The way I see it, one really has a number of choices in cases where pronouns must be used (more correctly, I should say "cases where the speaker wants to use a pronoun", never mind must; it's the speaker's language, after all), and the gender is either
Then there are two conventional solutions that violate one Rule of Grammar each, and therefore incense some people. Which people they incense depends on which Rule of Grammar is being violated -- there are several different Special Interest Groups involved.
Once the patient is prepped, he should be moved into the delivery room.
Once the patient is prepped, they should be moved into the delivery room.
do get very exercised about grammar, nonetheless.
Different people with each rule, in fact.
[from the same post, part of the ongoing generic "he/she" dispute.] > A language is defined by its grammar and its vocabulary, > and these are defined by the people who speak it, not by those who > think they know better. There is not yet, thank God, an Acamedie Anglaise.No, and there never will be, at least not one with that name. And I think not ever, given anything approaching the current global linguistic reality. If there were such a thing, and it weren't just a figment of national bravado, it would have to take account of the fact that there are far more non-native than native English speakers in the world, with the result that it would probably be located in Singapore, as the centroid of the English-speaking world.
> "emself" is in the same realms of rubbish speak as "personhole-cover" > and Esperanto.I'm not sure what you mean by realm of rubbish speak; rubbish isn't used on this side of the pond quite so often, and even has a faintly Colonel Blimp air. But it's clear that 'emself, personhole-cover, and Esperanto belong in three separate categories, or realms. Some of which you may not approve of, I take it.
Nobody's ever said spokesperchild, either, but it's a logical conclusion to the idea that people blindly follow grammatical rules. And the wrong rules at that; the -son in person isn't masculine at all. It comes from Latin persona, which isn't even remotely related to the English word son.
As a benefit, swallowing the /z/ allows one to be indeterminate about matters of both gender and number, a considerable utility. That's not trash. That's efficiency. It's also accurate, in that it represents what people actually say, i.e, the real language.
-- more followup:
(double >'s refer to the posting above: >> As to "emself", of course that's written, and is silly, or eye >> dialect, when written. Spoken, however, /EmsElf/, or more likely >> /@msElf/ with stressed ultima is very close to how a majority >> of American English native speakers actually pronounce both >> "himself" and "themselves", not to mention the occasional >> generic or indeterminate "themself". The final consonant is >> recognizably labiodental, thus representing either an /f/ or >> a /v/, and the /-z/ plural marker that ostensibly follows /v/ >> in the official plural is actually rather rare in normal speech, >> simply because /-vz/ is not a particularly easy cluster to >> articulate, and things like that go first in fast speech. > But it's a lot easier than /fz/ which is why the /s/ becomes a /z/ > after /d/, /g/, /v/, /dh/ and /b/ as opposed to remaining an /s/ > after /t/, /k/, /f/, /th/ and /p/.That's what happens, but that's not exactly why. The phenomenon is called voicing assimilation, and it's extremely common for consonant clusters (in many languages) to share voicing properties (i.e, be all voiced like /vz/ or be all voiceless like /fs/).
And it's a property of the plural (here), possessive, and 3sg present active indicative inflections (all of which are identical, except for their exceptions, like
That is, the voicing assimilation that makes these morphemes voiceless /s/ after voiceless consonants, and voiced /z/ after voiced consonants and vowels (including the epenthetic shwa that follows sibilants /kIs/ - /kIs@z/) is not so much a matter of "ease" as it is of rule. Phonology is indissolubly bound to phonetics, but it has lots of arbitrary dimensions as well, since it deals with the details of the sound systems of very different languages. So ease of pronunciation is important, but that's equally true for everybody; if it were the only, or even the dominant variable, everybody would talk the same.
> In fact, /vz/ is also a lot easier than /fs/ which is probably why > -self becomes -selves in the plural.Alas, not so. Different rule. And there's no evidence that /vz/ is a lot easier than /fs/. If anything, the reverse is true, since:
>> (listen carefully to the way English speakers say the fraction >> "five-sixths"; you'll find the /0/ (theta) between the two >> /s/'s disappears almost totally, because /sIks0s/ is practically >> impossible to articulate at speed.) > So slow down :-) I've never noticed myself omitting the 'th'.That's why Usenet is the wrong venue to discuss phonetics. The data is (or are) the important thing(s). When you learn phonetics you will see what I mean. In the meantime, while you may be correct -- I can't tell -- I urge you to pay closer attention. If you don't omit theta in unmonitored natural speech (anybody can say it slowly with care, but that doesn't count), you're speaking a very unusual brand of English.
---- still more followup:
>> That is, the voicing assimilation that makes these morphemes voiceless >> /s/ after voiceless consonants, and voiced /z/ after voiced consonants >> and vowels (including the epenthetic shwa that follows sibilants >> /kIs/ - /kIs@z/) is not so much a matter of "ease" as it is of rule. > Speaking as a non-linguist but as someone who finds language fascinating, > I find it hard to believe that any of the English we speak exists because > of rule - I would have thought that it is _all_ a matter of ease and > usage.So, if you're right, we still have to describe how it's easier, right? And that means starting with the actual descriptions of the sounds, the muscles, the nerves, the air flow, etc, right? That's what phonetics does. And it shows that ease is as much a matter of habit as anything. What we're used to doing is easy, what we're not is hard.
It's not that you're wrong -- of course ease has something to do with it -- it's just that saying it's all a matter of ease and usage is like saying that evolution is just a matter of living and dying. Not exactly a useful scientific theory, though undoubtedly true. For one thing, it leaves ease and usage comfortably ill-defined, so they can be used to explain anything. And are correspondingly useless for prediction, which is what we really want to be able to do.
So we have to be much more careful about descriptions and explanations; otherwise we're apt to attribute everything to something that's what Bateson calls a Dormitive Principle, like instinct
> The linguists came along later, to my mind, and tried to decide - > and are still trying to decide, in some cases - what rules are followed.Sure, we're still trying to figure it out. Let me know when true artificial intelligence is achieved, and then we'll have a go at modelling real language. We've only been at it for about a hundred years, you know, and only looking at syntax for about 50.
> [When they _do_ try to give us rules, they often manage to screw it up > completely, by trying to tell us not to end sentences with prepositions > or to split infinitives etc. Some of the earlier ones even managed to > get us, on both sides of the Atlantic, to spell "ache" with a 'ch' > rather than a 'k'. :)]Wait a minute. Those folks you're kvetching about are not linguists. Those people are the people who don't pay attention to actual language, who don't really understand the grammar, and who can't give a convincing reason for their choice beyond the indisputable fact that it's theirs and they like it.
Sorry, I'm not taking the heat for that bunch. When a linguist talks about a rule, they're not referring to a law that has to be enforced, like Thou Shalt Not Spit on the Sidewalk, or Thou Shalt Not Split Infinitives. They're referring to a law that describes actual behavior, like the Law of Gravity, or Gresham's Law, or Grimm's Law. Telling people how they do talk is one thing; telling them how they should talk is quite another. The oral realm is quite sufficient for me without trying to take over the moral realm.
>>> In fact, /vz/ is also a lot easier than /fs/ which is probably why >>> -self becomes -selves in the plural. >> Alas, not so. Different rule. And there's no evidence that /vz/ >> is "a lot easier" than /fs/. If anything, the reverse is true, >> since (a) /vz/ is voiced, and thus requires participation of the >> larynx, which would otherwise be uninvolved -- i.e, there's more >> physical effort and control required, and (b) at the end of the >> word, the environment is more likely to condition voicelessness >> than voicing. > Now I think of it, it could have something to do with the 'l'. I notice > that, for example, my Dutch colleagues cannot pronounce "self" as one > syllable - it becomes "seluf" like "film" becomes "filum" - whereas > they can pronounce "themselves". Just a guess.It could indeed; that's another epenthesis that some people make, though usually only with resonants after /l/. /fs/ and /vz/ are all fricatives, and there native English speakers tend to diminish the /l/ instead of inserting an epenthetic vowel; the /l/ is reduced to a mere gesture toward the velum, like a /w/ but without lip rounding. A non-native speaker might well epenthesize instead if they hadn't gotten the reduced postvocalic /l/ allophone.