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LINGUIST List 23.665

Wed Feb 08 2012

Diss: Applied Ling/Socioling: Paterson: 'The Use and Prescription ...'

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        1.     Laura Paterson , The Use and Prescription of Epicene Pronouns: A corpus-based approach to generic he and singular they in British English


Message 1: The Use and Prescription of Epicene Pronouns: A corpus-based approach to generic he and singular they in British English
Date: 01-Feb-2012
From: Laura Paterson <l.l.patersonleeds.ac.uk>
Subject: The Use and Prescription of Epicene Pronouns: A corpus-based approach to generic he and singular they in British English
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Institution: Loughborough University
Program: Department of English and Drama
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2011

Author: Laura L. Paterson

Dissertation Title: The Use and Prescription of Epicene Pronouns: A corpus-based approach to generic he and singular they in British English

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
                            Language Acquisition
                            Sociolinguistics
                            Text/Corpus Linguistics

Dissertation Director:
Chris Christie
Deborah Cameron
Elaine Hobby
Arianna Maiorani

Dissertation Abstract:

In English the personal pronouns are morphologically marked for grammatical
number, whilst the third-person singular pronouns are also obligatorily
marked for gender. As a result, the use of any singular animate antecedent
coindexed with a third-person pronoun forces a choice between he and she,
whether or not the biological sex of the intended referent is known. This
forced choice of gender, and the corresponding lack of a gender-neutral
third-person singular pronoun where gender is not formally marked, is the
primary focus of this thesis. I compare and contrast the use of the two
main candidates for epicene status, singular they and generic he, which are
found consistently opposed in the wider literature.

Using corpus-based methods I analyse current epicene usage in written
British English, and investigate which epicene pronouns are given to
language-acquiring children in their L1 input. I also consider current
prescriptions on epicene usage in grammar texts published post-2000 and
investigate whether there is any evidence that language-external factors
impact upon epicene choice. The synthesis of my findings with the wider
literature on epicene pronouns leads me to the conclusion that, despite the
restrictions imposed on the written pronoun paradigm evident in grammatical
prescriptivism, singular they is the epicene pronoun of British English.




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