LINGUIST List 5.667

Thu 09 Jun 1994

Sum: Singular they, English Morphology Texts

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  1. Kon Kuiper, Summary of discussion on singular they
  2. Christopher Hall, Summary: English Morphology Texts

Message 1: Summary of discussion on singular they

Date: 9 Jun 1994 10:56:28+1200
From: Kon Kuiper <>
Subject: Summary of discussion on singular they

Thankyou to those people who responded to my query on the use of singular
'they' with gendered antecedents. Here is a summary of the responses:

1. Works referring to singular 'they':

Barlow, Michael (1992) A Situated Theory of Agreement. Garland Series of
Outstanding Dissertations in Linguistics.

Bodine, Ann (1975) Androcentrism in prescriptive grammar: he, she, and
singular 'they'. Language and society article. Also to be found in Deborah
Cameron's book, The Feminist Critique of Language, Routledge, 1990.

Corbett, Greville (1993) Gender. CUP.

Hook, Donald (1991) Toward an English Epicene Pronoun. IRAL, XXIX/4, pp.

Lagunoff, Rachel (1992) A description of 'they' as a singular pronoun.
Unpublished MA thesis. UCLA.

Newman, Michael (1993a) The stubborn problem of pronominal disagreement.
Language in Society.
 (1993b) MA thesis. Ohio State. Available through UMI.

Wang, Jenny (1992 or 1993 ?) MA thesis. Contact Prof. Wayne Herbert, Dept.
of Modern Languages and Linguistics, Morrill Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853-4701.

2. Several respondents mentioned that they used singular 'they' in their
academic writing, giving as justification the awkwardness of 's/he',
'he/she', etc. This is an interesting development as singular 'they' is
often considered to be unacceptable in formal writing.

3. Most of the examples supplied did not have a gendered antecedent. Two
interesting exceptions were:

 (a) The trouble with a girl like Kathy is that they don't listen.
 (b) ? I talked to a boy recently. They'd like to meet you.

The query judgement was the respondent's, not mine. She noted that the
doubt might be due to oddness rather than ungrammaticality per se. I would
be very interested in collecting judgements on the two sentences above - so
feel free to post your response!

5. College English ran an article that generated several letters. The
article was in the September 1993 issue and the responses are in the April
1994 issue. There's no doubt that prescriptivism is alive and well!

Just a note concerning my own research:
I am currently working on a structural model that will take care of the
agreement problem. I am also very interested in attitudes to the agreement
problem among academics. Keep me posted, if you would. Thanks heaps.
Brenda Zanetti
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Message 2: Summary: English Morphology Texts

Date: Tue, 7 Jun 94 14:48:06 CSTSummary: English Morphology Texts
From: Christopher Hall <>
Subject: Summary: English Morphology Texts


Thank you to the following who replied to my enquiry about texts on English
Morphology for a course for TEFL M.A. students: Nick Reid, Laurie Bauer,
Wander Lowie, Mihoko Kubota, Jacob Caflisch, and Mark Sebba.

Below I have compiled a list of the texts recommended, with excerpts from
respondents' comments. Personally, I would have thought that Lieber's (and
probably Scalise's) book would be beyond the beginning applied linguistics
students I have in mind. Bauer's book is the one I have been using up
until now, and, although rich in data and useful in its discussion, is not
very current (as the author admits). Time for a new edition! The other
multi-recommended work is Katamba (1993) which I have not yet seen
(linguistics books still _dribble_ into Mexico, despite the influence of

Bauer, Laurie (1983) _English Word-formation_, Cambridge: Cambridge University
 Press. [Recommended three times. "Rather out of date; not much about
Bogdan, Szymanek (1989) _Introduction to Morphological Analysis_, Warsaw.
 ["Makes comparison with Polish, German, etc."]
Carstairs McCarthy, Andrew (1992) _Current Morphology_, London: Routledge.
 ["Very good."]
Katamba, Francis (1993) _Morphology_, London: MacMillan. ISBN: 0-312-10356-5.
 [Recommended three times. "Fairly traditional but quite complete."
 " 'Standard' (data in all langs), but it goes into Amorphous morphology
 and discusses several viewpoints concerning solutions to data."]
Katamba, Francis (to appear) _English Words_, London: Routledge.
Lieber, Rochelle (1992) _Deconstructing Morphology_, Chicago: Chicago University
Lipka, L. (1990) _An Outline of English Lexicology_, Tuebingen: Niemeyer.
 ["Contains a lot of material on lexical semantics and dictionaries."]
Matthews, P. H. (1974) _Morphology_, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ["An
 old one, but still going strong."]
Scalise, Sergio (1984) _Generative Morphology_, Dordrecht: Foris. ["Mainly on
 English, but includes examples from some other languages."]
Sloat, C. and Sh. Taylor (1985) _The Structure of English Words_ (3rd ed.),
 Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt, Inc. ISBN: 0-8403-4316-7. ["A
 workbook-like format ... very attractive."]
Spencer (1991) _Morphological Theory_, Oxford: Basil Blackwell. ["Very good (the
 best?); includes many other languages (simply because English does not
 happen to be very interesting morphologically speaking)."]
Taylor, A. (1989) paper in _Journal of Memory and Language_.


 Dr. Christopher J. Hall !=!=!=!
 Professor of Linguistics !=!=!

 Departamento de Lenguas !

 Universidad de las Americas, Puebla
 A.P. 100, Sta. Catarina Martir
 72820 Puebla
! Mexico
!=! Tel: +52 (22) 29 20 53
!=!=! Tel: +52 (22) 29 26 23
!=!=!=! Fax: +52 (22) 29 20 96
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