From: laurel <LAFORTEUCONNVM.bitnet>
Subject: Re: 4.701 Y'all

just a quick note on "ya'll" from another native speaker...

in my case, "ya'll" does not co-exist with plural you. i never use "you"
by itself to refer to a group. interestingly, i do use "you'd", "you'll",
etc... (in formal writing i think i do use a plural you, but i'm not
speaking my dialect then, when writing informally i use "ya'll")

i can't remember whether i have a problem when others use plural you, but
i imagine i'm used to it by now (living in CT).

laurel laporte-grimes
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Message 2: -0400 (EDT)

Date: Sun, 19 Sep 1993 15:20:27 -0400 (EDT)
From: <>
Subject: -0400 (EDT)

I have near-native intuitions about y'all, having moved away from Maryland
at the age of 13, and I agree with the postings suggesting that the apprent
singular uses (oops, that was 'apparent') of "y'all" have to do with the
inclusion of the addressee's in-group. I was wondering if anyone else out
there shares my dialect with respect to "who-all", "where-all", and
"what-all", which seem to be plural wh-words. In my dialect, I can say
_both_ (1) and (2)

(1) Who-all is coming to your party?
(2) Who-all are coming to your party?

(yes, I know iin some dialects it would have to be "go" rather than "come")

(1) permits a plural response, by the way, but there might be a slight
presupposition difference between (1) and (2), with the speajker of (1)
not making any assumptions and the speaker of (2) assuming that more than
one person was going to the party.

Susan Fischer
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Message 3: Re: 4.720 Y'all

Date: Sun, 19 Sep 1993 09:25:52 Re: 4.720 Y'all
From: Natalie Maynor <maynorRa.MsState.Edu>
Subject: Re: 4.720 Y'all

Dennis Baron said:

> But seriously, folks, there seems to me to be enough disagreement, and
> enough anecdotal evidence that sometimes a 2nd person plural does indeed
> look like it's being used as a singular, for somebody to start gathering
> data (a term which I will continue to construe as singular because it is
> no longer Latin). Doesn't the existence of all y'all and y'all-uns

And Andy Rogers said:

> I am amazed if it is true that no one has actually systematically studied the
> y'all phenomenon so that we have to rely on unsystematic speculation. Surely
> some descriptive linguist or dialetologist must have investigated the
> question. If not, perhaps one of you will do the job.

Guy Bailey has found intances of singular y'all among native y'all
users in Oklahoma, as well as finding people there who say that they
often use it. As a native Alabamian, he found that surprising. I,
as a native Mississippian, also find it surprising. Although I've
never done a systematic study of pronouns, I can say with a good bit
of confidence that in the hundreds of hours of taped speech I've worked
with from Mississippi and Texas, I've never heard an instance of
singular y'all. The reason I'm pretty confident about that is that
I would almost certainly have noticed such an anomaly since the only
singular y'alls I've ever heard "in real life" have been from non-
native y'all-users.
 --Natalie (
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Message 4: Re: 4.718 Y'all

Date: Mon, 20 Sep 1993 10:06:19 Re: 4.718 Y'all
From: John Nerbonne <>
Subject: Re: 4.718 Y'all

There ought to be ways of sharpening the "intuition" that Y'ALL can
(or cannot) have singular reference. What about the following:

 Y'all behave yourself!

 Y'all are only one person in a large organization.
 (and similar semantic contexts)

 Y'all will need your wife to cosign.
 Y'all were craning your neck to see, weren't you/y'all?
 This only works assuming: * The men needed their wife to cosign.
 * The kids craned their neck to see.
 (This is Venusian to me, but I've heard that some stuff like this
 is used, and I don't know the parameters of variation.)

And there must be other tests. Syntacticians?

If there aren't other tests, why not? Shouldn't we as a field be
carefully developing standard data analysis methods? To avert
misunderstanding, let me add that I understand the fallibility of such
"litmus tests" (to use Arnold Zwicky's term) and the need to apply
them intelligently. But the tests are still useful.

--John Nerbonne
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