Re: Pronouns

karl h schwerin (schwerin@UNM.EDU)
Wed, 15 Nov 1995 14:14:04 -0700

On Tue, 7 Nov 1995, hjmartin wrote:

> Because of several reponses, I (reluctantly) post this:

> The fact that an historical precedent exists does not mean that present
> usage is, must, or should be affected. Neither does the precedent oblige us
> to suppose that current change is acceptable or unacceptable. The example
> is instructive, however.
> If 'their' now, as in the past, has an unstable use as a singular and a
> plural, then ok, study the history and report it.

> The issues involved are not only about an idealized, neutral change but also
> about how people think of the change and what position they stake out as
> their own -over which they will argue. The grammatical correctness of
> 'their' as a singular can only be established through its general use as a
> singular, not through a committee setting standards of correctness for the
> others in the population to ascribe to. In other words, their is singular,
> and correctly so, if people use it this way. I don't use it this way because
> it sounds wrong to me.

I prefer to use it because it sounds *less wrong* than all the other
circumlocutions, such as his/hers, s/he, his or hers, etc. The fact is,
that in my linguistic experience this has always been used as an
alternative (if quite informal) colloquial form. To formalize it only
validates a popular practise.

> Regards,
> Jim Martin
> --------------------------
> HJMartin
> 901 Pump Rd, 193
> Richmond, VA 23233
> (804) 740-0170 home
> (804) 786-5188 work
> internet:

Karl Schwerin SnailMail: Dept. of Anthropology
Univ. of New Mexico Albuquerque, NM 87131

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