Talk:y'all

Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to: navigation, search

plural[edit]

Please note that this term is never properly used to refer to a single person, as it is found in some literature. Y'all is always plural. --Bill 18:09, 26 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I'm pretty sure I've seen Texans address a single person as "y'all". Maybe that's just Texas, but I've always taken that as meaning "you and yours". Thus the orginal definition. This seems like a testable hypothesis. You shouldn't hear, for example Y'all need to be quiet! directed at a single person, but you might well hear Y'all are always welcome! so addressed.
I was born, raised, and lived mostly in the South and the only time that I can remember hearing y'all addressed to one person (other than the TV which nearly always gets it wrong!) is when the one person represents a collectiv. For byspel, one might walk into a store and say, "How y'all doing?" meaning the clerk and everyone working there or if you're talking to an official representing a bureaucracy ... "What are y'all goin' do about it?" ... meaning not the person you're talking to but the agency who would likely answer with we. If someone said y'all to me and I was by myself, I'd look around me to see if the person was thinking I was with someone else. For me, y'all is always plural. --AnWulf ... Ferþu Hal! 12:59, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
I would count the latter as a specialized sense of the word. I'd prefer to restore it to that status partly because (at least potentially) not all speakers who would use y'all would use it Texas-style, and partly because the definition as it stands is well-nigh unreadable.
Finally, I'm only mostly sure about the Texas part. Can any native Texans confirm or deny? -dmh 22:44, 27 Oct 2004 (UTC)
As a Texan, it’s all right to use Y'all need to be quiet! when addressing one person, but it’s still a plural. The plural softens the command. If you used the singular 'You need to be quiet!', it sounds harsh and threatening. —Stephen 12:31, 9 August 2007 (UTC)
I lived in San Antonio and then San Angelo for about a total of a year and a half and I'v been back a few times. I'v NEVER heard anyone addressing ONE person as y'all. I'm not saying that it didn't happen but I never heard it outside of what I'v noted above.--AnWulf ... Ferþu Hal! 12:59, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Keep in mind that the South is a large place with lots of folks. There may be some who, IMO, wrongly use y'all when talking to one person (unless that person represents a collectiv, see above) but there are lots of folks who use lots of words wrong. Just because a few do it, that doesn't make it right. For non-Southerners, DO NOT use y'all when talking to one person.--AnWulf ... Ferþu Hal! 12:59, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
I'm a bit late to the party, but the only people I've heard using "y'all" as a singular were a couple who came from the Midwest, had moved to the Virginia suburbs of D.C., and adamantly insisted that they knew what they were talking about because they lived in "the South." (I'm New England born and bred, but I suspect I know more actual Southerners than they did.)
I suppose it's possible that some native Southerners use it, but I'd really like to see some documentation that it's a actually established usage, even informal, and notes on where it's used. I strongly suspect that any singular usage is either not truly referring to one person, as described above, or transplants using it as a folksy synonyn for "you."
On othe other hand, if you get enough people moving to the urban South and trying to act like natives, I could imagine that it would become established, particularly among the second generation. But regardless, it would be useful to have sources documenting the phenomenon, since we can discuss anecdotes until the cows come home. —Quintucket (talk) 05:19, 4 December 2013 (UTC)

all y'all[edit]

Can somebody who knows what they're talking about please add a note explaining "all y'all"? Might be related to DMH's query. (I'm from California, so I don't have a clue.) -DM 2 Sep 2005

This stems from a phrase such as: I will see all of you all in two weeks. Instead of, I suppose: I will see only-the-top-halfs of you all in two weeks. No, actually, it stems from the basic need, in English, of a dedicated plural form of "you" (a word which can be either plural or singular in English). This plural form of "you" is what "y'all" tries to fill. Thus, "y'all" refers to "you - the group" as opposed to "you - the individual". Consequently, when I get back in two weeks, I hope to see all of the group, not just part of the group. Therefore, I hope to see the entirety of you, the group. Talking more loosely, we have: I hope to see all of you all, or, I hope to see all y'all. Hope this helps. Cheers, --Stranger 02:01, 3 September 2005 (UTC)
Oh, incidentally, I googled "all y'all" and got 123,000 hits, in case you were wondering. --Stranger 02:02, 3 September 2005 (UTC)

Put simply, the difference between "y'all" and "all y'all" is exactly the same as the difference between "you" and "all of you" (when both are directed to two or more people), "us" vs. "all of us," or "them" vs. "all of them" in standard English. "All y'all" only sounds redundant because the same word "all" employed twice, first as the actual quantifier "all," and then as a simple plural marker.

For that reason, I edited out the "tous" in "vous tous" as a French equivalent. "Vous tous" is more like saying "all y'all" than merely "y'all." For that, "vous" alone will suffice. I suspect the same problem may exist with the alleged Italian equivalent.

Possessive Form[edit]

Can anyone comment on the reasoning behind listing "y'alls" as the possessive? I have always written "y'all's" instead. This seems to make more sense in the absence of any good reason to go against normal possessive form. (N.B.: I'm not the user who tried to make that change recently and apparently had it reverted as "nonsense" (!).) -YorkBW 22:06, 25 May 2006 (UTC)

In the absence of a response, I'm going to change "y'alls" back to "y'all's." Comments welcome. -YorkBW 12:33, 30 May 2006 (UTC)

I'm not sure which spelling is more common, but "y'alls" makes more sense to me. Other possessive pronouns (e.g., his, hers, ours and theirs) do not take apostrophes, so why should y'alls? -Xrlq 18:47, 8 August 2007 (UTC)

But you can’t say "that’s hers purse" or "this is theirs ticket". I always write y’all’s with two apostrophe: "here are y’all’s bus tickets." I think the only people who regularly use this word and who would write "y'alls tickets" would also write "Mikes tickets" or "peoples tickets". —Stephen 12:42, 9 August 2007 (UTC)
Probably an unnoticed disruptive contributor trying to assert that it is OK to use two apostrophes in an English word (which, of course, is never OK.) --Connel MacKenzie 17:45, 8 August 2007 (UTC)
There remain too many oddities with this entry. Only the nonstandard possessive is listed, (of a nonstandard term,) where normally no possessives are listed, invalid headings, etymology listed on inflection line, strange characterization as AAVE (which on first blush seems astoundingly unlikely,) and a homophone which, in my dialect, is not even close to being homophonic. This might be better off deleted and restarted fresh. --Connel MacKenzie 18:35, 8 August 2007 (UTC)
Some English words use two apostrophes (bo's'n). I have never heard of a rule against doing that when the orthography and grammar call for it. As for the article, and as a person from the y'all dialect area, I don’t find anything wrong with the article. —Stephen 12:34, 9 August 2007 (UTC)

From the entry[edit]

Though "y'all" has gained acceptance through common usage, "ya'll" is the correct spelling. Language is born in the mouth and contractions are formed when the phonology of a word obviates a sound in a word that follows. Spoken language does not go the other way; a word not yet uttered does not change the form of the word that precedes it. For instance, we do not think, "I'm going to say 'are' after I say 'you' so therefore I will shorten 'you' and say 'y'are.'" Rather it is the second word in a contraction that is truncated because having said the first word, pronouncing the second word fully just feels funny in the mouth. Thus, "you" maintains its full form in "you've," and "you're."

The written form of the language follows the verbal and writing "y'all" represents an incorrect analysis of how "ya'll" developed. "Ya'll" isn't "you" plus "all," which would not be contracted in any case because the "w" sound at the end of "you" separates the vowels and "you all" feels just fine in the mouth, as you all know. Rather, "ya'll" is "ya" plus "all." One can ask a single person, "Where are ya going," but to include a second person, one would say, "Where are ya'll going?" The apostrophe in "ya'll" represents the phonologically redundant "a" that was elided from "all," not an "ou" elided from "you" in anticipation of the vowel sound to follow.

Where to place an apostrophe may seem a minor issue, but people come to a dictionary for the correct spelling. "Y'all" is a misspelling, and should be noted as such.

Rubbish. The spelling is y'all (you all). The spelling ya'll is a different contraction (ya will), as in "if ya'll build a fire, we can roast some marshmallows." The plural of this is "if y'all'll build a fire, we can roast some marshmallows." —Stephen 20:12, 16 October 2009 (UTC)
FWIW, I agree with Stephen. The right way to write it is y'all and ya'll has a different meaning. Good explanation Stephen! --AnWulf ... Ferþu Hal! 13:05, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

The adamance of the objection is noted (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:How_many_legs_does_a_horse_have%3F). And yes, though not strictly relevant to this topic, there is another word spelled "ya'll." See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homonym for an explanation of this phenomenon.

This is absolutely incorrect:
Though "y'all" has gained acceptance through common usage, "ya'll" is the correct spelling. Language is born in the mouth and contractions are formed when the phonology of a word obviates a sound in a word that follows. Spoken language does not go the other way; a word not yet uttered does not change the form of the word that precedes it. For instance, we do not think, "I'm going to say 'are' after I say 'you' so therefore I will shorten 'you' and say 'y'are.'" Rather it is the second word in a contraction that is truncated because having said the first word, pronouncing the second word fully just feels funny in the mouth. Thus, "you" maintains its full form in "you've," and "you're."
The correct spelling of the contraction for "you all" is "y'all." The above passage is not only wrong, it's silly from an etymological point of view, i.e., pseudo-science.
SteveXS103180 (talk) 15:49, 30 August 2012 (UTC)
I agree with you that that passage is wrong, but I don't really understand your point. That passage is not in the entry. Are you suggesting some sort of change somewhere? —RuakhTALK 18:30, 30 August 2012 (UTC)
No, he is commenting on an old comment above that someone made three years ago. He should have replied to the comment directly at Talk:y'all#From the entry. —Stephen (Talk) 19:23, 16 September 2012 (UTC)
I have moved the comment accordingly. - -sche (discuss) 18:10, 13 March 2014 (UTC)

Contraction[edit]

Is it certain that it is a contraction of "you all" (and as such should be written "y'all")? For example, Dutch has jullie and Sallaands has ieluu. The former is explained as "from jij (“you”) and lui (“people”)", the latter is a compound of "ie" (English: "you") and "luu" (English: "people", "persons"), compare Proto-Germanic *liudiz and Old Church Slavonic людиє (ljudie). --129.125.102.126 23:59, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

I'd say that it is certain. As far as I know, the reason for the parallelism is that it happens to be a useful inflected form, but one that was not passed down for etymological reasons which I am not aware of. --Μετάknowledgediscuss/deeds 00:02, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
The parallelism isn't only that they have a 2nd person plural (which indeed is a useful inflected form), the appearance of the words is similar too: the word which originally was only used as 2nd person plural, but got to be used also as a 2nd person singular (as a honorific), acquired an 'l'-sound to mark the plural. In English and Sallaands that 'l' has a clear meaning, but in Dutch it doesn't. --129.125.102.126 01:25, 19 August 2012 (UTC)
FWIW, yes, English etymology dictionaries treat it as certain that "y'all" is from "you all". - -sche (discuss) 19:00, 16 September 2012 (UTC)

RFV discussion: March–May 2014[edit]

Keep tidy.svg

The following discussion has been moved from Wiktionary:Requests for verification.

Failure to be verified may either mean that this information is fabricated, or is merely beyond our resources to confirm. We have archived here the disputed information, the verification discussion, and any documentation gathered so far, pending further evidence.
Do not re-add this information to the article without also submitting proof that it meets Wiktionary's criteria for inclusion. See also Wiktionary:Previously deleted entries.


y'all

Rfv-sense: singular form of "you". —Mr. Granger (talkcontribs) 15:35, 13 March 2014 (UTC)

This has been fairly thoroughly studied. Some references can be found here at Garner's. We should have some cites. DCDuring TALK 15:59, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
It seems controversial, I personally would not consider "See y'all later" spoken to a single person as being specifically singular, but rather number-neutral. --WikiTiki89 17:10, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
If we are trying to have a dictionary that helps normal humans I don't think number-neutral in a helpful term, whether or not it is part of linguist's vocabulary. DCDuring TALK 17:24, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
Did I accidentally imply that you have to copy and paste my sentence directly into the entry without changing anything? --WikiTiki89 17:26, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
OK. Should he have usage notes? Should we call it singular?
This sense has been the subject of regular criticism on the talk page, so citations of it would certainly be appreciated. I expect Wikitiki is right that "y'all" doesn't have "singular you" as a meaning, but only has "plural you" and something like "you; singular or plural you, the two not being distinguished". - -sche (discuss) 18:14, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
While y'all is plural only, it is occasionally said to a sole person. There are several possible explanations for it: (1) lapsus linguae (the speaker is so accustomed to using the plural that he uses it where he should not); (2) the speaker is including the listener’s family, or perhaps his friends or colleagues that regularly accompany him; or (3) the speaker senses that the singular you is too personal and chooses the plural to sound less personal and more distant. —Stephen (Talk) 18:49, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
I generally agree, but think that with respect to point 3 it is probably the opposite. Rather than being less personal, y'all is more informal, and therefore may be more personal. bd2412 T 19:53, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
As a native speaker of a dialect that includes y'all I can say that option (3) is excluded. Saying y'all to one person in English is nothing at all like saying vous to one person in French. If I say y'all to one person I always mean "you and the people you represent"; for example, if I say to a friend, "How're y'all doing?" I mean "you and your family" and if I say to a supermarket employee, "Do y'all have grits?" I mean "you as a representative of this supermarket". It isn't number-neutral the way you is; it is distinctly plural, though the other members of the group addressed need not be present. —Aɴɢʀ (talk) 21:17, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
BD2412, I think you’ve misunderstood what I meant by personal. The word you can be very personal...if I say, "You, come here!"...it sounds very in-your-face and overly personal. It sounds like you’re about to be punished for something. But if I say, "Y'all come here," then it sounds much less in-your-face, less personal, more generalized, softer, and friendlier. —Stephen (Talk) 22:53, 15 March 2014 (UTC)
I was thinking in terms of personal = informal (i.e. "softer, and friendlier") and impersonal = formal. bd2412 T 00:46, 16 March 2014 (UTC)
If you said "Y'all come here" to me, I would look around to see who else you were speaking to, and if there was no one else around but me, I would worry you were suffering from double visions or hallucinations. —Aɴɢʀ (talk) 13:29, 16 March 2014 (UTC)

Deleted singular sense. ~ Röbin Liönheart (talk) 14:58, 9 May 2014 (UTC)