Epicene avoidance?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Nov 9 14:54:45 UTC 2010

At 12:52 PM +0100 11/9/10, Paul Frank wrote:
>Hi Damien,
>The sentence "Applicants must have obtained his or her doctorate by
>the date of taking up the post" is just silly. You're right that it's
>bad editing or bad writing. There's nothing wrong with "they" here
>even from a prescriptivist point of view. By the way, what's the
>advantage of "epicene they" over "gender-neutral they"? "Epicene they"
>gets 843 googlits; "gender-neutral they" 52,700. I'd heard of epicene
>nouns in Spanish and other European languages. But "epicene they" is
>new to me. It'll grow on me.

It's been in use in our circles for a while; cf. listmates Dennis
Baron ("The Epicene Pronouns: A Chronology of the Word That Failed"
and various mentions in his books, esp. _Grammar and Gender_ (Yale U.
Press, 1986), and in posts on Web of Language site) and Michael
Newman (_Epicene Pronouns: The Linguistics of a Prescriptive
Problem_.  New York: Garland, 1997.  In Garland Outstanding
Dissertations in Linguistics series.)

As for Damien's site, it looks to me like an editing blend, which I
think is in agreement with what others have said.


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