Talk:Generic antecedent

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Pronouns and nouns[edit]

I hardly know where to start with this article.

We read:

<p>'''Pronouns''' are essentially words that replace [[noun]]s.<ref>William Malone Baskervill and James Witt Sewel, [ ''An English Grammar''], 1896.</ref>

I'm amazed to see a nineteenth-century text cited in this way. So much for advances in grammatical theory over an entire century. Here's one recent attempt at a theory-free definition:

A small subclass of noun not taking determiners. Includes personal pronouns (he, us, etc.), interrogative and relative pronouns, (who, what, etc.), reciprocals (each other). (Huddleston and Pullum, glossary item within A student's introduction to English grammar)

This definition by H&P indirectly assumes that a phrase such as "the reason" is headed by "reason", something that may be intuitively obvious to the naive observer but is by no means obvious to syntacticians. Plenty of (but not all) syntacticians (see e.g. Radford, Minimalist Syntax) will point out that just as "the reason" and "The sun and the moon" are not noun phrases but determiner phrases, personal pronouns (of English, though not of, say, Japanese) are determiners, not nouns. Thus H&P are staking a theoretical position here.

They exist in most (but not all) languages. The person, thing, [[phrase]], [[clause]] or idea they replace is called the ''antecedent'' (sometimes ''referent'').

This is an odd mishmash of linguistic facts and facts about the world. "The sun and the moon" is a determiner phrase (or noun phrase), and can be the antecedent of "they". The sun and the moon are out there in space and can be the referents of "they".

There need be no antecedent; cf the subject of It's pointless to argue with you.

T* Personal pronouns: ''I, you, she, he, it, we, they'' <p>These are so common because nearly all verbs require an explicit [[subject (grammar)|subject]] in English. The range of different pronouns helps make it clear to the hearer exactly what the antecedent is.</p>

All those are nominative forms. The wide use of non-nominative me, my, mine, your, her, hers, him, his, its, us, our, ours, them, their, and theirs can hardly be explained by the need for an overt subject. And what's this about "nearly all verbs"? I thought that it's a matter not of the verb but of being other than (a) imperative ("Come here") or (b) informally truncated ("Knew I dropped it somewhere").

Et cetera. . . . -- Hoary 07:54, 20 April 2007 (UTC)

Thank you, good to see you understand. :D Cheers! Alastair Haines 17:42, 22 April 2007 (UTC)

Is generic she controversial?[edit]

A couple of recent edits by an anonymous user helpfully raise a question.

As best I can guess from the edit summaries and textual changes, the editor believes generic she to be less than normal usage, at least traditionally, and perhaps even controversial now.

Now, actually I am sympathetic to this opinion, however, I don't believe it is strictly correct. As usual, a lot depends on context.

I have the following questions for this user.

  • Is there any grammatical controversy regarding use of she in a sentence such as "A nurse must first qualify, then she must be registered"?
  • Has there ever been grammatical controversy, regarding sentences of this form?
  • If either or both is true, what have been the grammatical arguments against such usage?

Australian English has had "She'll be right, mate!" and "She's a beauty!" for a long time. "France ... her glory" [1] and such like, "the ship listed heavily to starboard, before she finally sank slowly beneath the waves" and such like, are not only traditional English uses, but still current today. "The Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord," is necessary for the imagery that follows in that hymn.

Although the feminine pronoun is much more exclusive of men than the masculine pronoun is of women, both have been used generically in English, often in cases where conveying particularity or personality is more important than conveying indeterminacy.

I'm aware there are many views out there, some of them quite irresponsible. I'm concerned to know if the editor is anxious to innoculate this article against any particular views, or if there is a particular view she or he thinks needs additional development in the article as it stands. Alastair Haines 03:55, 29 October 2007 (UTC)

RE: "All people get hungry, so she eats. Incorrect (different meaning than first sentence)"[edit]

(ahem) - Joshua Clement Broyles —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:29, 27 October 2010 (UTC)

Thanks for spotting it. I've corrected it. Duoduoduo (talk) 15:49, 7 July 2011 (UTC)

Irrelevant section to be deleted[edit]

The title of this article is "Generic antecedent". Therefore the article needs to be exclusively about (a) what generic antecedents are, and (b) how to use pronouns to refer back to them. But at present the article contains a very long section called "Grammatical analysis in English" with subsections

   1.1 Pronouns
   1.2 Personal pronouns
   1.3 Number
   1.4 Person
   1.5 Case
   1.6 Gender
   1.7 Summary

This section is completely irrelevant to the issue at hand, except for the section on gender. So unless I hear some good objections, I'm going to delete this whole section and replace it with something very short on English pronoun gender and English indefinite pronouns. Duoduoduo (talk) 15:49, 7 July 2011 (UTC)

Chicago Manual of Style, unreliable source[edit]

If the Chicago Manual of Style seriously recommends using the word "they" in the singular, it cannot be regarded as a reliable source. It may be true that this is now the most common way to handle the supposed problem of having no gender-neutral singular pronoun (when, in fact, we do have a gender-neutral singular pronoun, "he"/"him" -- what we lack is a specifically masculine singular pronoun; only women get their own pronouns, yet somehow this is supposed to be sexist against women), however, this doesn't make it acceptable. It is also now more common to spell the words "their" and "they're" as "there", and to spell "have" as "of" when following modal verbs like should, could, might, &c. rendering strange and incomprehensible constructions like "should of" (a combination of words which does not make sense unless one knows that the speaker/writer intended to say "should have" or "should've"). Just because idiocy is rampant doesn't mean it isn't idiocy. No source which advocates using "they"/"them" in the singular can be regarded as reliable, no-matter how common it's become. I understand that some shy away from "prescriptivist" grammar, but pure "descriptivism" would mean that such things as spelling errors are impossible (as these would become spelling variants unique to but acceptable in one or more idiolect) or foreign words/phrases (as even a single use could be regarded as loan into the speaker or writer's idiolect and would therefore be part of the target language), so, obviously, we need to put limits on the descriptivism and allow for some prescriptivist grammar. We need to draw lines and say, "this will never be acceptable, no-matter how widespread it becomes," and this is one of those cases. Just because it comes from the Chicago Manual of Style doesn't mean one should follow it. When it starts advocating the use of retard grammar (like using "they"/"them" as a gender-neutral singular pronoun) it absolutely must be abandoned as a reliable source and regarded as the enemy of English it's become. --Þorstejnn (talk) 18:27, 29 July 2012 (UTC)

Merge Generic antecedent with Gender-neutral pronoun?[edit]

Looks like the content here is duplicative of the content in Gender-neutral_pronoun. Can we merge? -- ~~~~ — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 2014-03-26T17:21:54(UTC)

Agree. This should be merged into Gender-neutral pronoun. Care should be taken to differentiate between the generic antecedent and the purportedly gender-neutral pronoun that refers to it. --Boson (talk) 20:05, 26 March 2014 (UTC)