Date: Mon, 24 Jan 1994 10:22:01 CST
From: Dennis Baron debaron[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]UIUC.EDU
Subject: Re: y'all singular, not!
In Message Sun, 23 Jan 1994 00:52:10 -0700,
Rudy Troike RTROIKE[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]arizvms.bitnet writes:
am sure that each of us probably has some idiosyncratic usage or meaning still
lurking in our grammars that has by sheer chance never been socialized out.
So it should come as no surprise that among the millions of "y'all" users,
there should be a small and probably randomly-distributed number who got it
mixed up along the way. What would be surprising would be if there weren't.
It is in such things that the germs of language change lie. However, given
the locale of Beth's and Guy's observations, it may be that the distribution
is not entirely random, but may be higher on the peripheries of the y'all area,
where it has spread and been acquired, but with more opportunity for mislearn-
ing of the "correct" meaning/use. This again would not be unexpected. But
while allowing for the probability of such idiosyncratic "error" (deviation
from the community norm), we should not allow the occasional misuse to under-
mine the certainty of our own life-long experience and strong native intuition.
Mislearning and error -- on the border --
That's what strikes me about Rudy's message. Is phonological variation
error? Mislearned pronunciation? Or is sound production inherently
variable? Mebbe. Mebbe not. But why so quick to assume that a shift
in syntactic/semantic agreement is a deviation from or mislearning of
a standard rule? Why not an analogical extension? A selection of a
I can't explain to my satisfaction why "between you and I" occurs as
often as it does, but I find the hypercorrection explanation thoroughly
unsatisfying. "Between you and I" speakers never seem to commit other
pronoun case "errors."
But I remain very impressed with the insistence of southerners (perhaps
the PC term should be `people of the south') that singular ya'll/you all
either does not ever occur among those who _know_ (=are born with), or
occurs only as error.
Review, if you will, the arguments about shall/will usage in Fowler,
Follett, and so on. They all go like this: "The right sort of English
person knows the differences and never makes a mistake; for the rest of us
poor slobs and furreners here are 20 pages of detailed explanation that
is impossible to follow and that no one will use anyway." It's the
to the manner/manor born insistence that always rings a little untrue.
Of course, everyone from NY says idear; it would be wrong or at best
snobbish not to. Or you'd have to work at Macy's.
As for marginalizing singular ya'llers, well, how postmodren can
debaron[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]uiuc.edu (\ 217-333-2392
\'\ fax: 217-333-4321
Dennis Baron \'\ ____________
Department of English / '| ()___________)
University of Illinois \ '/ \ ~~~~~~~~~ \
608 South Wright St. \ \ ~~~~~~~~~ \
Urbana, IL 61801 ==). \ __________\