My mother’s family is from the South, and I lived in the area for many years growing up, where I heard ‘Aap’ every day. The term is used throughout the South on race, class, gender and place, says Renee Blake, an associate professor of linguistics and social and cultural analysis at New York University.
But beyond the South, contractions are used by African Americans throughout the United States. Some linguists attribute the spread of the term to the way other communities have appropriated certain words and phrases in African American Vernacular English (AAVE), which is part of the African American Language (AAL) – historically. Closely linked to the US South.
Blake, who studies AAL, says that AAL holds cultural capital, and is “appropriated and used in communities not only within the United States, but around the world”. AAL has always been appropriated in modern slang and pop culture, a process that is particularly evident on social media: from ‘lit’ to ‘wok’ to ‘spill the tea’, words or phrases (which linguists refer to as ‘lexical items’). ’) co-opted from places like black Twitter, and went mainstream in other communities.
‘Y’all’ could be another example.
Dictionary.com linguist and lexicographer Heather Bonikowski, who worked on the entry for ‘y’all’ in the site’s database, agrees. “The rise of AAVE in the general population cannot be ignored here,” she says, emphasizing that its role in the use and growth of ‘AAP’ is “absolutely important”.
Bonikowski says the spread of ‘y’all’ outside the South has been in the works for decades. But there’s another reason we may soon hear the phrase more in places as far away as Texas or Alabama: the idea that the language we use should be more inclusive. Social media has fueled that discussion – as well as the greater use of ‘y’all’ that transcends geographic boundaries.