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Y'all's sprawl. Linguists study the spread of a Southern term
Houston Chronicle/Columbia News Service ^ | Feb. 19, 2005 | MOISES VELASQUEZ-MANOFF

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.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: dialects; language; linguistics; south; yall
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If you don't say "Y'all" what do you say?
1 posted on 02/20/2005 7:45:40 PM PST by bayourod
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To: bayourod

This Michigan native says Y'all.


2 posted on 02/20/2005 7:46:48 PM PST by cripplecreek (The crippled stool is the cadillac of poopin stools.)
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To: bayourod

you will be assimilated. :)


3 posted on 02/20/2005 7:46:50 PM PST by smonk
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To: bayourod

Youse is like the northern version of y'all.


4 posted on 02/20/2005 7:47:16 PM PST by Bouchart
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To: stainlessbanner; Xenalyte; Tax-chick

ping, ya'll


5 posted on 02/20/2005 7:47:18 PM PST by annyokie (Laissez les bons temps rouler !)
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To: bayourod
If you don't say "Y'all" what do you say?

Yoooooo

I'm from Philly :0)

6 posted on 02/20/2005 7:48:05 PM PST by Mo1 (Question to Liberals .. When did supporting and defending Freedom become a bad thing??)
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To: DixieOklahoma; kalee; dljordan; Da Bilge Troll; nolu chan; sionnsar; Free Trapper; dcwusmc; ...

Great big Ya'll


7 posted on 02/20/2005 7:48:42 PM PST by stainlessbanner
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To: bayourod

>> 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? ><


8 posted on 02/20/2005 7:48:54 PM PST by Brian328i
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To: annyokie

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.


9 posted on 02/20/2005 7:49:44 PM PST by cyborg (http://mentalmumblings.blogspot.com/)
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To: bayourod

You, what do y'all say?


10 posted on 02/20/2005 7:50:05 PM PST by WSGilcrest (Tinky likes it!)
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To: Bouchart
Youse is like the northern version of y'all.

But Youse sounds stupid if you don't say it with the proper accent. Y'all works even in the midwest.

11 posted on 02/20/2005 7:50:08 PM PST by Harmless Teddy Bear (Apparently, this is the only job for which I am suited. I am beset by the ironies of my life)
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To: smonk

"you will be assimilated. :)"

LOL! Resitance is futile.


12 posted on 02/20/2005 7:50:30 PM PST by Rebelbase (Who is General Chat?)
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To: bayourod

I usually say "Every single one of you bastards," but I make sure they have a sense of humor first.


13 posted on 02/20/2005 7:50:34 PM PST by Larry Lucido
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To: Rebelbase

ya'll and coonass have somehow found its way into my everyday vocab and blame it entirely on FR. I smell a southron conspiracy.


14 posted on 02/20/2005 7:51:50 PM PST by cyborg (http://mentalmumblings.blogspot.com/)
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To: bayourod

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.


15 posted on 02/20/2005 7:52:35 PM PST by angelr1076
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To: bayourod

I say "you guys". Means both male and female.


16 posted on 02/20/2005 7:54:08 PM PST by Theresawithanh (2005! My resolution: FReep even MORE this year!!!)
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To: cyborg

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.


17 posted on 02/20/2005 7:55:00 PM PST by Graybeard58 (Remember and pray for Spec.4 Matt Maupin - MIA/POW- Iraq since 04/09/04)
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To: bayourod
Well, I grew up in Houston, and definitely still say "y'all". But I think being in California for the last 14 years has finally rubbed off on me -- I'm just as likely to say "you guys" now, even if the "guys" are girls.
18 posted on 02/20/2005 7:55:13 PM PST by Ryan Spock
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To: cripplecreek
"This Michigan native says Y'all. "

Most archaeologists now concur that the original Michigan-Americans migrated from the South to Detroit and are now returning to their native habitat.

19 posted on 02/20/2005 7:55:27 PM PST by bayourod ("It's for the children" has been replaced by "It's to fight terrorists.")
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To: WKB; MagnoliaMS; MississippiMan; vetvetdoug; NerdDad; Rebel Coach; afuturegovernor; mwyounce; ...

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.


20 posted on 02/20/2005 7:55:27 PM PST by bourbon (You see me here, and yet I am already changed, already elsewhere.)
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