Singular they and the syntactic representation of gender in English

Abstract

Singular they enjoys a curious notoriety in popular discussions of English grammar. Despite this, and though its use with quantificational, non-specific, and genuinely epicene antecedents dates back at least to the 1400s (Balhorn 2004), it has been little discussed in formal linguistics. This squib suggests an analysis of this longstanding use of they, while also describing a more recent change in they’s distribution, whereby many speakers now accept it with singular, definite, and specific antecedents of known binary gender. I argue that the distribution of they, in both conservative and innovative varieties, has implications for our understanding of the syntactic representation of gender in English, the structure of bound variable pronouns, and the regulation of coreference.

Keywords

features, gender, pronouns, variable binding

How to Cite

Bjorkman B., (2017) “Singular they and the syntactic representation of gender in English”, Glossa: a journal of general linguistics 2(1), p.80. doi: https://doi.org/10.5334/gjgl.374

2653

Views

2094

Downloads

Share

Authors

Bronwyn M. Bjorkman (Queen’s University, 99 University Ave, Kingston ON K7K, 1W4)

Download

Issue

Dates

Licence

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0

Identifiers

Peer Review

This article has been peer reviewed.

File Checksums (MD5)

  • PDF: 97e84f8aeb67d081e806d85008e0ee14