Jason (jcreed) wrote,

Although I find Geoff Pullum's explanation of Sean Lennon's singular they in this Language Log post pretty plausible, there's another influential pragmatic factor, I think: Lennon is jokingly phrasing his request as if it were a job ad, and in such a context, epicene they is ubiquitous in the name of politically correct gender-neutrality. In fact, even as someone perhaps even more than average ready to accept 'the way singular they is going in the speech of younger people' (just ask lambdacalculus, my arch-nemesis on the issue) using they when the gender of the antecedent is not only known but contextually required to be female is still a little jarring --- but just enough to trigger the association in my mind with the cold and cautious tone of classified ads, which I'm pretty sure is exactly what Lennon is aiming at.
Tags: linguistics

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