LINGUIST List 2.627

Tue 08 Oct 1991

Disc: Themselves

Editor for this issue: <>


Directory

  1. Ellen Prince, Re: 2.613 Queries
  2. , Themself
  3. "Michael Kac", Re: 2.613 Queries
  4. MAILBOOK, Re: 2.613 Queries
  5. David Denison, Re: 2.613 Queries
  6. "And Rosta", RE: Third person indefinite reflexive

Message 1: Re: 2.613 Queries

Date: Mon, 07 Oct 91 17:01:08 -0400
From: Ellen Prince <ellencentral.cis.upenn.edu>
Subject: Re: 2.613 Queries
>Date: Sat, 05 Oct 91 21:02:07 EDT
>From: Michael Newman <MNEHCCUNYVM.BITNET>
>Subject: query
>
>Howard Lasnik in his 1976 article, Remarks on Corefernce, in Linguistic
>Analysis used a few examples along the lines of"*Everyone/*No one sat down
>after he walked in." His point is the impossibility of coreference under these
>circumstances. His theoretical point aside, what I find interesting is his ex-
>clusive mention of HE as the possible coreferent pronominal--following the old
>fashioned norm. He ignores what would be the most typical coreferent pronoun
>for EVERY under all syntactic configurations: ie. THEY. Gareth Evans in his
>response to Lasnik does basically the same thing with one of his examples, sta
r
>ring "Every congressman came to the party and he had a marvelous time" and
>giving and undeserved marginal status to "?Every congressman came to the party
>and they had a marvelous time."
>This phenomenon of ignoring useage in favor of school-grammar norms seems wide
-
>spread in theoretical studies of pronouns, at least if my memory does not
>deceive me. My query is:1. does anyone remember other such cases? 2. Does any-
>one's thery get into trouble because they have ignored this? 3. Has anyone
>pointed out the inconstency before? 4. If not why in the ruthless world of
>theoretical linguistics haven't they?
>Michael Newman
>Hunter College
it's not that anyone's theory gets into trouble, it's that you've got a
different phenomenon with 'they'. the point, as i recall, of lasnik's
discussion was where bound anaphora could occur--basically, within the clause.
with 'they', you've got discourse anaphora, which can occur anywheres,
constrained only by our (very impressive) powers of inference. to quote an
example of bonnie webber's:
every man who owns a donkey beats it. and someday they'll rise up and fight
back.
note that 'it' is stellarly impossible in the second sentence, in contrast to
the first (= bound anaphora). but, since we can infer that there are a bunch of
donkey-owners and hence a bunch of donkeys, we can interpret the 'they' as this
bunch (= discourse anaphora).
>Date: Sun, 6 Oct 1991 16:33 EST
>From: Fan mail from some flounder? <SDFNCRritvax.isc.rit.edu>
>Subject: Third person indefinite reflexive
>
>
>We've all heard (and Anne Bodine has documented) sentences like (1):
>
>	(1) If anyone calls, tell >>them<< I can't come to the phone
>
>or even (2):
>
>	(2) Someone dropped by, but >>they<< didn't say what they wanted.
>
>The following sentence appeared in today's New York Times (Section I, p. 27),
>and although I think I've heard things like it, I've never seen its like
>in print:
>
>	(3) (quoting the Georgia Attorney General) "I'm not going to hire
>someone who holds >>themself<< out to the public by their own admission as
>being engaged in homosexual marriage," Mr. Bowers said.
>
>I found this fascinating, since as (1) and (2) show, colloquial English
>does use a plural for indefinite third person pronouns (as well as the
>well-known "everyone...their" constructions that English teachers try to
>bash out of us. However, (3) seems to be the most felicitous way to express
>the intended idea in this case, since the "correct" >>himself<< is inappropria
te
>given the genders of the participants, and even >>themselves<< is a little
>funny since the pronoun is semantically singular, and unlike the case of
>"their", there seems to be a singular counterpart. Has anyone else
>encountered constructions like (3)?
>Susan Fischer
you're not going to believe this, but i clearly remember the first time i
saw it in writing--and i bet you saw it there too. it was in catcher in the
rye, and i was in the 7th grade. the sentence was about holden caulfield's
roommate and was something like:
'he's one of those guys who's always patting themself on the back.'
it blew me away because it looked so wrong but sounded so right.
and that was both before and irrelevant to the whole sex/gender thing. (don't
remember when it was written, but i read it in 1956.)
>__________________________________________________________________________
>Date: Mon, 7 Oct 91 9:41 GMT
>From: Julie Coleman <UDLE036ash.cc.kcl.ac.uk>
>Subject: political correctness
>
>I'm informed that the term "individual" is 'politically incorrect'. Can
>anyone tell me why this should be?
at my esteemed institution (the univ of pennsylvania), some administrator
allegedly told a student that the term 'rights of the individual' constitutes
a 'red flag' and presumably shouldn't be used. (or at least that's what i
read about my esteemed institution in the reader's digest.) hopefully, the
term 'individual' is still kosher...but who knows.
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Message 2: Themself

Date: Mon, 07 Oct 91 16:49:54 CDT
From: <GA3662SIUCVMB.BITNET>
Subject: Themself
Further to the question raised by Susan (..flounder) Fischer,
(Hi, Susan..), I am a native speaker of the dialect in question.
I am perfectly happy to say things like:
Everyone should give themself a little free time if they need it.
Incidentally, has anyone else noticed that, although in general
English has merged the sg./pl. contrast in II person pronouns,
it is morphologically alive and well in the reflexive paradigm:
 yourself (sg.) yourselves (pl.)
even in the most standard, prescriptively correct dialects.
Geoff Nathan
<ga3662siucvmb.bitnet>
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Message 3: Re: 2.613 Queries

Date: Mon, 7 Oct 91 17:19:58 -0500
From: "Michael Kac" <kaccs.umn.edu>
Subject: Re: 2.613 Queries
Susan Fischer notes an occurrence of *themself* in naturally occurring
speech reported by the New York Times and asks if anyone has encountered
anything similar. This may not be a persuasive example since it's almost
certainly intended as facetious but I can remember from time to time
seeing in The Talk of the Town in The New Yorker sentences like *Last
Friday we found ourself at the South Street Seaport for the Fourth Annual
Citywide Pancake Flipping Championsips* (example invented but based on
real ones).
Re Julie Coleman's query about the political incorrectness of *individual*,
I wonder if perhaps it isn't that individuals themselves are politically
incorrect -- it's the collectivity that counts. Just a thought.
Michael Kac
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Message 4: Re: 2.613 Queries

Date: Mon, 07 Oct 91 23:21:19 EDT
From: MAILBOOK <MNEHCCUNYVM.CUNY.EDU>
Subject: Re: 2.613 Queries
Susan Fischer asks about having seen 'themself' in print. I saw it in linguist-
l just a few weeks ago, but I can't remember in what place exactly.
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Message 5: Re: 2.613 Queries

Date: Tue, 08 Oct 91 13:50:58 BST
From: David Denison <MFCEPDDcms.manchester-computing-centre.ac.uk>
Subject: Re: 2.613 Queries
In response to Susan Fischer's question, I have not just encountered
forms like *themself* for indefinite singular reflexive, I use them. If
she wants a written example, I happen to know (because I commented on it
delightedly in Year's Work in English Studies 65: p.54) that Dick Hudson
used the phrase "preferably the speaker themself" in his Word Grammar
(1984: 34).
 David D.
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Message 6: RE: Third person indefinite reflexive

Date: Tue, 08 Oct 91 12:54:55 +0000
From: "And Rosta" <ucleaarucl.ac.uk>
Subject: RE: Third person indefinite reflexive
Susan Fischer <SDFNCRritvax.isc.rit.edu> asks:
 > Has anyone else encountered constructions like (3)?
 > (3) (quoting the Georgia Attorney General) "I'm not going to hire
 > someone who holds >>themself<< out to the public by their own
 > admission as being engaged in homosexual marriage," Mr. Bowers
 > said.
I know at least 3 people to use the word.
(1) Jim Scobbie - cf one of his recent postings to LINGUIST:
 >Date: Wed, 18 Sep 91 16:59:52 PDT
 >From: scobbieCsli.Stanford.EDU (Jim Scobbie)
 >This mailing list seems to be the ideal forum for the question... what
 >does a theoretical phonologist who doesn't teach or speak languages
 >call themself?
(2) Dick Hudson, somewhere in his _English Word Grammar_, 1990. (Only sighting
 in print.)
(3) me.
For such a sensible word it seems rather underused...
-----------
And Rosta
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