Michael Newman mnewman at QC.EDU
Wed Sep 19 13:42:04 UTC 2001

>That might be the usage I've been hearing. It has that downstress
>which is probably why I think I hear a residual "l" sound from
>y'all. I'll try to listen more carefully.
>Benjamin Barrett

Actually, I met someone else who thought the same thing. It's not
surprising particularly since the pronunciation of 'y'all' in NYC
uses a vocalized /l/ following the AAVE phonology and the vowel
nucleus is often high. Still, it is different, which if anyone has
any doubts, was confirmed to me by one high school kid, clearly a
potential linguist, who commented on the two uses to me, when I asked
him about 'yo.'  I should add, that the phrase final, emphasizing
usage, appears mostly limited to kids associated with hip-hop.

As for it's origins, already mentioned Frank McCourt's report (in his
memoir 'Tis) with horse handlers. I think Rocky is a two-edged sword
in the sense of supporting a Philadelphia folk source, which may or
may not be accurate. It's certainly just as common in NY and probably
other places. I don't remember hearing it when I was in high school
in NYC in the early '70s. The vocative use seems to have become more
widespread in the 1980s. The emphasizing use appears in the 1990s.
While I'm no expert on poetics, I've noticed that it is quite useful
for MCs (roughly  rap artists who improvise) because it provides an
extra syllable that can be placed as needed to fit the target meter.
For what it's worth, my research assistant, an MC, uses it to answer
the phone.

Me: Is K  there?
K 's brother: K ! Phone!
K : Yo!

On the subject of y'all and hip-hop, I just want to comment on an
interesting 2pp form that is increasingly common here in conversation
and can be found in rap lyrics. It will undoubtedly upset many people
but is interesting from a linguistic perspective because it is a
double plural, on the model of "vosotros":

"Y'all niggaz"  (that's the usual spelling).
Michael Newman
Assistant Professor of Applied Linguistics
Dept. of Linguistics and Communication Disorders
Queens College/CUNY
Flushing, NY 11367

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