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I have noticed that some people in parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio often say "ya" instead of "you"? As in "Didya do your homework?" instead of "Did you do your homework?".

Does anyone know the etymology behind this pronunciation? I am wondering if this could be evidence of the influence of a large population of people that still speak German. Is this pronunciation also found in areas without a Germanic influence?

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    I think it's just one way of representing a lazy way of pronouncing 'you' as 'yɘ' (i.e. with an indeterminate vowel sound). With the 'd' before it, the 'y' in 'didya' can sound like a 'j'. In British English, which is mostly non-rhotic, it would be written 'Did yer'. Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 7:43
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    Not sure why "non-rhotic" is relevant - there are no 'r's in the phrase.
    – user184130
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 9:24
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    @JamesRandom It's relevant to the British spelling: the ‹r› is a cue to BE readers that the vowel sound represented is /ɘ/. Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 9:33
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    I am desperately trying (and failing) not to criticise the use of the word "lazy". Informal / natural speech is not lazy. It is just natural.
    – user184130
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 10:11
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    @James On the other hand, laziness (i.e., the unwillingness to spend unnecessary amounts of energy on clearly enunciating something which is just as understandable is enunciated in a ‘reduced’ manner) is a big part of the reason why natural, informal speech differs from prepared/studied/acting/etc. speech. In this context, laziness and efficiency are just two sides of the same coin. Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 10:22

2 Answers 2

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This pronunciation isn't peculiar to that region—it's virtually universal in US speech.

As Kate Bunting and user070221 say, the vowel in unstressed you will usually be reduced to /ə/; and in rapid speech the dental stops /d/ and /t/ followed by palatal /j/ (orthographic ‹y›) will usually "assimilate" to an affricate: /dʒ/ (=‹j›) and /tʃ/ (=‹ch›). Compare gotcha! for got you!.

Transcribing these with ‹a› for reduced /ə/ and ‹j› and ‹ch› for the affricates is 'eye dialect', an effort to represent ordinary casual speech as dialectal or uneducated.

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  • I guess it is used also in British English.
    – user 66974
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 10:00
  • Ah, I see! Also, in “and ‹j› and ‹y› for the affricates”, did you mean “and ‹j› and ‹ch› for the affricates”? Presumably ‹y› is the underlying, non-affricated version? Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 10:18
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    @JanusBahsJacquet Oh, bother, yes I did. So much for answering before my first cup of coffee in the morning. Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 17:39
  • I've also seen "ya" appearing as an abbreviation for "yeah." It drives me nuts, I have to admit: If someone writes, "Ya! I've seen that too!" it looks like they're saying "You! I've seen that, too!"
    – Dave Land
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 20:13
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OED, rather than listing 'ya' as a form of 'you' and 'your', gives 'ya' (pronoun and adjective) separate entries with a distinct origin and etymology. In both cases, the origin is a "variant or alteration of another lexical item" ('you' and 'your') and the etymology is that they represent "a regional or colloquial (chiefly unstressed) pronunciation" of 'you' and 'your', respectively. Neither the pronoun nor the adjective are reported as chiefly US or UK.

The first OED attestation of the pronoun is from "Exmoor Scolding I" as published in the 2 June 1727 Brice's Weekly Journal (Exeter, Britain). "Exmoor Scolding" contains a representation of 18th century Exmoor dialect in narrative form. In a 1782 republication what the first publication in 1727 spells more commonly as "pritha" has become "pitha" and "rezinable" has become "reaznable".

Pitha tell reaznable, or hold thy Popping; ya gurt Washamouth.

The 1782 republication of "Exmoor Scolding" also provides a glossary.

OED first attests the adjective 'ya' with the glossary entry for 'random' in William Carr's 1824 Horæ Momenta Cravenæ, or, The Craven Dialect:

Random, To be in a straight line or direction, "let ya fence random wi' tother."

From such evidence it is a virtual certainty that the "regional or colloquial" pronunciation of both the pronoun and adjective represented in publications as 'ya' dates to the 1700s, and that neither 'ya' owes much, if anything, to the "influence of a large population of people that still speak German".

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