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singular they

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  • MorphemeAddict
    (Inspired by Sasha Fleischman incident) Should singular they take a plural verb to match normal use of they , analogous to modern you , or a singular verb
    Message 1 of 5 , Nov 9, 2013
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      (Inspired by Sasha Fleischman incident)
      Should singular "they" take a plural verb to match normal use of "they",
      analogous to modern "you", or a singular verb to match its intent of being
      singular, and to emphasize that it's singular?
      By the same token, I'd prefer singular "you" also take a singular verb,
      likely "is", similar to "thou/thee is" of some modern English dialects.

      stevo
    • Tony Harris
      Personally I think singular they feels more like it would work like singular you , since it starts as a plural pronoun used in a singular context, similar
      Message 2 of 5 , Nov 9, 2013
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        Personally I think singular "they" feels more like it would work like
        singular "you", since it starts as a plural pronoun used in a singular
        context, similar perhaps to French "vous" or German "Sie", both of which
        retain their use of plural verb forms in spite of being used as singular
        pronouns.

        I also confess that the whole "thee is" thing has always felt rather
        like fingernails on a blackboard for me. Yes, I know, that's just me
        and I imagine there are one or two things my dialect does that probably
        feel that way to everyone else.


        On 11/09/2013 04:15 PM, MorphemeAddict wrote:
        > (Inspired by Sasha Fleischman incident)
        > Should singular "they" take a plural verb to match normal use of "they",
        > analogous to modern "you", or a singular verb to match its intent of being
        > singular, and to emphasize that it's singular?
        > By the same token, I'd prefer singular "you" also take a singular verb,
        > likely "is", similar to "thou/thee is" of some modern English dialects.
        >
        > stevo
      • Padraic Brown
        I prefer to avoid singular they, but in my experience of hearing it from others, it generally takes the plural verb -- and is often accompanied by a slight
        Message 3 of 5 , Nov 9, 2013
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          I prefer to avoid singular they, but in my experience of hearing it from
          others, it generally takes the plural verb -- and is often accompanied
          by a slight pause of momentary confusion as the speaker sorts out in
          her mind "exactly hòw many people am I talking about again, and whìch
          verb form do they require...? Oh, yeah, one guy, but p.c. social norms
          prevent me from stating the obvious, so, 'they' it is, and 'they' goes with
          'want'...or should he, I mean THEY, go with 'wants' ... no, I'm sure it's
          'want'..."


          I've never encountered "thee is" in the wild, but "Last of the Summer Wine"
          introduced me to Compo's weakened "tha" as well as the normal strong "thou/
          thee" which seem to go perfectly natural with the 3s: "What tha talking about, thou

          long-shanked basket; tha's just as puffed as we are!" "Has tha ever tried tellin'

          thee anything?" " I'll say this much for thee, Cyril, tha's a lovely talker."


          Padraic


          ----- Original Message -----
          > From: Tony Harris <tony@...>
          > To: CONLANG@...
          > Cc:
          > Sent: Saturday, 9 November 2013, 16:21
          > Subject: Re: singular they
          >
          > Personally I think singular "they" feels more like it would work like
          > singular "you", since it starts as a plural pronoun used in a singular
          >
          > context, similar perhaps to French "vous" or German "Sie",
          > both of which
          > retain their use of plural verb forms in spite of being used as singular
          > pronouns.
          >
          > I also confess that the whole "thee is" thing has always felt rather
          > like fingernails on a blackboard for me.  Yes, I know, that's just me
          > and I imagine there are one or two things my dialect does that probably
          > feel that way to everyone else.
          >
          >
          >
          > On 11/09/2013 04:15 PM, MorphemeAddict wrote:
          >> (Inspired by Sasha Fleischman incident)
          >> Should singular "they" take a plural verb to match normal use of
          > "they",
          >> analogous to modern "you", or a singular verb to match its intent
          > of being
          >> singular, and to emphasize that it's singular?
          >> By the same token, I'd prefer singular "you" also take a
          > singular verb,
          >> likely "is", similar to "thou/thee is" of some modern
          > English dialects.
          >>
          >> stevo
          >
        • Padraic Brown
          ... Let us know! I usually just pick one at random (he or she) and use that until the end of the text, or until I get bored with it and switch to the other. In
          Message 4 of 5 , Nov 9, 2013
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            MorphemeAddict wrathe:


            >I'm not a fan of singular "they" either, but I'm against having to decide
            >he vs. she all the time, so I guess I'm becoming a fan of it. I'll try
            >it out with family and see how that goes. 


            Let us know! I usually just pick one at random (he or she) and use that
            until the end of the text, or until I get bored with it and switch to the
            other. In formal contexts, of course, it's the epicene "he" all the way.


            >stevo

            Scott Hlad wrathe:

            >I have never heard or read "thee" used in the nominative. I have only
            known

            >it as an object: "I pray thee..."


            There are apparently some dialects in England with thee nominative. The Font
            of All Knowledge tells us that in northern Staffordshire, we can find "thee coost"
            for "tha could".

            Also, it is apparently traditional among (at least many) Quakers to use "thee" for

            all cases. A kind Quaker answered the question on Yahoo thus: "A grammatical note:

            We don't use thou -- for some reason, we only use
            thee, even as the subject of a sentence.

            We also use 3rd person verbs
            with thee -- for instance, we say "how is thee?" or "thee

            knows". I'm
            not sure why that is, but I've heard that it has to do with a dialect
            back in England

            which we've preserved to some degree here. I don't know if that's true"

            >"Thou" is the nominative as in ... thou art

            Indeed, but, as we can see in the examples given, language changes... The 2nd person

            pronounin particular is a fascinating bit of change in action. From our standard "you" to the
            formal / religious continuation of the previous standard "thou", to the plain speech "thee"
            to the regional dialects of England that still have "thou" and "tha", to dialects of Scots
            that have "thoo" and "du". And there's the whole you / y'all / all y'all / youse / yins/ youns /
            you lot / you guys / youse guys / etc. business.


            >Anxious to see how this thread unfolds

            Without a doubt, by Monday, it shall have devolved into a New York (youse guys)  vs.
            Texas (all y'all) flambee, and then someone else will bring up that whole Pace picante
            sauce thing which will spawn fourteen different threads on salsas and their preparation,
            someone will then inject how Nahuatl fits into the puzzle, Ray will get tired of the whole
            American thing and our inability to come up with a sensible scheme of personal pronouns
            and go to France for a week (where they dó have sensible pronouns), and finally, by
            week's end, BPJ will have the gall to actually suggest we turn the thread back to

            conlanging. Then, we'll have a whole fortday of AFMC show and tell, where everyone
            will trot out their favorite conlangs' pronouns. Then, just when Ray thinks it's safe to come
            back from France, around Christmas time, some newcomer will come along and ask
            what's the deal with "singular they" and why don't we still use "thou" and "you"...


            >Scott

            C. Brickner <tepeyachill@...> wrathe:

            >> "Has tha ever tried tellin' thee anything?"
            >
            > I'm wondering if "has tha'" might not be a contracted form of "hast thou" rathere than 3s.

            I don't know. I think there could very well be a connection. Especially in light of "thee coost",
            which clearly keeps the old dental part of the ending. Otherwise, the ending has entirely
            merged with the 3s -s. I'd be more convinced if we found things like "thee art" or "dost thee"
            rather than the more obvious 3s forms (does thee, etc).


            > Charlie

            Padraic
          • MorphemeAddict
            English currently doesn t make a distinction between deictic and non-deictic 3rd person pronouns. I think it should, and here s a way how. 1) the one(s) -
            Message 5 of 5 , Nov 10, 2013
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              English currently doesn't make a distinction between deictic and
              non-deictic 3rd person pronouns. I think it should, and here's a way how.

              1) "the one(s)" - this is just slightly unusual usage for current English.
              Can regularly be made singular or plural. It already has an
              anaphoric/non-deictic function. Then "they" could be used for deictic 3rd
              person singular or plural (with matching verb agreement).

              2) THE. Currently English lets some determiners (this, that, his, its,
              Jane's) act as adjectives or pronouns, depending on whether a noun phrase
              follows it. The other similar determiners (my, your, our, hers, theirs)
              change slightly to indicate this function, but the non-changing examples
              indicate this change is not necessary for unambiguous comprehension.

              The meaning of the definite article, "the", is usually to indicate
              previously known information, an anaphoric function. "The" is always
              followed by a noun phrase. I propose the anaphoric 3rd person pronoun be
              "the" with no following noun phrase. It would never be ambiguous, and it
              already has the necessary meaning. We could still retain "they" for 3rd
              person (singular or plural, with matching verb agreement), but restrict it
              to deictic usage.

              In both cases, "they" shrinks to just the deictic 3rd pronoun, the rarer of
              its two functions, I believe.

              This lets us get rid of "he" and "she", even "it", without creating new
              words and with only slight changes to current grammar.

              stevo



              On Sat, Nov 9, 2013 at 4:15 PM, MorphemeAddict <lytlesw@...> wrote:

              > (Inspired by Sasha Fleischman incident)
              > Should singular "they" take a plural verb to match normal use of "they",
              > analogous to modern "you", or a singular verb to match its intent of being
              > singular, and to emphasize that it's singular?
              > By the same token, I'd prefer singular "you" also take a singular verb,
              > likely "is", similar to "thou/thee is" of some modern English dialects.
              >
              > stevo
              >
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