"who" vs. "that"

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Mon Jul 27 15:10:55 UTC 2009

At 7/26/2009 07:39 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>At 5:00 PM -0400 7/26/09, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>>Has no-one mentioned the comma "rule" -- a restrictive relative
>>clause has no comma, a non-restrictive has a comma?
>that was implicit in my restrictive vs. non-restrictive comments, but
>it's true I didn't mention the commas per se
>>While I personally do not say "that" for women (I'm more PC than that
>>-- I use "who"), I think I give more credence to the comma than to
>>the pronoun.
>I'm not sure why "that" would be non-PC.

Don't take the non-PC part too seriously.  But personally I do do
who, not that, for humans.

>"which" would be pretty
>insulting for animates of either sex (even with the Lord's Prayer as
>evidence), but if it's "that" for restrictives vs. "who"/"which"
>(depending on animacy) for non-restrictives, why would there be a

My "problem" is that I look for the comma, and seem to ignore whether
it's "who", "that", or "which" -- except for the occasional sour
taste in my mouth.

>The only problem I see is a descriptive one--that
>speakers/writers simply don't follow these rules.  Then there are
>minor problems:  "the dead (wo)man" takes "who" in NRRs (or RRs for
>non-rule followers), "the male/female corpse" takes "which", and it's
>never clear where to draw the lines within the animal kingdom.

Personally (am I RR or NRR?), I would say "the corpse/body that",
with or without "male/female".


>>Thus "Research shows women, that eat breakfast, have fewer problems
>>with weight" suggests to me that women generally eat breakfast, and
>>for some (perhaps other) reason have fewer problems with weight than ... men?
>>While "Research shows women who eat breakfast have fewer problems
>>with weight" suggests to me that those women who eat breakfast have
>>fewer problems with weight than women who don't eat breakfast.
>Indeed, despite the "who", assuming the commas indicate restrictiveness.
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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