Gender pronouns - the singular 'they'

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Re: Gender pronouns - the singular 'they'

#61  Postby THWOTH » Sep 19, 2019 11:54 pm

Zee and Zur. :smoke:
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Re: Gender pronouns - the singular 'they'

#62  Postby I'm With Stupid » Sep 20, 2019 2:32 am

Just makes you sound German.
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Re: Gender pronouns - the singular 'they'

#63  Postby The_Piper » Sep 20, 2019 3:20 am

tell me about xe muzzere.
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Re: Gender pronouns - the singular 'they'

#64  Postby Ironclad » Sep 20, 2019 9:09 am

I'll use chê, and see how that plays. :smoke:
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Re: Gender pronouns - the singular 'they'

#65  Postby The_Piper » Sep 21, 2019 4:46 pm

Shapiro puts hoof in mouth, yet again. :tehe:
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Re: Gender pronouns - the singular 'they'

#66  Postby I'm With Stupid » Sep 22, 2019 1:48 am

The_Piper wrote:Shapiro puts hoof in mouth, yet again. :tehe:

Shapiro is right that this is a new usage, but he doesn't really seem to know why. He also doesn't seem to know how dictionaries work. There was a discussion amongst linguists on this issue the other day on Twitter. They get lobbied all the time by groups who think that the dictionary somehow describes the definitive meaning of a word, rather than simply describing how people use the word. For example, when they changed the definition of marriage to include same-sex relationships, they were lobbied by Christian groups to keep it as it was. Typically a definition will only be changed if their's evidence of "widespread use." Basically, these people want to live in France, where a bunch of stuffy old men decide what is "proper French" and everyone just ignores them anyway. For the record, that video makes exactly the same mistake that is the topic of this thread. It uses examples of a completely different use of the singular they to claim that using it for non-binary people isn't a new thing.

The one thing that did come up though was how quick the dictionaries are to put changes in if the "widespread use" is amongst educated middle-class people (preferably journalists) in London or New York. Meanwhile words that are pretty common in working class communities or regional varieties can be in use for decades and still not get in. Just as an example, I looked up the word "hangin" which is pretty commonly used in Wales and has been at least since I went to uni there in 2002 (probably a long time before that too), but you'll have to find it in the Urban Dictionary if you want to know what it means, because apparently it hasn't reached Oxford yet. Meanwhile, the London slang "innit," which is in my experience only ever used ironically outside of London, does appear in most major dictionaries. So I'm not sure what criteria they use for when something gets put in the dictionary. There definitely seems to be a bias towards written English, as there always has been with grammar too, not because it's more valid, but because it's easier to collect samples and study them. That obviously means that publications and people who write professionally have a lot of influence over things (and that's why if you want to change the dictionary, you should lobby the newspapers, not the dictionary). Merriam-Webster says that "widespread usage" covers a wide geographical area, but most dictionaries will include words only used in a particular region. Oxford includes words like "kecks" and "wee" that are really only in use in particular parts of the UK, for example.
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Re: Gender pronouns - the singular 'they'

#67  Postby THWOTH » Sep 22, 2019 10:31 am

The video shows just how hard the right have to work to stay angry.
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Re: Gender pronouns - the singular 'they'

#68  Postby The_Piper » Sep 23, 2019 12:56 am

I'm With Stupid wrote:
The_Piper wrote:Shapiro puts hoof in mouth, yet again. :tehe:

Shapiro is right that this is a new usage, but he doesn't really seem to know why. He also doesn't seem to know how dictionaries work. There was a discussion amongst linguists on this issue the other day on Twitter. They get lobbied all the time by groups who think that the dictionary somehow describes the definitive meaning of a word, rather than simply describing how people use the word. For example, when they changed the definition of marriage to include same-sex relationships, they were lobbied by Christian groups to keep it as it was. Typically a definition will only be changed if their's evidence of "widespread use." Basically, these people want to live in France, where a bunch of stuffy old men decide what is "proper French" and everyone just ignores them anyway. For the record, that video makes exactly the same mistake that is the topic of this thread. It uses examples of a completely different use of the singular they to claim that using it for non-binary people isn't a new thing.

The one thing that did come up though was how quick the dictionaries are to put changes in if the "widespread use" is amongst educated middle-class people (preferably journalists) in London or New York. Meanwhile words that are pretty common in working class communities or regional varieties can be in use for decades and still not get in. Just as an example, I looked up the word "hangin" which is pretty commonly used in Wales and has been at least since I went to uni there in 2002 (probably a long time before that too), but you'll have to find it in the Urban Dictionary if you want to know what it means, because apparently it hasn't reached Oxford yet. Meanwhile, the London slang "innit," which is in my experience only ever used ironically outside of London, does appear in most major dictionaries. So I'm not sure what criteria they use for when something gets put in the dictionary. There definitely seems to be a bias towards written English, as there always has been with grammar too, not because it's more valid, but because it's easier to collect samples and study them. That obviously means that publications and people who write professionally have a lot of influence over things (and that's why if you want to change the dictionary, you should lobby the newspapers, not the dictionary). Merriam-Webster says that "widespread usage" covers a wide geographical area, but most dictionaries will include words only used in a particular region. Oxford includes words like "kecks" and "wee" that are really only in use in particular parts of the UK, for example.

Shapiro says "never in human history, a plural noun, used as a singular noun". They may be used as both plural and singular, and apparently it's been that way since the middle ages. Shapiro was wrong.
The_Piper wrote:
As for the thread's subject, we already use they when the gender is unknown. We can also use it when someone is gender fluid, and to me it's the same thing, so doesn't seem unnatural to adapt that usage. Someone who is gender fluid
(or whatever other term means not necessarily male or female) is, from my perspective, an unknown gender.

What word would feel more grammatically correct to you in this case?
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Re: Gender pronouns - the singular 'they'

#69  Postby I'm With Stupid » Sep 23, 2019 3:49 pm

The_Piper wrote:Shapiro says "never in human history, a plural noun, used as a singular noun". They may be used as both plural and singular, and apparently it's been that way since the middle ages. Shapiro was wrong.

That's what he says when it's edited to cut him off before he's finished his sentence, I'll give you that. The rest of the sentence is, "to refer to a singular gender." It's slightly nonsensical, because as I assume based on the few videos I've seen of him that he doesn't really accept the idea of there being a third gender or non-gendered individuals and sees non-binary people as being their birth gender. He clearly doesn't have the linguistic knowledge to articulate why it's a new usage (or new widespread usage, at least), but he is correct that it's a new usage, and the editing of his argument mid-sentence is done precisely so that the presenter can make the argument that 'they' has been used for singular for centuries, specifically choosing examples that are different to the usage Shapiro is discussing. What he should have said is "to refer to a specific known individual whose gender is also known." Which of course is where Shapiro's argument would break down because then he'd have to accept that we need a word to refer to the people who have this "new" gender identity that is being recognised more widely, and of course his real beef isn't with the language we use to recognise it, but that it's being recognised in the first place. What he really wants is to have a situation where people's gender identity is fixed and imposed on them by society as either male or female. I've seen him deliberately making a point of referring to trans women who obviously and publicly identify as a woman as "he" for example.
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Re: Gender pronouns - the singular 'they'

#70  Postby The_Piper » Sep 23, 2019 4:41 pm

the editing of his argument mid-sentence is done precisely so that the presenter can make the argument that 'they' has been used for singular for centuries, specifically choosing examples that are different to the usage Shapiro is discussing
The video isn't edited, it was paused. When they continued playing the rest of Shapiro's comments, they rewound it back a sentence or two.
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Re: Gender pronouns - the singular 'they'

#71  Postby I'm With Stupid » Sep 24, 2019 1:50 am

The_Piper wrote:
the editing of his argument mid-sentence is done precisely so that the presenter can make the argument that 'they' has been used for singular for centuries, specifically choosing examples that are different to the usage Shapiro is discussing
The video isn't edited, it was paused. When they continued playing the rest of Shapiro's comments, they rewound it back a sentence or two.

Yeah, and his entire rebuttal was based on the sentence at the point it was paused, ignoring what came after.
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Re: Gender pronouns - the singular 'they'

#72  Postby Spinozasgalt » Sep 24, 2019 5:31 am

I'm With Stupid wrote:
The_Piper wrote:Shapiro says "never in human history, a plural noun, used as a singular noun". They may be used as both plural and singular, and apparently it's been that way since the middle ages. Shapiro was wrong.

That's what he says when it's edited to cut him off before he's finished his sentence, I'll give you that. The rest of the sentence is, "to refer to a singular gender."

He doesn't stop there though. After "to refer to a singular gender" he apparently says "wouldn't use a plural noun." He does seem to be making the "they is only plural" point that Seder takes him to task for.
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Re: Gender pronouns - the singular 'they'

#73  Postby I'm With Stupid » Sep 24, 2019 5:54 am

Spinozasgalt wrote:
I'm With Stupid wrote:
The_Piper wrote:Shapiro says "never in human history, a plural noun, used as a singular noun". They may be used as both plural and singular, and apparently it's been that way since the middle ages. Shapiro was wrong.

That's what he says when it's edited to cut him off before he's finished his sentence, I'll give you that. The rest of the sentence is, "to refer to a singular gender."

He doesn't stop there though. After "to refer to a singular gender" he apparently says "wouldn't use a plural noun." He does seem to be making the "they is only plural" point that Seder takes him to task for.

Well I'm not going to defend Shapiro's limited understanding of language, but my point is that the criticism of him also shows a limited understanding of the relevant language. Basically you've got two people who don't really know what they're talking about arguing with the confidence of a Oxford professor.
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Re: Gender pronouns - the singular 'they'

#74  Postby don't get me started » Jan 05, 2020 1:35 am

The 7th edition of the APA manual has been published.
I haven't bought it yet, but apparently it endorses the use of 'they' as a gender neutral singular pronoun.
The example given in the website I looked at was:

1) A researcher’s career depends on how often he or she is cited. WRONG
2) A researcher’s career depends on how often they are cited. CORRECT

For those who are not familiar with it, the APA manual is a style guide for academic publications in the social sciences. It is the way in which writers can make sure that a common format is used in academic writing. It is the format I use in my publications and it is very specific about how things should be worded and formatted. Editors and peer reviewers will duly annotate any deviations from APA style, even before they deal with the actual content of a paper.

So, 'they' it is then.

On the topic of pronouns in general, the whole thing seems bizarre when looked at from the standpoint for languages that have a very different pronoun system from English and other Indo-European languages. Japanese has an elaborate system of honorifics and humilifics that are used where English would just bash on with words like 'I'.
In Japanese I can refer to myself as Watashi, Ore, Boku, Watakushi, depending on context. (But not Atashi- that is for females).
But in reality, pronouns often get omitted altogether in daily speech, or replaced with status/role terms plus honorifics.

No Japanese shop staff would ever consider addressing a customer as 'anata' (You). The referent term would either be dropped completely so that 'Would you like that wrapped?' would come out as 'Would wrapping be desirable?' or, if a referent is used, the word 'kyaku' (Customer/guest/client) would be combined with the honorific 'sama' (an upgrade from mere 'san') with an honorific prefix 'o' to give 'Okyakusama', meaning something like 'honoured customer'. The end result would be something like 'May it be politely inquired if the honoured customer would desire this to be wrapped?' Nary a pronoun to be seen.
It sometimes makes it tricky for the non-native to work out what is going on!

Encoding for gender is a part of the Japanese pronoun system, but a minor part. A much more important consideration is encoding for status and on the whole pronouns do not occupy the same kind of slot in language that they do in English.
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Re: Gender pronouns - the singular 'they'

#75  Postby Thomas Eshuis » Jan 05, 2020 10:20 am

"Respect for personal beliefs = "I am going to tell you all what I think of YOU, but don't dare retort and tell what you think of ME because...it's my personal belief". Hmm. A bully's charter and no mistake."
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Re: Gender pronouns - the singular 'they'

#76  Postby don't get me started » Jan 05, 2020 3:20 pm



Cheers Thomas. :thumbup:
I was aware of many of those but there were a few new terms there.
I think Thai has a similar complexity in their pronoun system.
Korean is also very conscious of status and also tries to avoid second person pronouns in direct address. Koreans use a lot of kinship terms, things like 'older sister' and the like, even to people who are not kin, rather than use 'you'.

This summer I was at a conference and was talking to a German speaker. She talked about the minefield that is the du/sie distinction and the problems involved around working out when it is appropriate to switch from the formal to the familiar. She even reported that she sent e-mails in English to her German speaking co-worker so that she could avoid choosing one over the other.
I'm pretty glad English doesn't have this distinction.
How does it work in Dutch?
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Re: Gender pronouns - the singular 'they'

#77  Postby newolder » Jan 05, 2020 3:43 pm

Dutch has the best pronouns. :snooty:
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Re: Gender pronouns - the singular 'they'

#78  Postby Spearthrower » Jan 05, 2020 4:02 pm

don't get me started wrote:
I think Thai has a similar complexity in their pronoun system.


The Thai system's not very complex... at least as far as I know.

There's a male and female version of I (ผม pom & ฉัน chan respectively). Both male and female kids will often use chan though as it's considered 'softer'. This also happens when a man is talking to women, groups of women in particular, and especially with their lover or mother - that 'softer' element again.

The thing that's different is that Thais often don't use the I pronoun as they tend to refer to themselves in what would be the 3rd person in English, often saying their own nickname in place of a pronoun. Even after this many years, it still sounds kooky to me! :)

Because age is a fairly important factor in Thai culture when it comes to respectful discourse, you often refer to older people as พี่ pee & their name, i.e. pee John, or น้อง nong for younger people, i.e. nong Mary. So if, for example, you are talking to someone older than you, rather than use pom or chan pronouns, you can just say nong instead, i.e. nong is going shopping.

What I often get confused about is when I am talking to person A about person B who is younger than me but older than person A... and not having a damn clue whether to refer to person B as nong (relative to me) or pee (relative to them)! :lol:
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Re: Gender pronouns - the singular 'they'

#79  Postby Thomas Eshuis » Jan 05, 2020 5:18 pm

don't get me started wrote:


Cheers Thomas. :thumbup:
I was aware of many of those but there were a few new terms there.
I think Thai has a similar complexity in their pronoun system.
Korean is also very conscious of status and also tries to avoid second person pronouns in direct address. Koreans use a lot of kinship terms, things like 'older sister' and the like, even to people who are not kin, rather than use 'you'.

This summer I was at a conference and was talking to a German speaker. She talked about the minefield that is the du/sie distinction and the problems involved around working out when it is appropriate to switch from the formal to the familiar. She even reported that she sent e-mails in English to her German speaking co-worker so that she could avoid choosing one over the other.
I'm pretty glad English doesn't have this distinction.
How does it work in Dutch?

Same as in English; he=hij, she=zij. We don't have a gender neutral version. Although 'zij' can also be used to refer to a group of people doing something.
The only formal use of language we have in this context, is the difference between using 'jij' which is an informal way of saying 'you' and 'u' which is the formal way of saying 'you', which is most often used to speak to the elderly or people with a higher social standing/rank.

I've been studying Japanese on and off for about 6 years now.
"Respect for personal beliefs = "I am going to tell you all what I think of YOU, but don't dare retort and tell what you think of ME because...it's my personal belief". Hmm. A bully's charter and no mistake."
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Re: Gender pronouns - the singular 'they'

#80  Postby Ironclad » Jan 06, 2020 10:13 pm

Can we still call ships, "she"? Also, how are the French coping with this new fad?
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