Date: Fri, 20 Oct 1995 10:45:10 EDT


Subject: Re: y'all are crazy

I was wondering the same thing, and in particular whether the policeman would

have asked "Would y'all step out of the car" if he WERE addressing more than

one occupant. (Or, if that context appears unlikely, if he stopped a couple

of folks on the street and asked them "Do y'all have some ID?" or whatever.)

If _y'all_ is used in such cases, it appears that it is indeed a socioling.

variable. But notice that it's just in those contexts where, say, a French

speaker uses the historic plural for 2d person sg., i.e. in formal rather than

friendly exchanges, that the policeman avoids the historic plural. In the

terms of the Goffman-Brown-Levinson tradition, _yall_ seems to involve

positive face (or what Robin Lakoff called Rule 3 politeness: "Be friendly")

while _vous_ et al. invoke negative face (Lakoff's Rule 1 politeness,

Deference). I suppose I should make sure the descriptive generalization is

accurate before leaping off to conclusions, though.


----------------------------Original message----------------------------

It may appear at times

that "y'all" is being used in the singular, but I assure you that is not

the case. I liked Tom Wharriet's explanation of the implied plural

meaning "you and yours." I think that thorough research would conclude

that there is always some implied or connoted plural meaning even when it

might seem otherwise.

in lotsa languages (and so many unrelated ones that this seems not

to be an entirely arbitrary association), the plural form implies

politeness--couldn't this be what is going on? seems to go with what

was said about salesmen and friendly people using it, but not the

police officer who's caught you doing something naughty.