LINGUIST List 4.785

Sat 02 Oct 1993

Disc: Y'all, Youse, Yo

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Geoffrey Williams, Youse
  2. Michael Picone, y'all & vous aut'
  3. Brian Taylor, Re: FWD>4.772 Qs- Yall, Tran
  4. Anne T Gilman, YO, you guys

Message 1: Youse

Date: Tue, 28 Sep 93 15:08:59 BSYouse
From: Geoffrey Williams <>
Subject: Youse

Yet another remark about youse, yz etc. In response to the query a couple of
weeks ago (Sue Blackwell I think) about Liverpool youse being 'often plural',
as a native Liverpudlian I can't think of ever hearing it used in a singular
sense. This might be another instance of the kind of Y'all usage when an
implied group is being addressed.
One interesting feature of youse/yz that I think differs from Y'all usage is
the existence of 'one of youse/yz', which makes the parallel with other
pronouns very strong. (Wasn't that the original question here? I forget).

Geoff Williams, SOAS, London
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Message 2: y'all & vous aut'

Date: Wed, 29 Sep 93 10:11:54 CDy'all & vous aut'
From: Michael Picone <MPICONEUA1VM.UA.EDU>
Subject: y'all & vous aut'

Marc Picard posted:

>A few years ago, the Louisiana Tourist Board (or some such organism) had
>ads in the Montreal metro (inter alia) that read: VIENS NOUS VOIR, Y'ALL!
>If Y'ALL were strictly plural or polite, that would have had to be: VENEZ NOUS
>VOIR, Y'ALL! My impression is that Benji Wald is right when he says:
> >It does have some kind of affect which distinguishes it from the
> >more neutral "you" but it is not necessarily politeness.
>It seems to have some kind of connotation of affection or endearment. ...

To which Sherri Condon replied:

>I'd like to add a word of caution about the example from Louisiana that
>someone had seen in tourism advertising in Canada. I'm sorry I deleted
>the posting, but it was something like "viens nous voir, y'all" where the
>2nd person singular inflection on "viens" motivates a singular analysis
>of "y'all". I won't argue with the possibility that someone might SAY
>something like that (though my bilingual students were horrified: "well,
>we don't say that in Ville Platte!") but we have to be very careful about
>drawing conclusions based on what people WRITE. For most Cajun French
>speakers, there is no written form of the language, so you can't be sure
>what you are getting. ...

I would like to expand on all of this by adding the following.

Cajun French has a form in some respects similar to _y'all_: _vous autres_,
which is pronounced as if it were written _vous aut'_ (indeed, in the
emerging Cajun French litterature it is sometimes seen that way). For Cajun
bilinguals, both forms are used for plural reference. Plural _vous_, however,
also still exists for many speakers. Paradigm leveling has caused the
conjugated verb forms for both _vous_ and _vous autres_ to match the
pronunciation of that of the other persons (je, tu, il/elle, on, ca). Only
 _ils_, which alternates with _ca_ |sa| as the 3rd per. pl., has a
phonologically distinguishable conjugation. There is an interesting
exception to this, however, that is pertinent to the contested example. In
the imperative, the 2nd per. pl. may retain the original inflection. Thus
 _Vous viens_ but _Venez nous voir_. This would seem to add weight to Marc
Picard's argument (j'apporte de l'eau a votre moulin, Marc, on dirait!).
Nevertheless, I reject the argument on other grounds.

First of all, there is no clear evidence that a Cajun French speaker was
actually even the one to invent this slogan. But even assuming that it was,
it obviously caters to the same stereotyped depiction of _y'all_ that prevails
generally in popluar non-Southern culture. Using the 2nd per. sg. imperative,
it being a more intimate invitation, is much preferable in advertising to the
2nd per. pl. But to add that `Southern touch', there is no better formula
than to throw in a _y'all_. Since it reinforces preexistent stereotypes, the
intended audience won't know that it is being inappropriately used in this

Actually, Marc Picard is then correct in reading into that particular slogan
an attempt at endearment, but this is an artifice of the advertisers and it
cannot be used to construe that _y'all_ for Cajuns is ever anything but
plural, whether endearment is a pragmatic consideration or not. So I concur
with Sherri Condon that this particular example calls for extreme caution.

Mike Picone <>
University of Alabama
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Message 3: Re: FWD>4.772 Qs- Yall, Tran

Date: Thu, 30 Sep 1993 12:31:43 Re: FWD>4.772 Qs- Yall, Tran
From: Brian Taylor <>
Subject: Re: FWD>4.772 Qs- Yall, Tran

 Reply to: RE>FWD>4.772 Qs: Yall, Transparenc
In my non-standard Australian English, where we use "yous" as an optional
plural form, i.e. once used to signal address to more than one person
one/you/*yous can then use "you" again to your audience, the reference can
only be specific, as the foregoing example indicates.
(I'm not on the Linguist List but received the message via Alison Mackey,
since I am researching pronouns in Australian English at present.)
Brian Taylor, Language Centre, University of Sydney, 2006 Australia
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Message 4: YO, you guys

Date: Fri, 01 Oct 1993 14:18:50 YO, you guys
From: Anne T Gilman <>
Subject: YO, you guys

Regarding "yo":

 Some evidence from an East-Tennessee native (who, for all o'y'all
still interested, is quite comfortable w/a singular y'all):
I am sure that we used to say "yo" even in high school. I sometimes
use it instead of "here" when answering roll call, and... that's
something that dates back to high school. [late sixties - early 70's]

I remember people doing arnold swarzenegger (Sp??) imitations in
87 and 88 saying "yo" alot. And I had college friends who used it.

 Using movies/TV/etc. as evidence of the linguistic patterns
of cultural minorities is fraught with error. For example, the 1970's
saw the creation of "DYN-O-MITE" from "What's Happening?" -- an expression
which from all the studies I've read had no basis in _any_ variant of
Black English, of which there are many.

Benji Wald correctly pointed out that:
> Gilman's separate point about one path through which innovations
> spread from the African American community to the "mainstream"...
> [Af-Am->gay comm->Euro-Am] is only one path out of very
> very many, so complex are the connections between African American and other
> American cultures.

 I am guilty of "gratuitously being playfully wry" here, but the
example is a useful reminder that amid many complex connections and
multidirectional influences we can find _patterns_ of influence. For
instance, Euro-American society is less likely to be the originator
(in the US) of trends in basketball shoes for teenagers. There may be
similar patterns/probabilities for linguistic influences as well.

Regarding "you guys":

 The question of gender-identification in "you guys" is quite
complex: in my peer groups in high school and college (late 1980's),
the self-identified feminists were more likely to consider plural "guys"
genderless; the self-identified traditional-feminine young women would
insist on "gals" or make other objections.
 The expression was popularized in my immed. family by the television
show "Electric Company" -- which aired twenty years ago, give or take a few
 -- which began each segment with a woman summoning the entire cast by

 Anne Gilman
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