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

sociological purposes.

Bob Lancaster

SUNY-emeritus, English


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.

Timothy Frazer

Dept of English

Western Illinois University