ELL: 'Reburial of 500 *English*',evidence of continuing stereotyping

David Harris dharris at LAS-INC.COM
Thu Dec 9 16:57:41 UTC 1999

Everybody seems to have overlooked the most obvious proof that the stated
accusations of racism do not apply here:

In English, we routinely use the following zero-plural forms: The English
(not 'Englishes'), the French (not 'Frenches'), the Portuguese (not
'Portugueses'), the Dutch (not 'Dutches'), the Flemish (not 'Flemishes'),
the Chinese (not 'Chineses'), the Japanese (not 'Japaneses'), the Vietnamese
(not 'Vietnameses), etc., etc. (I could go on and on, but you get the
point). Yes, obviously it does not work with 'Italians', 'Swedes',
'Albanians', and 'Jews'. But it does work with an awful lot of others. In
fact, I would venture to guess it works with at least as many ethnicities as
it doesn't.

My theory is that this zero-plural phenomenon results from a combination of
factors but, first and foremost, the fact that French singular and plural
ethnic/language adjectives sound and are usually spelled the same. I believe
that English derives its names for these ethnicities from these French
forms. Note that many of the ethnicities for which the zero-plural works
seem to be derived from the French forms. Examples:

le français - les français (the French)
l'anglais - les anglais (The English/British)
le chinois - les chinois (The Chinese)
le portugais - les portugais (the Portuguese)

There is certainly no Euro-centric ethnic bias built into these forms,
deriving as they do from French and English. Unless some very cunning
Germans and Italians (and maybe Danes and Swedes?) who spoke English
extraordinarily well and enjoyed wide and long-lasting access to the
English-speaking public were behind it. :-)

Another possible source of this usage is that 'Huron' is being considered an
adjective describing the dropped "Indians". Again, it's hard to see any
racist motivation behind a form derived in this manner.

    *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

The book title "The American Jew in Sports" represents a different
phenomenon altogether as I explained in my previous post. If you take a
moment to consider that that title could just as easily read "The American
Male in Sports" or even "The White American Male in Sports", I think you
have to throw the whole theory of built-in ethnic or gender bias right out
the window. Here's another interesting title (from a book I purchased
recently) which shows another example of singular definite usage
representing a generic form which refers to white men:

   Basso, Keith H.: Portraits of 'The White Man' - Linguistic Play and
Cultural Symbols Among the Western Apache ; Cambridge, 1995.

As I stated in my previous post, the reason I so vehemently reacted to this
opinion was that it weakens the truly valid arguments others are trying to
make in their efforts to expose racism against Native Americans. It is my
opinion that the more sense an alternative voice makes, the more likely
reasonable thinking people are to react positively to it. Credibility is the
most important asset any activist group can possess. Therefore, silly ideas
and untruths which are introduced in support of a given group should be
exposed and eradicated by the group itself before the opposition gets hold
of them and exposes them, making the group look silly or just plain

Sorry if I offended anyone. That was not my intention.

Dave Harris,
Herndon, VA

-----Original Message-----
From: Marion Gunn [mailto:mgunn at ucd.ie]
Sent: Wednesday, December 08, 1999 5:56 AM
To: endangered-languages-l at carmen.murdoch.edu.au
Cc: dharris at las-inc.com; mposluns at accglobal.net
Subject: Re: ELL: Re: 'Reburial of 500 Huron',evidence of continuing

Ar 18:47 -0800 1999-12-07, scríobh Victor Golla:
>Like Dave Harris, I too was at first inclined to dismiss the "zero
>plural" formation found with American Indian ethnonyms as of no
>great consequence.  A little digging, however, has convinced me
>that we have here what Benjamin Whorf used to call a "cryptotype."
>It may or not be "racist" (whatever that means
>  --Victor Golla

Have you tried it on non-ethnic examples, Victor -- for example, the number
of deaf in Seattle, the number of disabled in Monaco, the number of
psychicS in Los Angeles, the number of rich, the number of poor (oddly
enough, I don't think it works so well in English with the number of sad,
the number of happy.) Does this comment help, or is this just an adjectival
thing, or am I missing the point of this exercise altogether?

>	The number of elk in this area.  100 salmon were caught.
>	The number of Ojibwa in northern Ontario.  500 Huron were
>                reburied.
>	The number of Nootka on Vancouver Island.  100 Apache were
>                captured.
>	*The number of Italian in Buffalo.  Half a million Albanian were
>                displaced in Kosovo.
>	*The number of Jew in Manhattan.  Six million Jew died in the
>                Holocaust.
>	*The number of Swede in Stockholm.  Many Swede live in Minneapolis.

Marion Gunn <mgunn at ucd.ie>

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