Groundviews

A-Z of Sri Lankan English: Y is for y’all

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Many languages have singular and plural forms of the second person pronoun you, including Sinhala and Tamil. English doesn’t, except in certain dialects: yous or youse is heard mainly in Scotland, Ireland and Australia; and y’all is common in the US, as in the expression “Y’all have a nice day!”

Y’all is also common in colloquial Sri Lankan English (“When did y’all come?”), as well as the possessive form y’all’s (“Where are y’all’s books?”). The all is just a plural marker, so it could just mean some of you, not necessarily all of you, which becomes y’all all, or all of y’all, as in these quotes:

“So y’all all came together? Like going on a pilgrimage?” (Monsoons and Potholes, by Manuka Wijesinghe, page 22)

“Ah? Then what’re all’f y’all doing here?” (A Cause Untrue, by David Blacker, page 557)

I often see this contraction of you all spelt as you’ll (“Nice to hear that you’ll enjoyed your stay”), but this can be confusing since you’ll is the accepted short form of you will, which has a different meaning, and is also pronounced differently. So I would suggest sticking to y’all.

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A-Z of Sri Lankan English is“an all-new, occasional alphabetical dip“into the variety of English spoken in Sri Lanka, published exclusively on“Groundviews. The original A-Z of Sri Lankan English was published in the travelsrilanka magazine, and can be found here.