LINGUIST List 4.731

Tue 21 Sep 1993

Disc: Y'all

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Lynn Guindon, Re: 4.724 Y'all
  2. , y'all
  3. "Dennis Baron", y'all
  4. Mark H Aronoff, you guys

Message 1: Re: 4.724 Y'all

Date: Mon, 20 Sep 93 08:19:55 EDRe: 4.724 Y'all
From: Lynn Guindon <>
Subject: Re: 4.724 Y'all

Advance apologies if I have missed any postings which address this issue:

As regards those who insist that y'all can be used for singular as well as
is it not possible that there are dialectal variations within the group of
native y'all speakers? That is, perhaps in some areas, y'all is coming to be
used for both singular and plural, while in others it is strictly plural?

In my area (Kentucky) y'all seems to be limited to the plural.
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Message 2: y'all

Date: Mon, 20 Sep 93 9:43:08 EDTy'all
From: <>
Subject: y'all

 Can you stand another posting on y'all?

 I am a native speaker of a y'all dialect (from SC). My two cents on
some of these controversies:

 1.) Y'all is only singular for me. I recognize that there are situ-
ations where a non-native of this region might think that y'all is
singular, e.g.:

 Customer: Do y'all sell instant coffee?
 Clerk: No, I'm afraid we don't.

In this case, y'all refers to the store as a corporate entity. Note that
even in non-y'all dialects, the clerk would still answer "we don't" and
not "I don't".

 The existence of "all y'all", "all of y'all" and "y'all all" cited
by Denis Baron no more shows that y'all is singular than the phrases "all of
us" and "us all" show that us is a singular pronoun.

 2.) Susan Fisher is right that use of y'all is also associated with
the use of plural interrogatives. For me, the following are OK:

 Who-all did you invite?
 What-all did they bring?
 Where-all did they go to?

So arguments are okay with -all. But adjuncts aren't:

 *?Why-all did they leave?
 *?How-all did they do it?
 *?When-all did they arrive?

I worked out an ECP account of this at one time, and could probably
reconstruct it if anyone is interested.

Aaron Broadwell | `To anyone who find that grammar is a
Dept. of Anthropology | worthless finicking with trifles, I
Dept. of Linguistics and | would reply that life consists of
 Cognitive Science | little things; the important matter is
Albany, NY 12222 | to see them largely' -- Jesperson, 1925 |
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Message 3: y'all

Date: Mon, 20 Sep 93 09:55:16 CSy'all
From: "Dennis Baron" <>
Subject: y'all

Sorry to be provocative about y'all -- I usu. try to make it clear that I
myself have no intuitions about y'all -- and I don't have any
about youse (which I have noticed is often re-done as youse guys,
which I think I'm safe to conclude is some sort of stylistic/emphatic).
I'm just asking a probing question. And when I get a lot of outraged
"never"s in response I start to wonder whether this suggests a sometimes
hidden in there. (Even if the sometimes is regarded by purists as an

As for technical terms, again I'm sorry if you reject metathesis as
an explanation of nadder>adder. It does seem a stretch. In their
discussion of the word, Pyles and Algeo (4ed, p. 144): "the _n_ of
the indefinite article has attached itself to the following word" --
no technical term here. But on p. 38 Algeo claims, "The metathesis of a
sound and a syllable boundary in the word _another_ leads to the
reinterpretation of original _an other_ as _a nother_, especially in
the expression "a whole nother thing." I always use Pyles and Algeo
when I teach History of English, and use this example because it seems
to work with the students, extending it to newt, adder, nickname,
and Ned.

And finally, as for _all y'all_ being an intensified y'all, emphasizing
plural as well as universality, this idea was suggested to me by
John Algeo--I didn't think it up myself, having never heard the phrase
before he mentioned it in response to my honest question whether y'all
could sometimes be sg.--I wanted to know how it fit with the _you guys_
that seems to be spreading. Evidence from the present discussion (Natalie
Maynor's post about Guy Bailey's work) suggests that there are
southwesterm areas (Oklahoma, for example, and I have heard similar
reports about this from west Texas, N. Mexico, and such) where some
people are singularizing it sometimes. And one other thing John Algeo
told me (he's not on email, btw), is that y'all should properly be
represented in writing as ya'll--at least I think that's what he said.

-- (\ 217-333-2392
 \'\ fax: 217-333-4321
Dennis Baron \'\ ____________
Department of English / '| ()___________)
University of Illinois \ '/ \ ~~~~~~~~~ \
608 South Wright St. \ \ ~~~~~~~~~ \
Urbana, IL 61801 ==). \ __________\
 (__) ()___________)
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Message 4: you guys

Date: Mon, 20 Sep 1993 09:49:11 you guys
From: Mark H Aronoff <>
Subject: you guys

 State University of New York at Stony Brook
 Stony Brook, NY 11794-4376

 Mark H Aronoff
 20-Sep-1993 09:43am EDT
TO: Remote Addressee (

Kudos to D. Baron for a very nice posting. Last night, my nine-year old son
came sleepily through the living room at about ten thirty, said "good night,
you guys" to my wife and me and went back to sleep. My first reaction was one
of offense (has this child no respect, calling his parents "you guys"?) and
then I realized that he was simply using the second person plural, which I
myself use frequently in family conversation.
Mark Aronoff
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