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All Y’all Listen Here…

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Well now this is interesting:

It’s true that “yall” is “the most identifiable feature of the dialect known as Southern American English.” But where did it come from? And how did it end up in the South?

Many discussions of the word connect it to the history of second-person pronouns in English. Old English had singular and plural forms of “you,” and these eventually morphed into the formal “you” and informal “thou” pronouns you find in Shakespeare and the King James Bible. But “yall” isn’t a descendant of these, and there’s still debate about its origins.

Long story short, there are plausible origins in both Scots-Irish and Afro-creole dialects. Given that there’s a lot of variation (in both frequency and application) across the South in usage of “y’all” and “all y’all,” I wonder if it might be useful to map that variation onto Scots-Irish immigration and slaveholding density, see how it falls out.

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