On the antiquity of "they/them/their" as common gender

Peter Richardson prichard at LINFIELD.EDU
Mon May 21 16:42:42 UTC 2001

A small postscript to Rudolph Troike's note: I, too, recall that Old
Norse used the neuter plural pronoun when both males and females
(they/them) were referred to.

And just a few weeks ago a Korean student of mine told me that Korean
doesn't have any native gender-specific pronouns, but that intensive
contact with Western culture has--sorry--engendered them. She said it's
very strange for her not to think of just "person" when referring to
someone rather than having to distinghish between "he" and "she," and
she's embarrassed when she confuses these two pronouns in English: a
morphological parallel to having to distinguish both /l/ and /r/ phonemes,
it seems.

Peter R.

 On Sat, 19 May 2001, Rudolph C Troike wrote:

> Years ago, when I was studying Old Norse with the great scholar Lee
> M. Hollander at the University of Texas, I read or was told that in Old
> Norse, a pronominal reference to a group of males was masculine in gender,
> and to a group of females was feminine, but a neuter pronoun was used for
> a mixed group.

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