Y'all and No?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Mar 29 14:26:17 UTC 2001

At 6:52 PM -0400 3/29/01, Buchmann wrote:
>There is a peculiarity about the Southern use of "you all" / "y'all"
>which most 'Yankees' seem to miss -- it is NOT directed to a
>single individual BUT to that individual AND his ( extended /
>invisible / not present ) kin. There are many people these days
>who have been born in the South but who are not Southern
>nationals [ => unbroken maternal descent since before the
>WONA]. These people repeat what they hear without
>understanding it, often getting meanings reversed.
If you check the archives for October '95, you'll find an extensive
discussion of just this point, with Natalie, Lynne, Beth, and many
other still current regulars chiming in.  The consensus was that for
MOST southerners, the apparent singular y'all is indeed implicitly
'you and yours', with an implication of a group to which the
addressee belongs, but a vibrant minority insisted that a singular
(often polite singular) meaning is possible.  Here's one relevant
cite from that discussion, courtesy of Natalie.  I don't have my
AmSp's on me so I can't check to see if this article did in fact
Date:         Fri, 20 Oct 1995 13:08:55 -0500
Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at UGA.CC.UGA.EDU>
From:         Natalie Maynor <maynor at RA.MSSTATE.EDU>
Subject:      Re: y'all are crazy

Bradley Harris of the U of Memphis has written an article on "y'all" as
a polite singular -- forthcoming in _American Speech_, I think.  I haven't
seen a copy of it yet, but he's supposed to be sending me its final version
within the next few weeks.
    --Natalie (maynor at ra.msstate.edu)

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