Date: Fri, 20 Oct 1995 13:10:02 -0700
From: Peter Richardson prichard[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]CALVIN.LINFIELD.EDU
A colleague sent me some parts of your discussion. To obfuscate matters
more, let's add the possessive y'all's ("Where were y'all's parents born?")
and the objective y'uns, which I've also heard (Arkansas Ozarks) as the
nominative ("Where y'uns going'?").
The explanation of the "never singular" y'all as "you and yours" is
pretty crafty. That may well explain its origin, but isn't it the
synchronic question that is being dealt with? That is, do those who use
y'all as a singular (and they/you're out there, to be sure) truly mean
"you and yours"? Or has the sense of "...and yours" fallen away to create
what must be regarded descriptively (if not historically) as a singular?
Consider the parallel in the word children, for which the -er was the
original plural (cf. German Kinder); when the -er was no longer
understood as the plural, an additional one was produced: childer + -en
children. And Black English has added a third: the standard -s. Result:
Chilluns / Chirrens. Diachronically clear, synchronically opaque. Or see
the nonstandard mens for men, the latter no longer understood to be plural
already. I suspect the foreword to the Dictionary of American Regional
English addresses this issue, but don't have my copy here in the office.
Anyway, a good discussion. Keep up the good work.