Date: Sat, 5 Nov 1994 10:52:43 -0600 From: "Timothy C. Frazer" 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 noun, > "person," was meant to refer only to a male--clearly a ridiculous > assumption. 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 literacy. 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 > slancaster[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] 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