Language usage and attitudes toward language change and variation is one of the most interesting areas of linguistic study. It is part of some of the debate about gender-inclusive language in English Bible translation today. Language change which becomes acceptable to all elements of society takes much more time than change takes at the level of the hoi polloi. But formal change eventually occurs when some critical mass is reached when a preponderance of speakers use a new form, and, often with resistance, the change is accepted even for formal, literate English. We've seen this with a number of changes throughout the history of English, including changes in negative word orders, change from thee and ye to just you, and many other forms.
I wonder if y'all or you all will someday be acceptable to indicate second person plural in English Bible translations. (Oh, BTW, I am aware that for some Southern speakers y'all itself has shifted so that it is used for both singular and plural. We heard a native speaker of Dallas, Texas, English once greet a large church congregation by referring to them as all of y'all. It was necessary to add the all because y'all had, for him and those in his dialect, been semantically spread to include the plural as well as singular.)
Categories: language usage, language change, Bible translation