Date: Fri, 20 Oct 1995 10:45:10 EDT From: Larry Horn 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. Larry ----------------------------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. lynne --------------------------------------------------------------------- M. Lynne Murphy 104lyn[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] Department of Linguistics phone: 27(11)716-2340 University of the Witwatersrand fax: 27(11)716-4199 Johannesburg 2050 SOUTH AFRICA