LINGUIST List 4.552

Thu 15 Jul 1993

Disc: Epicene Pronouns

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Directory

  1. Michael Newman, neologistic grammar
  2. Gwyn Williams, Re: An abrupt modern extension
  3. John Cowan, Re: An abrupt modern extension

Message 1: neologistic grammar

Date: Mon, 12 Jul 93 23:00:54 EDneologistic grammar
From: Michael Newman <MNEHCCUNYVM.bitnet>
Subject: neologistic grammar

I enjoyed Sharon Shelly's comments on pronoun borrowings. I think she treated
the subject with all the seriousness which it deserves, and I don't wish to
add anything more to what has already be said. I would suggest that anyone in-
terested in the subject read the last chapter of Dennis Baron's book, Grammar &
Gender, titled "The word that failed."

Still there is a serious issue lurking behind it. Is anyone aware of any
successful gross morphosyntactic manipulation of this sort in any langauge?
I would argue that the attempt to impose "he" as epicene pronoun by two-
centuries-full of prescriptive grammarians was an UNsuccessful attempt. There
is an ample literature which demonstrates that "he" is not perceived as epicene
by listeners and readers. Another attempt which was more successful, but was
probably less grammatical engineering, was the "no double negative rule" which
was, I believe, copied from Latin. I think this is a less drastic case of
grammatical manipulation--in other words it does less violence to the linguis-
tic system because it affects no paradigm. Still, it remains, it seems, super-
imposed on English, at least to the extent that it must be learned anew by each
generation of school children. Another case that comes to mind is the norms
regarding the use of the subject forms of the pronoun in non-subject position,
but I think historically that has always been variable.

In any case, doesn't the success or lack of it of these manipulations say some-
thing interesting about the systematicity of langauge? and doesn't it provide
evidence regarding the relative autonomy of syntax?
Michael.
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Message 2: Re: An abrupt modern extension

Date: Wed, 14 Jul 1993 14:35:22 Re: An abrupt modern extension
From: Gwyn Williams <gwynipied.tu.ac.th>
Subject: Re: An abrupt modern extension


On Mon, 12 Jul 1993 Sharon Shelly (SSHELLYacs.wooster.edu) wrote:
>
> Many thanks to Elise Morse-Gagne for explaining the origin of the
> mysterious gender-neutral pronouns being used by Steven Schaufele.
> Although je had managed to guess the function of these unfamiliar forms
> je simply had not realized that linguists (or anyone else) could
> blithely borrow pronouns from other languages and insert them into
> English at whim.
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
> LINGUIST List: Vol-4-538.

 I have heard several times young Thais using the English pronouns "I"
and "you" in conversations with friends. I guess it sounds modern and
trendy. In the present Bangkok period, Thai pronouns have undergone
radical change.

Gwyn Williams
Bangkok
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Message 3: Re: An abrupt modern extension

Date: Tue, 13 Jul 1993 10:41:25 Re: An abrupt modern extension
From: John Cowan <cowansnark.thyrsus.com>
Subject: Re: An abrupt modern extension

Sharon Shelly <SSHELLYacs.wooster.edu> writes:

> Although je had managed to guess the function of these unfamiliar forms
> je simply had not realized that linguists (or anyone else) could
> blithely borrow pronouns from other languages and insert them into
> English at whim.

Thou canst do whate'er thee please, so long as thou satisfy'st the two FIDONET
rules of Conversational Implicature, to wit:

 1) Thou shalt not be excessively annoying.
 2) Thou shalt not be too easily annoyed.

However, it must be acknowledged, that if on tries to speak Eurish
properly, others will laugh at on, if on says "Tante danke" when the
proper term is "Grazie sehr". [Credit: Alfred Bester.]

Yours cross-culturally,

--
John Cowan cowansnark.thyrsus.com ...!uunet!lock60!snark!cowan
 e'osai ko sarji la lojban.
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