second-person pronouns redux

Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM
Tue Feb 29 21:15:50 UTC 2000

This appeared on a newsgroup I read. I know we have discussed "y'all" et al.
here, but the special Arkansas meaning of "y'uns" described by Joyce Melton is
new to me. Comments?

-- Mark A. Mandel

From: Joyce Melton <joyce at>
Newsgroups: alt.callahans
Subject: Pronoun Research (was Re: Mistaken identities)
Date: Sun, 27 Feb 2000 10:40:05 GMT

Keith Merritt <kmerrittNOkmSPAM at> wrote:

>Of course," he grinned, " We in the
>Southern U.S. of A. have solved the 'you -- singular or plural?'
>problem -- 'you' is singular, 'y'all' (sometimes pronounced 'yew-
>all') is second person plural.

I was in San Antonio, Texas once and walked into a department store.
Now I'm originally from Arkansas, though raised in California but I am
thoroughly acquainted with "y'all" or thought I was. The shop girl
smiled at me and said "May I he'p y'all?" And I looked around to see
who had come in with me!

In Arkansas there is another distinction, between "y'all" and "y'uns".

"Y'all" is definitely plural and means the people I am speaking to,
"all of you". "Y'uns" means "you and yours". Not just the person or
persons I am speaking to but people who aren't here right now and are
included in the referent through being associated with the people I am
addressing. Either that or it means the same thing as "y'all". :) Some
users are consistent with the distinction and some not.

There is a similar, sometimes reliable, distinction between "we" and
"we'uns". I've even heard "they'uns" used which seems unecessary in
most circumstances.

I don't know how wide spread this dialectal difference might be, I've
heard it mostly from my own relatives and their friends, people from
the hills of Arkansas and Missouri. I've heard it occasionally from
Kentuckians and Tennesseeans, also hillfolk. Since a lot of these
people are derived from Irish, Welsh and Scots-Irish ancestors, I have
wondered if there is a parallel in any of the Celtic tongues.

Anybody know?


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