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Encyclopedia > Singular they

"Singular" they is a popular, non-technical expression for uses of the pronoun they (and its inflected forms) when plurality is not required by the context. "Singular" they remains morphologically and syntactically plural (it still takes plural forms of verbs). However, it is often semantically indeterminate in number — in distributive constructions, for example. More technically, these uses can be described as generic or epicene they. In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun is a pro-form that substitutes for a noun or noun phrase with or without a determiner, such as you and they in English. ... Inflection of the Spanish lexeme for cat, with blue representing the masculine gender, pink representing the feminine gender, grey representing the form used for mixed-gender, and green representing the plural number. ... For other uses, see Morphology. ... For other uses, see Syntax (disambiguation). ...


Generic they has indeterminate number: Look up Generic in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

(Their can be understood equally well as referring to each man considered one at a time, or to all of them collectively.) Wikipedia does not yet have an article with this exact name. ... Poster for a performance The Comedy of Errors is one of William Shakespeares early plays, written between 1592 and 1594. ...


Epicene they has indeterminate gender: 1) In linguistics, having only one form of the noun for both the male and the female. ...

(In the context of Vanity Fair, their actually refers to one specific person. Thackery may have used their as a polite circumlocution, or to avoid generic he in this case of reference to a specific person.) William Makepeace Thackeray (July 18, 1811 – December 24, 1863) was a British novelist of the 19th century. ... Title-page to Vanity Fair, drawn by Thackeray, who furnished the illustrations for many of his earlier editions Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero is a novel by William Makepeace Thackeray that satirizes society in early 19th-century England. ... Periphrasis is a figure of speech where the meaning of a word or phrase is expressed by many or several words. ...


In neither case is "singular" they unambiguously a semantic or morpho-syntactic singular. What it actually agrees with is the plurality implicit in the indeterminacy of generic antecedents. This is explained by David Lewis' analysis of an aspect of the logic of the semantics of natural language called Quantifier Variability Effect (QVE).[1] In this kind of analysis, "singular" they in English is an example of a semantically bound variable rather than a genuine pronoun. It is most clearly evident in the special case of distributive constructions, where the preference many languages show for singular pronouns probably gives rise to the singular in "singular" they. Generic antecedents are representatives of classes of people, indicated by a reference in ordinary language (most often a pronoun), where gender is typically unknown or irrelevant. ... For other persons named David Lewis, see David Lewis (disambiguation). ... Logic (from Classical Greek λόγος logos; meaning word, thought, idea, argument, account, reason, or principle) is the study of the principles and criteria of valid inference and demonstration. ... The introduction to this article provides insufficient context for those unfamiliar with the subject matter. ... The term natural language is used to distinguish languages spoken and signed (by hand signals and facial expressions) by humans for general-purpose communication from constructs such as writing, computer-programming languages or the languages used in the study of formal logic, especially mathematical logic. ... In computer programming, a free variable is a variable referred to in a function that is not a local variable or an argument of that function. ...


Steven Pinker proposes the word they be considered to be a pair of "homonyms" — two different words with the same spelling and sound.[2] Steven Pinker Steven Arthur Pinker (born September 18, 1954) is a prominent Canadian-born American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, and popular science writer known for his spirited and wide-ranging advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind. ... For the specialised use of homonym in scientific nomenclature, see Homonym (botany) and Homonym (zoology). ...


This would be analogous to a language like Basque, which uses the word nork both as an indeterminate pronoun meaning "who" and also as a marker in distributive constructions.

"Basque has two ways of expressing universal distributive quantifications: (i) lexically, through the quantifier bakoitz 'each'; (ii) configurationally, through the construction exemplified in (1).
(1) Nork/zeinek bere ama ikusi du
who-erg/which-erg his/her mother seen has
'Everyone saw his/her mother'
In (1), an indeterminate pronoun takes on a universal distributive value. Such a value is not a lexical property of the relevant indeterminate pronouns."[3]

Basque is far from the only example of this. Kuroda considers it typical of east Asian languages, Japanese and Korean in particular.[4] Yet other languages have even more particular ways of expressing distribution and quantification. Sumerian, structurally similar to Basque, uses a nominal suffix, dedli, to indicate "each individual".[5] A formal grammar is in Kuroda normal form iff all production rules are of the form: AB → CD or A → BC or A → B or A → α where A, B, C and D are nonterminal symbols and α is a terminal symbol. ... Look up distribution in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... In language and logic, quantification is a construct that specifies the extent of validity of a predicate, that is the extent to which a predicate holds over a range of things. ... Sumerian ( native tongue) was the language of ancient Sumer, spoken in Southern Mesopotamia from at least the 4th millennium BCE. It was gradually replaced by Akkadian as a spoken language in the beginning of the 2nd millenium BCE, but continued to be used as a sacred, ceremonial, literary and scientific...

Contents

Technical terms

Distribution

Distributive constructions are those which apply a single idea to each entity of a group. They are typically marked in English by words like each and every. The simplest examples are applied to groups of two, and use words like either and or. Thorough analysis of distribution requires treatment of negation. Hence, the Shakespeare quote above is semantically distributive, because there's not a man is logically equivalent to every man does not. Since distributive constructions apply an idea relevant to each individual in the group, rather than to the group as a whole, they are most often conceived of as singular, and singular pronouns are used.

However, English is typical of many languages that show ambivalence in this regard. Because distribution also requires a group with more than one member, plural forms are sometimes used. The Shakespeare quote is probably an example of such a usage. The alternative would be that he intended epicene they in agreement with generic man, including women. The Battle of Trafalgar by J. M. W. Turner (oil on canvas, 1822–1824) shows the last three letters of this famous signal flying from the Victory. ... Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, KB (29 September 1758 – 21 October 1805) was a British admiral famous for his participation in the Napoleonic Wars, most notably in the Battle of Trafalgar, a decisive British victory in the war, during which he lost his life. ... Mestrius Plutarchus (Greek: Πλούταρχος; 46 - 127), better known in English as Plutarch, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist. ...


Many clear examples of the plural being used in other languages, and coming into English by translation, are found in the King James Version of the Bible, which attempted very literal translation. The fact that singular forms are, nonetheless, more natural in distributive constructions is inadvertently demonstrated by a web-site that, not having researched the original languages, unadvisedly assumed a singular interpretation of they in translations of plurals in the original.[6] This page is about the version of the Bible; for the Harvey Danger album, see King James Version (album). ... This Gutenberg Bible is displayed by the United States Library. ...


English is typical of many languages that form distributives with pronouns and mark for singular and plural. They demonstrate a preference for singular pronouns, but attest plurals in a substantial minority of cases. Both forms are comprehensible to native speakers, usage depends on context, clarity, style and logic (for logic, see below).


Strunk and White's The Elements of Style notes both uses. The Elements of Style, 2000 edition. ...

A common inaccuracy is the use of the plural pronoun when the antecedent is a distributive expression such as each, each one, everybody, every one, many a man, which, though implying more than one person, requires the pronoun to be in the singular. Similar to this, but with even less justification, is the use of the plural pronoun with the antecedent anybody, any one, somebody, some one, the intention being either to avoid the awkward he or she, or to avoid committing oneself to either. Some bashful speakers even say, A friend of mine told me that they ..."[7]

This is a semantic assessment (note the words "inaccuracy", "implying", "requires", "justification" and "intention"),[7] rather than a syntactic linguistic prescription (as some have, rather loosely, claimed).[6] Prescriptions of taste are not true or false, so they can't be proved right or wrong;[8] however, claims regarding accuracy can be demonstrated to be true or false.[9] Strunk and White have been proven wrong on this point by logical analysis of quantification in natural language (like Pinker following Lewis and others above) — distributive expressions are neither exclusively singular or plural, they are indeterminate in number.[2] In linguistics, prescription can refer both to the codification and the enforcement of rules governing how a language is to be used. ...


Quantification

The simplest examples of quantification are existential and universal statements, which are marked in English by phrases like there is or words like all. However, there are different types of quantification marked by other words like many, more and most. Quantification is also apparent in language referring to time, marked by words like always, often, sometimes, once or never. Apart from the quantifiers which refer to a unique singularity, like there is and once, they necessarily imply a distributive concept. Even in the case of there is and once, logical analysis views many of these as distributive statements equivalent to, out of all cases there is at least one. Hence literature seeking to explain quantification in natural language often refers to distributive constructions, and vice versa. In predicate logic, an existential quantification is the predication of a property or relation to at least one member of the domain. ... In predicate logic, universal quantification is an attempt to formalize the notion that something (a logical predicate) is true for everything, or every relevant thing. ... This page includes English translations of several Latin phrases and abbreviations such as . ...


Variables

The term variable arises due to the interest mathematicians, logicians, philosophers of language, theoretical linguists and computer language designers have in formal language representations of natural language. In their metalanguage, quantifiers are applied over the domain of a variable. Where natural language speakers use words or clitics to signal generalizations, language analysts define what they call variables that range over any element of the set of members of a group — the domain. Consider the examples of In mathematics, logic, and computer science, a formal language is a language that is defined by precise mathematical or machine processable formulas. ... In logic and linguistics, a metalanguage is a language used to make statements about other languages (object languages). ... For other uses, see Word (disambiguation). ... In linguistics, a clitic is an element that has some of the properties of an independent word and some more typical of a bound morpheme. ...

  • natural language — Every good boy deserves fruit; and
  • formal language — forallb ε B, b.G => b.DF.

The symbol, b, is used to represent a variable that can refer to any boy (the elements of the set of all boys, B). The upside-down A is a standard symbol for the universal quantifier — for all, for each or for every in natural language. In predicate logic, the truth-value of the proposition expressed above in a formal language does not depend on the particular value of the variable, b. This matches our natural language understanding. Whether or not every good boy deserves fruit doesn't depend on any particular boy. Because the truth-value of the proposition doesn't depend on the value of the variable, the variable is called bound. If, however, there is no quantifier, the variable is called free, and the truth value of the proposition depends on the value of the variable. This also matches natural language. Whether Adam is bad or deserves fruit depends on Adam. EGBDF may refer to: The mnemonic Every Good Boy Deserves Favour used by some music students to remember the lines of the treble Clef The mnemonic Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit may be used by some music students The mnemonic Elephant Goes Boating Drowns Fast may be used by some... ... In logic, a truth value, or truth-value, is a value indicating to what extent a statement is true. ... In computer programming, a free variable is a variable referred to in a function that is not a local variable or an argument of that function. ...


Pinker argues that usage of "singular" they in English cannot be condemned on grammatical grounds, because it is probably better understood as a linguistic marker of a bound variable rather than as a pronoun with a referent. "On logical grounds, then, variables are not the same thing as the more familiar 'referential' pronouns that trigger number agreement."[2] He gives the following example.

"Everyone returned to their seats means 'For all X, X returned to X's seat.' The 'X' does not refer to any particular person or group of people. ... The their there ... refers neither to one thing nor to many things; it does not refer at all."
"Everyone and they are not an 'antecedent' and a 'pronoun' .... They are a 'quantifier' and a 'bound variable,' a different logical relationship."[2]

Pinker's example demonstrates the acceptability of plural forms in distributive constructions. However, additional issues are raised by the attested usage of the logically equivalent alternative constructions of this distributive expression, using

  • generic theyEveryone returned to their seat, or
  • generic heEveryone returned to his seat.

Usage

Generic he

Until the late twentieth century, generic use of the pronoun he was preferred (but not required) in such constructions, as described in contemporary grammar books. For example, a grammar contemporary with the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary notes: The Oxford English Dictionary print set The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is a dictionary published by the Oxford University Press (OUP), and is the most successful dictionary of the English language, (not to be confused with the one-volume Oxford Dictionary of English, formerly New Oxford Dictionary of English, of...

410. ... when the antecedent includes both masculine and feminine, or is a distributive word, taking in each of many persons,—the preferred method is to put the pronoun following in the masculine singular; if the antecedent is neuter, preceded by a distributive, the pronoun will be neuter singular.[10]

Examples of generic he

  • Every person who turns this page has his own little diary. — Thackeray
  • Suppose the life and fortune of every one of us would depend on his winning or losing a game of chess. — Thomas Huxley
  • If any one did not know it, it was his own fault. — Cable

Generic he is still found in English usage, however the gender neutral language movement discourages its use. Thomas Henry Huxley PC, FRS (4 May 1825 Ealing – 29 June 1895 Eastbourne, Sussex) was an English biologist, known as Darwins Bulldog for his advocacy of Charles Darwins theory of evolution. ... George Washington Cable (12 October 1844 - 31 January 1925) was a novelist notable for the realism of his portrayals of Creole life in his native Louisiana. ... Gender-neutral language is a description of language usages which are aimed at minimizing assumptions regarding the biological sex of human referents. ...


Generic they

Generic he was a preference in usage, not a binding grammatical "rule", as Thackeray's use of both forms demonstrates. "The alternative to the masculine generic with the longest and most distinguished history in English is the third-person plural pronoun. Recognized writers have used they, them, themselves, and their to refer to singular nouns such as one, a person, an individual, and each since the 1300s."[11]


Examples of generic they

  • Eche of theym sholde ... make theymselfe redy. — Caxton
  • Arise; one knocks. / ... / Hark, how they knock! — Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
  • 'Tis meet that some more audience than a mother, since nature makes them partial, should o'erhear the speech. — Shakespeare, Hamlet
  • I would have everybody marry if they can do it properly. — Austen, Mansfield Park (1814)
  • That's always your way, Maim – always sailing in to help somebody before they're hurt. — Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
  • Caesar: "No, Cleopatra. No man goes to battle to be killed." / Cleopatra: "But they do get killed". — Shaw, Caesar and Cleopatra (1901)

Recently, the American Heritage English language projects consulted a usage panel "of some 200 distinguished educators, writers, and public speakers."[12] "Most of the Usage Panelists reject the use of they with singular antecedents. Eighty-two percent find the sentence The typical student in the program takes about six years to complete their course work unacceptable."[13] Study has also shown that reading time of they increases significantly when used with a gender-determinate antecedent, suggesting that such use can confuse.[14] “Caxton” redirects here. ... Romeo and Juliet in the famous balcony scene by Ford Madox Brown For other uses, see Romeo and Juliet (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Hamlet (disambiguation). ... 1870 engraving of Jane Austen, based on a portrait commissioned by her nephew for his 1870 Memoir of Jane Austen Jane Austen (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) was an English novelist whose works include Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion. ... For other uses, see Mansfield Park. ... Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910),[1] better known by the pen name Mark Twain, was an American humanist,[2] humorist, satirist, lecturer and writer. ... Mark Twain Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) by Mark Twain is commonly accounted as one of the first Great American Novels. ... George Bernard Shaw (26 July 1856–2 November 1950) was a world-renowned Irish author. ... Caesar and Cleopatra is a 1901 play by George Bernard Shaw. ... The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (AHD) is an American dictionary of the English language published by Boston publisher Houghton-Mifflin, the first edition of which appeared in 1969. ...


So both generic he and generic they have long histories of use, and both are still used. However, both are also systematically avoided by particular groups. Style guides that avoid expressing a preference for either approach recommend recasting generic expressions as plurals to avoid the criticisms of either party.


Irrespective of the debate, when used, "singular" they can be seen to have an implication of indefinite reference (indefinite number or indefinite gender). It is most commonly used with indefinite referents of a distributive nature such as someone, anyone, everyone, and no one. Such references are not to one particular person but to a large group taken one at a time, causing influence from the implied plural. This is also evident in the case of some singular collective nouns. For example, "The Blue Sky Mining Company say that they are unwilling to make an exception for one newspaper reporter." Collective nouns (also known as terms of venery or nouns of assemblage) in English are subject-specific words used to define a grouping of people, animals, objects or concepts. ...


Grammatical analysis

According to the traditional analysis,[15] English personal pronouns are typically used to refer back, or forward within a sentence, to a noun phrase (which may be a simple noun). (According to a newer analysis,[16] to a determiner phrase, which may be a simple determiner.) In linguistics, traditional grammar is a cover name for the collection of concepts and ideas about the structure of language that Western societies have received from ancient Greek and Roman sources. ... The personal pronouns of English can have various forms according to gender, number, person, and case. ... Look up noun phrase in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... In linguistics, a noun or noun substantive is a lexical category which is defined in terms of how its members combine with other grammatical kinds of expressions. ... In linguistics, a determiner phrase is a syntactic category, a phrase headed by a determiner. ... For the function in NP structure, see Determiner (function). ...

Inflected forms
Nominative (subject) Accusative (object) Prenominal possessive Predicative possessive Reflexive
He He laughs. I hug him. His hair grows. I use his. He feeds himself.
She She laughs. I hug her. Her hair grows. I use hers. She feeds herself.
Prototypical they When my kids watch "The Simpsons", they laugh. Whether they win or lose, I hug them. As long as people live, their hair grows. Most of my friends have cell phones, so I use theirs. The children feed themselves.
"Singular" they When I tell someone a joke they laugh. When I greet a friend I hug them. When someone doesn't get a haircut, their hair grows long. If my cell phone dies, a friend I am with lets me borrow theirs. Each child feeds themself/themselves.
Generic he When I tell someone a joke he laughs. When I greet a friend I hug him. When someone doesn't get a haircut, his hair grows long. If my cell phone dies, a friend I am with lets me borrow his. Each child feeds himself.

Plural The nominative case is a grammatical case for a noun, which generally marks the subject of a verb, as opposed to its object or other verb arguments. ... The accusative case (abbreviated ACC) of a noun is the grammatical case used to mark the direct object of a transitive verb. ... Headline text hjvhwhatsgm,Possessive adjectives modify nouns. ... A possessive pronoun is a part of speech that attributes ownership to someone or something. ... “Oneself” redirects here. ... Look up he in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... For other uses, see She (disambiguation). ... Look up they in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

  • All good students do their homework.

Generic (indeterminate number)

  • A good student is known for doing his homework (preferred usage until late 20th century) OR
  • A good student is known for doing their homework (widely prescribed in gender-neutral style guides)

Singular

  • Mary is known for doing her homework

In the middle two of these example sentences, traditional grammars speak of the pronoun referring to a good student. However, following analysis by David Lewis, structures involving generic antecedents are now understood to be a logically distinct class. Pinker notes the pronouns are not in fact referring to anything in particular. Pullum uses the logical, rather than grammatical, term "bound variable" to describe such expressions. For other persons named David Lewis, see David Lewis (disambiguation). ... Generic antecedents are representatives of classes of people, indicated by a reference in ordinary language (most often a pronoun), where gender is typically unknown or irrelevant. ... Steven Pinker Steven Arthur Pinker (born September 18, 1954) is a prominent Canadian-born American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, and popular science writer known for his spirited and wide-ranging advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind. ... In mathematics, and in other disciplines involving formal languages, including mathematical logic and computer science, a free variable is a notation for a place or places in an expression, into which some definite substitution may take place, or with respect to which some operation (summation or quantification, to give two...


Irrespective of how such cases are explained grammatically, however, both are well-formed English sentences. Both are attested in English literature prior to the 20th century, and both are still attested in 21st century English.[17] [18]


Singular they, although morphologically a plural pronoun, may be used in those circumstances when an indefinite number is signified by an indefinite singular antecedent; for example, For other uses, see Morphology. ...

  • The person you mentioned, are they coming?, not *… is they coming?

This is analogous to the pronoun you, which originally was only plural, but by about 1700 replaced thou for singular referents,[19] while retaining the plural verb form. Some uses of "singular" they follow a grammatical rule whereby singular indefinite antecedents (such as everyone, anyone, no one, and all) are followed by a coordinate or independent clause containing the plural pronoun 'they'. The plural reflexive form themselves may be used as well; with some speakers using the singular form themself, in particular with semantically singular they.


Even when the gender is known, they can be used with a generic referent. For example: "A teenage boy rarely thinks about their future."[20] A teenage boy rarely thinks about his future is also grammatical here, and more likely in formal writing.


Many other modern uses follow the prescription of gender-neutral English in the style manuals of various organizations. As the syntactically singular third-person pronouns of English are all either gender-specific (he and she) or inappropriate for reference to people (it). Singular they is also often used where the sex of the referent is either unknown or irrelevant: Gender-neutral language is a description of language usages which are aimed at minimizing assumptions regarding the biological sex of human referents. ...

  • A child becomes an adult when they turn 18.
  • Someone called for you, but they didn't leave a message.

Gender neutral language movement

In the late 20th century, the feminist movement expressed concern regarding the use of generic he in the English language. The feminist claim was that such usage contributes to an assumption that maleness is "standard," and that femaleness is "different". They also claimed that such use is misogynistic. One response to this was an increase in the use of generic she in academic journal articles from around this time. However, the more common response has been prescriptive, with many institutions publishing gender neutral style guides, notably in government, academia and publishing.[21] For example, The Cambridge Guide to English Usage (2004) expresses several preferences. "Generic/universal their provides a gender-free pronoun, avoiding the exclusive his and the clumsy his/her." Feminism is a social theory and political movement primarily informed and motivated by the experience of women. ... This box:      Misogyny (IPA: ) is hatred or strong prejudice against women; an antonym of philogyny. ...

It avoids gratuitous sexism and gives the statement broadest reference. . . . They, them, their are now freely used in agreement with singular indefinite pronouns and determiners, those with universal implications such as any(one), every(one), no(one), as well as each and some(one), whose reference is often more individual. . . . For those listening or reading, it has become unremarkable - an element of common usage."[22]

The use of masculine generic nouns and pronouns in written and spoken language has decreased since the 1960s.[23] In a corpus of spontaneous speech collected in Australia in the 1990s, singular they had become the most frequently used generic pronoun.[24] The increased usage of singular they may be at least partly due to an increasing desire for gender-neutral language; while writers a hundred years ago might have had no qualm using he with a referent of indeterminate gender, writers today often feel uncomfortable with this. One solution in formal writing has often been to write he or she, or something similar, but this is considered awkward when used excessively, overly politically correct,[25] or both. Gender-neutral language (gender-generic, gender-inclusive, non-sexist, or sex-neutral language) is language that attempts to refer neither to males nor females when discussing an abstract or hypothetical person whose sex cannot otherwise be determined. ... Political correctness is the alteration of language to redress real or alleged injustices and discrimination or to avoid offense. ...


In certain contexts, singular they may sound less obtrusive and more natural than generic he, or he or she[26] give the following example:

Nobody in their right mind would do a thing like that.

The alternative formulation ("Nobody in his right mind […]") "now seems inappropriate to a large proportion of speakers, who systematically avoid the use of he in such contexts".


Some grammar and usage guides have accepted singular uses of they, in cases limited to references to an indeterminate person.[27] For example, A person might find themself in a fix is considered standard English, but not *Dr. Brown might find themself in a fix. For the latter, the most usual circumlocutions are: recasting the sentence in the plural (Doctors might find themselves …), second person (If you're a doctor, you might find yourself …), or sometimes reflexive (One might find oneself …). Singular they is occasionally used to refer to an indeterminate person whose gender is known, as in No mother should be forced to testify against their child. Standard English is a nebulous term generally used to denote a form of the English language that is thought to be normative for educated users. ...


Some grammarians (e.g., Fowler 1992, pp. 300–301) continue to view singular they as grammatically inconsistent, and recommend either recasting in the plural or avoiding the pronoun altogether. Others say that there is no sufficient reason not to extend singular they to include specific people of unknown gender, as well as to transgender, bigender, intersexual and androgyne people, and those who do not identify exclusively with either gender.[28] A transgender woman at New York Citys gay pride parade Transgender (IPA: , from trans (Latin) and gender (English)) is a general term applied to a variety of individuals, behaviors, and groups involving tendencies that diverge from the normative gender role (woman or man) commonly, but not always, assigned at... Bigender (bi+gender) is a tendency to move between masculine and feminine gender-typed behaviour depending on context, expressing a distinctly male persona and a distinctly female persona. ... An intersexual or intersex person (or animal of any unisexual species) is one who is born with genitalia and/or secondary sexual characteristics of indeterminate sex, or which combine features of both sexes. ... An androgyne is a person who does not fit cleanly into the typical masculine and feminine gender roles of their society. ...


Other manuals of style remain more neutral on the subject. The Chicago Manual of Style states: "On the one hand, it is unacceptable to a great many reasonable readers to use the generic masculine pronoun ('he' in reference to no one in particular). On the other hand, it is unacceptable to a great many readers either to resort to nontraditional gimmicks to avoid the generic masculine (by using 'he/she' or 's/he.' for example) or to use 'they' as a kind of singular pronoun." (233) Although those objecting to the generic masculine pronoun are described as "reasonable readers" while those objecting to the singular they remain unmodified by any such adjective, this stops well short of an endorsement of any particular course of action.


Current debate relates to wider questions of political correctness and equal rights. The extent to which language influences thought may also be an important factor. Political correctness is the alteration of language to redress real or alleged injustices and discrimination or to avoid offense. ... Equal Rights can be: One of several groups called the Equal Rights Party. ... In linguistics, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (SWH) states that there is a systematic relationship between the grammatical categories of the language a person speaks and how that person both understands the world and behaves in it. ...


See also

  • Gender-neutral language in English

Gender-neutral language is a description of language usages which are aimed at minimizing assumptions regarding the biological sex of human referents. ...

Notes

  1. ^ David Lewis, 'Adverbs of Quantification', in EL Keenan (ed.), Formal Semantics of Natural Language, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), pp. 3-15. Reprinted as chapter 7 in Paul Portner and Barbara H. Partee (eds), Formal Semantics: The Essential Readings, (Blackwell, 2002).
  2. ^ a b c d Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct, 1994. Quoted online.
  3. ^ Ricardo Etxepare, 'Indeterminate pronouns and universal quantification in Basque', (University of California, Los Angeles, Semantics and Linguistic Theory Conference 15, unpublished paper, 2005).
  4. ^ S.-Y. Kuroda, An Integrated Theory of Linguistic Description, (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1969).
  5. ^ Dietz Otto Edzard, Hand buch der Orientalistik, (Leiden: Brill, 2003).
  6. ^ a b "Singular they": God said it, I believe it, that settles it, Language Log 13 September, 2006.
  7. ^ a b Strunk and White, The Elements of Style, revised 1959, reprinted 1999.
  8. ^ "They may or may not conform to standards of usage or taste. But they are not true or false." Howard K. Wettstein, The Magic Prism: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
  9. ^ For accuracy implying true or false, see Accuracy and precision for a common example of usage.
  10. ^ W. M. Baskervill and J. W. Sewell, An English Grammar, 1896.
  11. ^ 'They with Singular Antecedent', American Heritage Book of English Usage: A Practical and Authoritative Guide to Contemporary English, 1996.
  12. ^ Usage Panel
  13. ^ 'They' The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth edition, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000).
  14. ^ J. Foertsch and MA Gernsbacher, 'In Search of Gender Neutrality: Is Singular They a Cognitively Efficient Substitute for Generic He?', Psychological Science 8 (1997): 106–111.
  15. ^ One that still has many adherents among linguists; for example Huddleston and Pullum, Student's Introduction. (2005)
  16. ^ For example, Andrew Radford, Minimalist Syntax: Exploring the Structure of English (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004; ISBN 0-521-54274-X).
  17. ^ Huddleston and Pullum, Student's Introduction, p.105.
  18. ^ Peters, Pam (2004). The Cambridge Guide to English Usage. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-62181-X. "For those listening or reading, it has become unremarkable - an element of common usage." Cambr. Guide Eng. Usage, page 538
  19. ^ Guide to English Usage (2004) p.539
  20. ^ Michael Newman (1997) Epicene pronouns: The linguistics of a prescriptive problem; Newman (1997) "What can pronouns tell us? A case study of English epicenes", Studies in language 22:2, 353-389.
  21. ^ Some examples: Federation Press Style Guide for use in preparation of book manuscripts (PDF file); Australian Guide to Legal Citation
  22. ^ Cambr. Guide to Eng. Usage (2004), p. 538
  23. ^ Pauwels 2003, p. 563.
  24. ^ Pauwels, p. 564)
  25. ^ Lou Ann Matossian, Burglars, Babysitters, and Persons: A Sociolinguistic Study of Generic Pronoun Usage in Philadelphia and Minneapolis (University of Pennsylvania, 1997), accessed 10 June 2006.
  26. ^ Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum, A Student's Introduction to English Grammar (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005; ISBN 0-521-84837-7), pp. 103–105.
  27. ^ American Heritage Dictionary, (1992); and Chicago Manual of Style, (1993); cited in Laura Madson and Robert Hessling, "Readers' Perceptions of Four Alternatives to Masculine Generic Pronouns", Journal of Social Psychology 141.1 (February 2001): 156–158. See also Baranowski 2002.
  28. ^ Amy Warenda, "They", Writing across the Curriculum 4 (April 1993): 89–97 (PDF file; URL accessed September 17, 2006); Juliane Schwarz, "Non-sexist language at the beginning of the 21st century: A feminist topic in a post-feminist era", research colloquium handout, 2003 (PDF file; URL accessed June 10, 2005); see also Baranowski 2002.

For other persons named David Lewis, see David Lewis (disambiguation). ... The headquarters of the Cambridge University Press, in Trumpington Street, Cambridge. ... Steven Pinker Steven Arthur Pinker (born September 18, 1954) is a prominent Canadian-born American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, and popular science writer known for his spirited and wide-ranging advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind. ... The Language Instinct is a book by Steven Pinker, published in 1995, in which he argues the case for the belief that humans are born with an innate capacity for language. ... The Elements of Style, 2000 edition. ... Oxford University Press (OUP) is a highly-respected publishing house and a department of the University of Oxford in England. ... “Accuracy” redirects here. ... William Malone Baskervill (1850-1899) was a writer and professor of the English language and literature at Vanderbilt University. ... James Witt Sewell (1865 - 1955) was a writer and professor of the English language in The Fogg High School. ... is the 161st day of the year (162nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 2006 (MMVI) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (AHD) is an American dictionary of the English language published by Boston publisher Houghton-Mifflin, the first edition of which appeared in 1969. ... The Chicago Manual of Style (abbreviated CMS or CMOS, and spoken as Chicago) is a style guide for American English published by the University of Chicago Press (hence its title), prescribing a writing style widely used in publishing. ... is the 260th day of the year (261st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 2006 (MMVI) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... is the 161st day of the year (162nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 2005 (MMV) was a common year starting on Saturday (link displays full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ...

References

  • Baranowski, M. "Current usage of the epicene pronoun in written English." Journal of Sociolinguistics 6.3 (August 2002): 378–397.
  • W. M. Baskervill; J. W. Sewell, (1896). An English Grammar. Retrieved on 2007-07-09.
  • Fowler, Henry Ramsey; Jane E. Aaron (1992). The Little, Brown Handbook, 5th edn., HarperCollins. ISBN 0-673-52132-X. 
  • Huddleston, Rodney; Geoffrey K. Pullum (2002). "Singular pronouns denoting humans without specification of sex,", The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, ch. 5, §17.2.4, pp. 491–5. ISBN 0-521-43146-8. 
  • Huddleston, Rodney; Geoffrey K. Pullum (2005). A Student's Introduction to English Grammar. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 103–105. ISBN 0-521-84837-7. 
  • Jespersen, Otto (1894). Progress in Language, with Special Reference to English. New York: Macmillan. 
  • Newman, Michael (1997) Epicene Pronouns: The Linguistics of a Prescriptive Problem. Outstanding Dissertations in Linguistics. New York: Garland. ISBN 0815325541.
  • Pauwels, Anne (2003). "Linguistic sexism and feminist linguistic activism". Chapter 24 in The Handbook of Language and Gender, edited by Janet Holmes and Miriam Meyerhoff. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-22502-1.
  • Peters, Pam (2004). The Cambridge Guide to English Usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-62181-X. 
  • Pinker, Steven (1994). The Language Instinct. Ch12. Retrieved on 2007-07-09.
  • Pullum, Geoffrey K.; from a radio broadcast (2002-05-04). Anyone who had a heart. speaking with Jill Kitson. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved on 2007-07-09.
  • Radford, Andrew (2004). Minimalist Syntax: Exploring the Structure of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-54274-X. 
  • Simpson, John; Edmund Weiner (1989). The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edn., Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-861186-2. 

William Malone Baskervill (1850-1899) was a writer and professor of the English language and literature at Vanderbilt University. ... James Witt Sewell (1865 - 1955) was a writer and professor of the English language in The Fogg High School. ... Year 2007 (MMVII) is the current year, a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar and the AD/CE era in the 21st century. ... is the 190th day of the year (191st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Professor Rodney Huddleston is a linguist and grammarian specializing in the study and description of English. ... Professor Geoffrey K. Pullum (born in 1945 in Irvine, Scotland) is a linguist specialising in the study of English. ... Professor Rodney Huddleston is a linguist and grammarian specializing in the study and description of English. ... Professor Geoffrey K. Pullum (born in 1945 in Irvine, Scotland) is a linguist specialising in the study of English. ... Jens Otto Harry Jespersen or Otto Jespersen (July 16, 1860-April 30, 1943) was a Danish linguist who specialized in the grammar of the English language. ... Year 2007 (MMVII) is the current year, a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar and the AD/CE era in the 21st century. ... is the 190th day of the year (191st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Professor Geoffrey K. Pullum (born March 8, 1945 in Irvine, Scotland) is a linguist specialising in the study of English. ... Also see: 2002 (number). ... is the 124th day of the year (125th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... The Australian Broadcasting Corporation or ABC is Australias national non-profit public broadcaster. ... Year 2007 (MMVII) is the current year, a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar and the AD/CE era in the 21st century. ... is the 190th day of the year (191st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... John (Andrew) Simpson  (b. ... Edmund Weiner, born 1950, Co-Editor of the Second Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (1985-1989), Deputy Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary (1993-present). ...

Further reading

  • Mark Balhorn (2004). "The Rise of Epicene They". Journal of English Linguistics 32 (2): 79–104. SAGE Publications. doi:10.1177/0075424204265824. 
  • Janet Dean Fodor and Ivan A. Sag (1982). "Referential and Quantificational Indefinites". Journal Linguistics and Philosophy 5 (3): 355–398. Springer Netherlands. doi:10.1007/BF00351459. ISSN 0165-0157. 

A digital object identifier (or DOI) is a standard for persistently identifying a piece of intellectual property on a digital network and associating it with related data, the metadata, in a structured extensible way. ... A digital object identifier (or DOI) is a standard for persistently identifying a piece of intellectual property on a digital network and associating it with related data, the metadata, in a structured extensible way. ... ISSN, or International Standard Serial Number, is the unique eight-digit number applied to a periodical publication including electronic serials. ... Gender-neutral, gender-inclusive or epicene pronouns are pronouns that neither reveal nor imply the gender or the sex of a person. ... Look up he in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... For other uses, see She (disambiguation). ... This article is about the Modern English personal pronoun. ... One is a personal pronoun in the English language. ... Gender-neutral, gender-inclusive or epicene pronouns are pronouns that neither reveal nor imply the gender or the sex of a person. ... The Spivak pronouns are new terms proposed to serve as gender-neutral third-person singular personal pronouns in English (see gender-neutral pronouns). ...

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