Baby's an It (call of the obstetrician?)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Sep 9 13:05:29 UTC 2008

At 8:42 AM -0400 9/9/08, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>Does this arise from it's being difficult with babies of tender age
>to determine their sex by external observation?

Depending, of course, on where you look.

Someone a few decades ago (Fillmore?) observed that you can't use
"it" along with an actual name for an infant or a pet:

That baby looks just like its mother.
Little Dana has {his/her/??its} mother's chin.
Spike is barking as though {he/she/??it} wants to go out.

Someone (maybe the same someone) used such data to argue for a [+
personal] feature that would allow these tendencies to be correlated.


>At 9/9/2008 11:54 AM, Lynne Murphy wrote:
>>--On Monday, September 8, 2008 11:00 am -0400 Wilson Gray
>><hwgray at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
>>>Are there many - or any - people still around who learned as I did
>>>that a baby is an "it" and not a "he" or a "she"?
>>'Dunce' blogged about this a few months ago, noting it as more British than
>>American in his experience--in mine too.
>>A 60-something English friend of ours persists in calling our 8-month-old
>>daughter 'it', but then he corrects himself because he's been taken to task
>>for it many times.
>>Dr M Lynne Murphy
>>Senior Lecturer in Linguistics and English Language
>>Arts B135
>>University of Sussex
>>Brighton BN1 9QN
>>phone: +44-(0)1273-678844
>>The American Dialect Society -
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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