James C. Stalker stalker at MSU.EDU
Fri Jan 9 05:12:42 UTC 2004

I have been following the yall debate for several years.  First let me
establish  my origins.  I come from Kentucky, Louisvile, south side, working
class area.  Unfortunately, when I was growing up in this area, yall was not a
prime consideration in my life, but a singular yall does not, in my native
speaker intuition, seem unusual.  However, many years later, c. 1998,in Foley,
Alabama as I entered the Le Cruset shop in the outlet mall, the young woman,
to my aged eyes, c.20, the greeter, asked: "Can I he(l)p yall?"  I was to all
apperances alone, a single male, no apparent relations (grandma, grandpa,
uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.) hanging around, and given that we did not know
each other, she had no reason to believe that they would follow me into the
store.  There was also no apparent spouse.  Geez, she didn't even know if I
was a visiting yankee or a native. Some years ago, I think it was Rudy Troike
who suggested that yall could be used as the polite singular.  I think his
observations are accurate.  I would also point to Montomery's research on
multiple modals that suggest that they seve a politeness function as well.
Southener speakrs are noted for politeness.  How do we know they are being
polite?  Because they say yall (sg) and use multiple modals.  I detect a bit
of prescriptivism here.  Yall must be plural.  Hey, I've given up on
fewer/less.  Fewer is no longer in the vocabulary. Can't yall give up on yall
as a singular?

Jim Stalker

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