Re: pronouns and portfolios

Subject: Re: pronouns and portfolios
From: Janice Gelb <janiceg -at- marvin -dot- eng -dot- sun -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 6 Apr 2001 13:08:24 -0700 (PDT)

Bruce Byfield wrote:
> Janice Gelb wrote:
> > One can't just say
> > *poof* and make a word sometimes plural and sometimes not plural,
> In Old English, the third person pronouns are "he" (masculine),
> "heo" (feminine), and "hie" (plural). These must have been
> pronounced very similarly, since manuscripts frequently confuse
> them. And in the Northumbrian dialect (modern renderings of Old
> English standardize on the Wessex dialect), they would be even
> closer: "hi," "hio" and "hie." And other pronoun forms, used
> *exactly* the same word for singular and plural ("him" is masculine
> singular and plural in the dative).
> Also, what about modern English? We use "you" for singular and
> plural all the time.
> Quite clearly, a word can sometimes be plural and sometimes not
> plural.

When "you" is used in the plural, it has a plural
antecedent. The usage under discussion here is when
there is a singular antecedent ("the writer... they").

> > There are numerous gramatically acceptable ways to word
> > sentences to avoid gender-specific pronouns. Using "they"
> > for a singular subject is not one of them.
> Why not?

Because singular subjects should have singular pronouns.
Confusion can result otherwise.

> If you're uncomfortable with using "they" as an indefinite pronoun,
> there's no reason why you should use it. You're lucky that English
> is flexible that you have several workarounds. But don't imagine
> that using it is somehow "wrong." Grammar has more in common with
> style, both personal and cultural, then with the laws of science.
> And, as in style, there is no such thing as right or wrong in
> grammar: just appropriate or inappropriate for the circumstances or
> your goals.

Well, this is the crux of the disagreement, isn't it?
Many people here feel that grammar is style and there
is no right or wrong; others like myself feel that it
provides rules so distinctions can be made between
correct and incorrect usage.

As I sense Eric metaphorically breathing down my neck,
I won't comment further on this thread!

-- Janice


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