LINGUIST List 4.943

Fri 12 Nov 1993

Qs: Women, Fonts

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  1. ines shaw, singular women & plural woman
  2. Penny Lee, Phonetic fonts

Message 1: singular women & plural woman

Date: Wed, 10 Nov 93 09:57:54 CSsingular women & plural woman
From: ines shaw <ISHAWNDSUVM1.bitnet>
Subject: singular women & plural woman

We have been collecting data on occurrences of the word "women" used in a
singular context and of the word "woman" used in a plural context. In both
cases, the words are preceded by a determiner(or no determiner) which agrees
in number and are followed by a verb which also agrees in number. In addition,
there may be anaphoric reference within the same sentence or externally to it.
The use of singular women appears to be more frequent at this stage than the
use of plural woman.

When explaining what is occurring to non-linguists, I find that the first
reaction is prescriptive: people think of misspellings. However, even though
misspellings are frequent, I don't think that they show the grammatical
regularities that singular women, and to a lesser extent (because of fewer
data), plural woman, are showing. Nevertheless, I am willing to consider
that in some cases, the words women and woman may be typos or misspellings.

1) Do you think that the unstressed syllable "men" in women and "man" in
woman make these words more susceptible than the monosyllables men/man?

2) Is it the case that misspellings are found in the syllables that are
unstressed more often than in syllables that are stressed? Does anyone
whether there is a correlation between unstressed syllable and misspellings?

3) Do you know of other regularly misspelled words which show
consistent verbal and anaphoric agreement?

A colleague and I have developed some hypotheses to explain what is going on,
but we would like first to see how the info., as presented here, is received
before we go into more detail. Nevertheless, there are other points we would
like to make at this time.

We think that there is a precedent to what is happening to women/man in English
For those not familiar with the history of English, or who need be refreshed,
the situation at one time was the following: thou=subjective, sing.; thee=
objective, sing.; ye=subjective, plural; you=objective, plural. Evidence from
written texts illustrate the variations that conditioned the change. In lay
terms, there were a lot of "errors" and inconsistent use, both idiolectally
and dialectally. From this perspective, what is happening with the words
women and woman, is similar, if not identical. Again, without going into
more detail, we would like to know what you think of this parallel.

The source of our data is varied: written occurrences are from student
assignments from various courses on our campus, newspapers, television; oral
occurrences come from observations of how the word was pronounced as people
spoke--for example, one colleague observed an attorney say "I'm looking for
a women..." in a television talk show, and another observed two of her
students say "a women" and "one women..." We are collecting data on sex
and age, and it appears that females and males are alike in their use of
singular women (again, we have considerably fewer data on plural woman).

I am very interested in your response.
If you are interested in collecting data and sharing it with us, I'll explain
more about the data collection process (what needs to be included).
Please reply privately to

One final request--we have already talked about these data to many people,
linguists and nonlinguists alike. Much to our surprise, there have been
hostile comments from some (academic) non-linguists. One person was upset
because we are concentrating on women/woman and not men/man (ignoring what
we said about not finding variation (or "misspellings") in the use of
men/man). Another person saw something political in the data, even though
this person never explained what the political aspect was; this same person
implied that anything political was not legitimate, and consequently what-
ever we were doing was also not legitimate, and so forth. A psychologist
voiced doubts in an openly aggressive tone. So.........our request is the
following: please, if you don't like the data or what we are saying, do
spare our feelings. NO one HAS to respond -- if you don't like it, just
discard it. We are interested in what is happening from a linguistic point
of view. To those of you who are interested and willing to respond -->
 Thank YOU !
Thank you very much.
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Message 2: Phonetic fonts

Date: Fri, 12 Nov 1993 09:14:25 Phonetic fonts
From: Penny Lee <>
Subject: Phonetic fonts

Can someone help me please? I need to know which phonetic font would be
most likely to cover notation used in the late 1930s in the US and I need
to know how I can get hold of it for use with Macintosh Word 5.

Thankyou, Penny Lee.
Dr P. Lee, School of Education (SSS), Flinders University, GPO Box 2100,
Adelaide, SA 5001. Australia.
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