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#116039 - 11/15/03 12:28 PM A question of prescriptive grammar
Faldage Offline
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Registered: 12/01/00
Posts: 13803
Or maybe two questions, depending on how y'all count these things.

There are two main forms of the explicitly plural second person pronoun in use on this board: you-all and y'all. Each of them has, in its respective possessive case, what I would think might be a grammatical error. In the former we have your-all's and in the latter, y'all's. First, they both violate the rule that possessives of personal pronouns don't use the apostrophe and, second, your-all's is redundant in that the possessive is shown both in the your and in the all's.

Any comments from our prescriptivist contingent?


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#116040 - 11/15/03 12:35 PM Re: A question of prescriptive grammar
wwh Offline
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Registered: 01/18/01
Posts: 13858
Dear Faldage: I spent a total of a couple years in Dixie,
and clearly remember "y'all" referring to just me.


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#116041 - 11/15/03 12:52 PM Re: A question of prescriptive grammar
Faldage Offline
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Registered: 12/01/00
Posts: 13803
Dear Dr Bill

A separate question, discussed to death elsewhere in these pages. I've heard opinions both ways on the subject and do not have sufficient experience of my own to intelligently discuss the matter.


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#116042 - 11/15/03 01:01 PM Re: A question of prescriptive grammar
Wordwind Offline
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Registered: 09/30/01
Posts: 6296
Loc: Piedmont Region of Virginia, U...
Not sure whether this has anything to do with what you're asking, Faldage, but let's think about how 'you all' evolved. It could be that it was simply a short cut for saying 'all of you'. If so, we could write:

"All of you should listen."

Well, that was just too wordy. So, here in the South we cut to the chase and said,

"You all should listen."

And, finally:

"Y'all should listen."

"You all" began to function as a compound pronoun, so to speak. And so did "y'all" rather than as a pronoun followed by a modifying prepositional phrase as in 'all of you.'

When looking at the possessive form of 'all of you'--well, we've got a slight problem that we can address by changing 'you' to 'your,' obviously:

All of you should listen.
All of your children should listen.
All of yours should listen.

You all should listen. (compound dialectical pronoun form)
You-all's children should listen (compound dialetical pronoun now taking adjectivial form with apostrophe at the end of the compound form)
Y'all's children should listen (the compact edition).

That's how I see it right now, but will wait for further elucidation.

Bill, I never have heard anyone here refer to a singular person as y'all.


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#116043 - 11/15/03 01:08 PM Re: A question of prescriptive grammar
maahey Offline
addict

Registered: 12/03/02
Posts: 555
Faldage, has the y'all/ you-all usage become grammatically kosher now? I always thought of it as a colloquialism. And that therefore, all its spin-offs were informal too. So, whilst I agree with you, that the possessive all's simply doesn't hold, I also am left wondering why we must apply rules of grammar *only to the possessive case? Does this help at all?

I too have heard it used as both a singular and as a plural.

Disclaimer: not a member of said contingent; admit to leanings though.



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#116044 - 11/15/03 01:33 PM Re: A question of prescriptive grammar
Wordwind Offline
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Registered: 09/30/01
Posts: 6296
Loc: Piedmont Region of Virginia, U...
maahey, what you've said is what I also said, but with more of an emphasis on both the fact that we're dealing with a dialectical construction and a dialectical pronoun in a compound form.

In other words, 'you all' is the second person plural pronoun within that dialect and functions as one word. The second part of this compound word is 'all', and would, therefore, take the apostrophe. All 'all's' are not created equal when examining dialects.

What is very peculiar, however, is the fact that we would add an apostrophe to a pronoun at all. We don't for its, theirs, yours, and ours. So, technically, I would think that y'alls would be the form that followed the others, but it doesn't work for the eye. The apostrophe helps clear up the visual problem: "Y'all's children better get on inside now." Visually that works for me and the meaning is apparent.


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#116045 - 11/17/03 01:24 PM Re: A question of prescriptive grammar
Jackie Offline

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Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 11609
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
Faldage, I've been grinning ever since I read your post!
Wordwind gave a wonderful explanation of how it likely evolved. But I doubt there's a "correct" rule for spelling this, because as was pointed out, it is a colloquialism. Until I started putting it here, I don't think I'd ever seen it written, only heard it spoken. And I put your-all's, because your-alls' just doesn't taste right. So, if this is the only place you've seen it written, feel free to correct me right and left--I'm quite honored, to tell you the truth! I suspect the s got migrated down to the end for the same reason words such as spoonfuls and handfuls developed--it just comes easier off the tongue, to speakers of a language where the overwhelming majority of pluralizations are at the end of a word.


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#116046 - 11/17/03 03:54 PM Re: A question of prescriptive grammar
Faldage Offline
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Registered: 12/01/00
Posts: 13803
To a certain extent, my tongue was firmly located in my cheek when I posted this; there are no hard and fast spelling rules for what is primarily a spoken dialect, but there is a mistaken idea among many prescriptivists that non-standard usage has no rules. This is far from true. One can, for example, say, "I ain't got no money," but not, "I don't ain't got no money." This despite the fact that it is perfectly correct to say, "I might could use some money." Being a descriptivist is more than just saying anything goes. To be a real descriptivist one must describe what is used. Prescriptivists can just say that something is wrong and then ignore it, but a descriptivist has to say what the rules are and to whom they apply.


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#116047 - 11/17/03 09:18 PM Re: A question of prescriptive grammar
Jackie Offline

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Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 11609
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
To be a real descriptivist one must describe what is used. Prescriptivists can just say that something is wrong and then ignore it, but a descriptivist has to say what the rules are and to whom they apply.
So what does a predescriptivist do?



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#116048 - 11/19/03 05:01 PM Re: A question of prescriptive grammar
Capfka Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 06/28/02
Posts: 1624
Loc: Utter Placebo, Planet Reebok
Jump, I should think ...


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