4

"Yourn" as in yours. Where did it originate? I think from the southern US, but not sure.

  • 1
    Short for 'your one'. Your'ne is present in some UK dialects, particularly, I think, in the Midlands. – WS2 Oct 7 '14 at 17:10
  • 1
    I'd always assumed it's a contracted form of your one, as per that link. It might be common today in some American regional dialects, but it's not American in origin. OED says it's modelled on mine, thine, and they have it recorded since 1382, so it long predates America. – FumbleFingers Oct 7 '14 at 17:12
3

Yourn, ourn, hisn, hern, theirn all originate in the Anglo-Saxon Mid Anglian dialectal grammar (Cambs, Hunts, Beds) and contain the pronoun weak ending still present in mine and thine. My family originated in Cambs and evidently retained its dialect speech even when the Industrial Revolution obliged them to move to London in the 1830s. My grandfather said yourn, etc and my father said it (and I do!) whereas my grandmother's family and my mother's family came from different parts of Suffolk (East Anglian dialect) where they didn't say it.

They are not contractions of your one or your own at all. The Samuel Pegge quotation is correct - the ancient grammar lingered longer in Mid Anglia than elsewhere which is why it has survived. The Americans and Australians inherited it through colonization.

1

OED says it's modelled on mine, so I believe it comes from the following analogy:

my is to mine as your is to yourn

The more common word yours comes from the following constructions:

her is to hers as your is to yours.

our is to ours as your is to yours.

  • That seems like a good analogy. Why did 'my' go to 'mine' but other pronouns go other ways? – Chaim Jun 13 '18 at 13:11
  • @Chaim My didn’t “go to” mine; it’s the other way around. The original form was mine (well, mīn in Old English), but just like what happened with an, the final /n/ was lost before consonant sounds. Later on, in mine and thine, it was also lost before vowels, just like it’s been lost in an in some modern dialects of English as well. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 13 '18 at 14:35
  • @JanusBahsJacquet And sometimes the "n" jumps from one word to another. There are some words that now begin with a vowel, but originally began with "n". "a n<word>" was misheard as "an <word>" and the latter stuck; sometimes the opposite happened. blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2014/11/13/metanalysis – Barmar Jun 13 '18 at 15:39
  • @Barmar Yes, rebracketing is a common enough occurrence, but it’s not really related to the reduction of complex syllables in unstressed function words. Rebracketing is also, in other circumstances, responsible for things like helipad and workaholic, which are quite different. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 13 '18 at 16:06
1

John Bartlett, Dictionary of Americanisms (1848) offers the following entry for yourn:

YOURN. This is a contraction of your own, or a change in the termination of the pronoun yours, in conformity with mine, and which is much used by the illiterate and the vulgar. It is also used in in London, and in the West of England. "The cockney," says Mr. Pegge, "considers such words as our own and your own as pronouns possessive a little too much expanded ; and therefore thinks it proper to curtail them, and to compress them into the words ourn and yourn, for common daily use." —Anecdotes of the English Lang[uage] [1814], p. 193.

He might have added hisn, as in the famous distich:

Him as prigs vot isn't hisn

Ven he's cotch'd 'll go to pris'n.

Samuel Pegge himself says, in Anecdotes of the English Language:

Ourn and yourn are also actual Saxon Pronouns Possessive ; for the Saxon ure (our) in the Nominative Case has for its Accusative urne ; and the Saxon Pronoun eower (your) gives the Accusative eowerne ; and nothing is necessary to warrant the use of them, but a mutation of Case. Whether urne be a Dissyllable, and eowerne a Trisyllable, matters not ; because, by removing the final e (a letter of no weight in that situation), these Saxon words must ultimately terminate in the letter n, a circumstance which would soon be brought about by raid pronunciation.

  • Interesting that they say it’s from your own. I’ve always mentally associated it with your one. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 8 '14 at 17:50

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