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Re: Bits from the WNPP: RFH tag

> > Moreover, I don't see how claiming that "they" can fill two roles
> > (plural pronoun and singluar gender-neutral pronoun) is any more absurd
> > than claiming that "he" can fill two roles (male-gender pronoun and
> > gender-neutral pronoun).  In fact the use of "they" is clearer since
> > grammatical constraints on the rest of the sentence will generally
> > resolve the ambiguity, whereas with "he" you just have to hope that it's
> > clear from context.
> Nope, you have the same problem with both 'he' and 'they'.  Both can be used
> in a sentence in a way which is possibly confusing, and unresolvable by
> context.

Hmm.  Well I deliberately used "generally" instead of "always", but on
further reflection I take back that point about grammatical constraints.
What I had in mind was the matching of number between noun and verb
(e.g., "the cats growl", "the cat growls"), but of course for this
purpose the singular gender-neutral "they" acts as a plural, much like
the singular "you".

Of course I maintain the original point, which is that using two
different roles for "they" is no more absurd than using two different
roles for "he".

Moreover, I maintain that surrounding text will explicitly resolve the
ambiguity of "they" far more frequently than it will for "he".  In the
general situation where it's clear *which* noun phrase "they" is binding
to (unlike your counterexample), it is generally explicit whether this
noun phrase is singular or plural (e.g., "the maintainer" vs "debian
maintainers").  To resolve the ambiguity of "he" however, the gender of
the noun phrase is still quite frequently left to be resolved through
social context -- certainly in the gender-neutral usage of "he", the
ambiguity is rarely explicitly resolved in the text itself.


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