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Re: 3rd person singular neutral X 3rd person plural ?

On Thursday 15 May 2008 12:18:56 Ambrose Andrews wrote:
> 2008/5/15 martin f krafft <madduck@debian.org>:
> > also sprach Graham Cobb <g+debian@cobb.uk.net> [2008.05.15.1140 +0100]:
> >> Debian have elected a new leader. [Subject is plural]
> >>
> >> In fact, I would have no trouble saying "The Debian project is 10 years
> >> old and they have elected a new leader".
> I would prefer to say 'The Debian project is ten years old, and its
> members have just elected anew leader.

That would also be valid, but it is a different statement from the one I made.  
In fact it is similar to the example given in the Wikipedia article about 
collective nouns explaining that American speakers may recast a sentence to 
avoid the British-style use of plural agreement with a singular collective 

It might be better to think about a different statement: The Debian project is 
15 years old and they have just issued a major security advisory.

> I'd say Debian (the project) should be singular.  Debian developers are
> plural.

I hadn't realised (until the other post a few minutes ago) that Australian 
usage had drifted away from British towards American on this.  I found an 
interesting article on NZ English 
which seems to say that there is a global trend (particularly in informal 
usage) to move toward the American style.  Maybe I need to add that not only 
am I a native British English speaker, I am in my late 40's!

> Corporations are singular in law generally too I think, so they might
> as well be in language.

Very logical, but the issue is actual language usage, not logic, 

> Debian Developers vote, Debian (project) Announces something (provided
> it is a suitably authorised person to make the announcement)

British English usage disagrees.  In UK English, Debian announce things.

I wish I had an Athens account.  There seems to be an interesting paper on the 
background to all this at: 
http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/language/v082/82.1bock.pdf.  Until I can read 
that, this Wikipedia article will have to do: 
  I also like this blog entry and its comments, which seem to illustrate the 
complexity of the issue quite well: 

The bottom line is that, as with most grammar questions, neither is "right" 
or "wrong" but that there are differences between (most) US and (most) UK 
usage.  If the list want, we can decide whether the term "Debian" is to use 
singular or plural verb agreement (and the related but not identical issue of 
pronoun agreement) as a matter of house style.  I would vote for British 
usage, but that is because I am a Brit!


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