There was much discussion about the use of the word ye in the comments on last Saturday’s “Overheard” post. A few folks said they commonly used or heard the word used as a thank you as in “thank ye or thank ye kindly.” You can jump back and read all the comments if you missed them, but I wanted to share one of them with you. It was left by Michael Montgomery compiler and author of the “Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English”.
Yes, the KJV uses YE frequently, but only in the plural (with THOU and THEE as singular), but that usage comes from England. While published in 1611, the KJV represent the language of England as of about 1500. Appalachian YE is the pronunciation of YOU in both singular and plural and represents the speech of Scotland and Ulster with the Scotch-Irish. As part of my research in Belfast, I found a 1737 letter written back to a minister in County Tyrone in which he implores YE AW to “come over” to America (he seems to have been around New York). Barbara, I agree with you that YE ALL slides easily into Y’ALL. I wrote an article about the same idea nearly 30 years ago and argued that YE AW, not YOU ALL, was the primary source of Y’ALL.
Tipper will find more information in a book I recently sent her.
The book Michael was referring to is his book “From Ulster To America The Scotch-Irish Heritage of America English”. It is a delightful book and if you’re interested in the language of Appalachia I highly recommend you get one. Here’s what the book says about ye:
ye, yae pron You (singular and plural), in unstressed positions, especially as the direct object of a verb or the object of a preposition, less often as a subject. [OED ye pron 3 in objective case c1449-; DOST ye pron 2 ‘in objective use as a direct object’ c1550-; SND (at ye A) ‘the original nominative has been retained in Scottish … and has also been transferred to use as the objective case’]
1737 Murray Letter Ye ken I had but sma Learning when I left ye.
1840 Bleakley Poems 83 I ken the word yae aften read.
1919 MacGill Glenmornan 190 “I supoose ye yerself was like me one time’, said the girl.
1936 White Mrs. Murphy 162 You can’t deny you were hidin’ it from me, the both of ye.
1964 Braidwood Ulster/Elizabethan English 88 The objective ye survives in Ulster thankee.
1983 Marshall Drumlister 28 ‘I’ll let ye know the reason’, said John with scornful look.
1983 Pepper Ulster Knowledge 18 May a doctor never earn a pound aff ye.
2000 Fenton Hamely Tongue 239 ye = you (unstressed).
1913 Kephart Our Sthn High 84 I knowed I couldn’t’ roust ye no other way.
1939 Hall Coll If you call [a turkey] too much, you’ll never get one to ye.
Ibid. Get ye chairs. Git ye two moles.
1957 GSMNP 23:2:28 [If] a neighbor wouldn’t help ye, he wasn’t considered a neighbor.
1965 West Git Tard in Hills The ‘ye’ for ‘you’ is an interesting elision with such expressions as ‘tell ye’, ‘tax ye’. The sound is not ‘yee’, but ‘yi’ (the ‘i’ pronounced as in ‘it’).
“From Ulster To America The Scotch-Irish Heritage of America English”
I’m going to keep my ears open for the word ye to see how many different ways I hear the word used in my area of Appalachia.