Date: Sat, 5 Nov 1994 10:52:43 -0600
From: "Timothy C. Frazer" mftcf[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]UXA.ECN.BGU.EDU
Subject: Re: "them" singulars
certainly a generic form. To demonstrate this one need only suppose that
it was intended as masculine. The result would be that the preceding
"person," was meant to refer only to a male--clearly a ridiculous
In fact, there is research in Thorne, Kararae and Henly which shows that
most people really DO preceive the recerence as masculine.
We already find ourselves in a situation in which
grammatical structure has broken down to the extent that millions of
Americans are unable to say clearly what they mean.
As a linguist, I am confused by your assertion that grammatical structure
has "broken down." What I think IS going on is a decline in general
We have many college graduates who have never read a book. And so,
unlike most academics and some professionals, their speech is NOT
influenced by a familiarity with the world of writing. And speech is NOT
always "clear" because it depends on things like context and preconditions;
it is often, for reasons of politeness or self=affacemtn, indirect. That
does not mean that "grammatical structure has broken down."
(And one wonders, if
they are unable to say it, whether they know what they mean.) I, for one,
am unwilling to sanction any surrender of clarity of expression for
slancaster[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]colgate.edu
I wonder if Bob is concerned more with a general breakdown in authority
for which I am also concerned. That's a different issue and one on about
which I know very little. But grammatical structure is alive and well
and will definitely outlast what we think of as civilization.
Dept of English
Western Illinois University