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I grew up in Texas, and I've heard and often said "yah" instead of y'all. I've never seen it listed as an alternative word to y'all.

Has anyone else heard this pronunciation? I cannot seem to find it defined anywhere besides a variation on "yes."

I've used it as a distinct word from y'all. It's not saying y'all really quickly.

****Update answering comments. Speakers do pronounce "L" at the ends of other words. Definitely not a speech impediment. Also able to say "y'all."

It is always referring to the plural you. Yah is never used to refer to the singular you.

Pronounced like the name "Yanni."

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    Are you sure it's not just an alternative pronunciation of "you"? Can you provide examples, either recordings or transcriptions.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 9:29
  • Do these speakers not pronounce the "l" at the end of other words, or is it just "y'all"? Also: is this form used only in the plural, or can it also be used to address a single person?
    – alphabet
    Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 11:38
  • (I suspect this is L-vocalization.)
    – alphabet
    Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 11:42
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    It would help if you could write the pronunciation in IPA or (better yet) find a recording/video in which this pronunciation occurs. We don't know how "Yanni" is pronounced in your accent.
    – alphabet
    Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 12:52
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    If you say y'all fast, the ll can drop away. That's all. It then actually sounds like "yaw", as in the famous line in the Philadelphia Story.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 17:33

1 Answer 1

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As this comment from Language Log explains, this is the result of l-vocalization, a process whereby /l/ is replaced by /w/ (or more generally by some sort of glide or vowel sound). At times, the /l/ can get deleted entirely. It happens most extensively in AAVE, but occurs in various places in nearly every American accent, particularly in casual speech when a word is being spoken quickly (as is often the case with "y'all").

Across accents, it is particularly common when the next word starts with a /w/, turning /lw/ into just /w/ (or something close to that). For this reason many speakers, when talking at an ordinary conversational pace, wouldn't pronounce the /l/ when saying phrases like "the whole world," "worked all week," "jail warden," "well workers," et cetera. So I'd expect it to be particularly common in phrases like "y'all want."

Edit: Responding to OP's update:

Speakers do pronounce "L" at the ends of other words.

Yes. L-vocalization is highly contextual, occurring in certain words and contexts but not in others. It varies widely between speakers and accents.

Definitely not a speech impediment. Also able to say "y'all."

Sound changes are not speech impediments, and they do not imply an inability to pronounce things in other ways. This is particularly true of phenomena like l-vocalization; it is precisely because they only occur in certain contexts that people can pronounce such words with or without the sound change.

As an example: like many American English speakers, for me "ladder" and "latter" are typically homophones (another sound change called t-flapping). I certainly can pronounce them differently, but I usually don't.

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