Skip to comments.Y'all's sprawl. Linguists study the spread of a Southern term
Posted on 02/20/2005 7:45:38 PM PST by bayourod
In a June appearance on NBC's Today Show, singer Marc Anthony made an unusual but, according to some linguists, not-so-surprising word choice.
When co-host Matt Lauer asked Anthony how he'd spend the upcoming weekend, Anthony said, "Y'all know I don't talk about my personal life."
A New York native of Puerto Rican descent using "y'all," a distinctly Southern term?
Linguists Guy Bailey and Jan Tillery would say Anthony is exhibit A in a national trend that is spreading the uses of "y'all" beyond the South. The two, who teach at the University of Texas at San Antonio, wrote an article in 2000 called The Nationalization of a Southernism, in the Journal of English Linguistics.
After conducting a national poll by telephone, the team concluded that the spread was dramatic and recent, most likely in the past 50 years as younger non-Southerners were significantly more likely to use "y'all" than older non-Southerners. Those regions bordering the South and Texas, like Kansas and New Mexico, were most likely to adopt it, as well as the Rocky Mountain region, which, they argued, had cultural similarities with the South.
As for why non-Southerners might use a markedly Southern term, the authors cite geographic mobility Northerners moving to the South adopting it and Southerners moving to the North retaining it. But ultimately, the authors argue, it's a matter of addressing a "hole" in the English language.
Ever since English lost the second person singular "thou," it has relied on the pronoun "you" to act as both singular and plural. English speakers have improvised ways to avoid ambiguity in the plural: in the Northeast, "youse" or "youse guys"; around Pittsburgh "yunz" or "yinz," a contraction of "you-ones"; in the South, "y'all," a contraction or "fusion" as Bailey and Tillery say of "you-all"; and finally "you guys."
But "you guys" feels awkward to certain segments of the population, says Joan Houston Hall, chief editor of the Dictionary of American Regional English. A term that gained popularity in the 1960s, it still sounds inappropriately familiar to some elderly ears, she says, and some women are uncomfortable with the masculine gender implied by "guys." "Y'all" elegantly resolves all these concerns.
Others argue that "y'all" is spreading for a much simpler reason: Both culturally and numerically, the South is on the rise. But more important, "y'all" is standard in what linguists call African-American Vernacular English (AAVE), the lingua franca of rap and hip-hop.
This Michigan native says Y'all.
you will be assimilated. :)
Youse is like the northern version of y'all.
I'm from Philly :0)
Great big Ya'll
>> If you don't say "Y'all" what do you say?
I don't really know, I've used Y'all for quite some time. Being from very north-west of Montana I've always been used to using some Canadian in my English, eh? However for some reason it seems like the Flathead valley seems to have a tint of southern like culture. Maybe its all the canyon critters there? ><
I say ya'll just because I'm lazy and don't want to say you all, and plus when I'm angry it makes me feel a little more feisty.
You, what do y'all say?
But Youse sounds stupid if you don't say it with the proper accent. Y'all works even in the midwest.
"you will be assimilated. :)"
LOL! Resitance is futile.
I usually say "Every single one of you bastards," but I make sure they have a sense of humor first.
ya'll and coonass have somehow found its way into my everyday vocab and blame it entirely on FR. I smell a southron conspiracy.
I'm a native New Yorker and I've been saying "ya'll" since I was a kid. Not exactly in a country accent though.
I say "you guys". Means both male and female.
FR does have an influence.
My wife went to Wal Mart yesterday and I needed to talk to her so I called Wal Mart and asked them to ping my wife.
Of course I meant page my wife
What a dumass.
Most archaeologists now concur that the original Michigan-Americans migrated from the South to Detroit and are now returning to their native habitat.
I know this isn't strictly a MS topic, but it deserves a ping anyway. (((MS PING)))
ALL Y'ALL's BASE ARE BELONG TO US.
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