Dear Richard and Rachel,

Since English has no singular common-sex pronoun to be used to avoid sexism, I was wondering why it hasn't yet borrowed or invented a pronoun that works the problem out. I know that some solutions are there like: they, their, he or she, s/he, etc.
Original Post
Who's going to decide on which word or words to use, Izzy? And how would whatever is chosen be enforced?

It's an impossible idea. Languages don't work like that. At some time or other, somebody starts using a term and, if others like it, they start using it, too. Then others hear it, like it, and start using it, etc. That's usually how a new term comes into a language. But it's not anything that can be planned or enforced.

Here's a case that backfired:

The Académie Française, the so-called governing body in France that tries to guard French from foreign influence, decreed a few decades ago that the French should stop using le weekend and le businessman, words obviously borrowed from English. The Académie wanted its people to use only French terms (le fin de semaine and l'homme d'affaires respectively).

It just didn't work. The French have continued using the English borrowings regardless of what the Académie Française dictated. So there you go.
Thanks a lot.

What I meant is that as long as there is a need for such a pronoun to exist, there should have been some kind of borrowing or inventing. You know, when a language lack a term, it is usually borrowed or sometimes invented.

I hope I made myself clear.


quote:
The Académie Française, the so-called governing body in France that tries to guard French from foreign influence, decreed a few decades ago that the French should stop using le weekend and le businessman, words obviously borrowed from English. The Académie wanted its people to use only French terms (le fin de semaine and l'homme d'affaires respectively).


May I ask why The Académie Française wants to stop using 'weekend and businessman'? My hunch is that there is a political reason behind that. Am I right?
quote:
What I meant is that as long as there is a need for such a pronoun to exist, there should have been some kind of borrowing or inventing. You know, when a language lack a term, it is usually borrowed or sometimes invented.

I see what you mean, but the problem (as you called it earlier in your post) of not having such a pronoun might not be regarded as a problem by all. People have got used to using the alternatives you just provided (they, he or she, etc). Even if this is a real problem, it is not easy to make predictions what will happen to the language to solve it. You might still ask a linguistic expert about this, as s/heWink must be prepared to give fuller answers, but I think the gist of that answer would be just sth like I mentioned. Even linguistic experts find it quite difficult to make predictions about languages; they are really much better at explaining the phenomena that have already occured rather than the phenomena that will happen!
quote:
Since English has no singular common-sex pronoun to be used to avoid sexism, I was wondering why it hasn't yet borrowed or invented a pronoun that works the problem out.

Interestingly, the OED records "their" as a singular common-sex pronoun from Middle English onwards. It can be found in Shakespeare, the King James Bible, Austen, Thackeray, Goldsmith, etc.

So in one sense, we do have such a pronoun; though not everyone likes it.

MrP

Add Reply

Likes (0)
×
×
×
×