Date: Fri, 20 Oct 1995 13:10:02 -0700


Subject: y'all/y'uns

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.

Peter Richardson