Epicene avoidance?

Paul Frank paulfrank at POST.HARVARD.EDU
Tue Nov 9 15:23:38 UTC 2010

On Tue, Nov 9, 2010 at 3:54 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
> At 12:52 PM +0100 11/9/10, Paul Frank wrote:

>>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"
> at
> http://www.english.illinois.edu/-people-/faculty/debaron/essays/epicene.htm,
> 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_. Â New York: Garland, 1997. Â In Garland Outstanding
> Dissertations in Linguistics series.)

And it's grown on me already. Thank you. Every time I post something
to this list I'm reminded of a Chinese saying: "to cast a brick to get
jade in return" (æ ›ç –å¼•çŽ‰). I cast bricks (uninformed opinions) at you and
you give me jade in (wisdom
and experience) in return.


Paul Frank
Chinese, German, French, Italian > English
Espace de l'Europe 16
Neuch√Ętel, Switzerland
paulfrank at bfs.admin.ch
paulfrank at post.harvard.edu

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

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