[PLUG-TALK] the predicate nominative (was Re: [PLUG] OT - grammar checkers.)

GLL guy1656 at ados.com
Wed Oct 27 07:32:52 PDT 2004



: g> 'That' and 'which' also imply ...
:
: So, you're point here is that because one English rule is nonsensical,
: then it's OK for another rule to be nonsensical?  [grin]

Not *here* but further below. Language defines culture and vice versa, in a
feedback loop. Societies add precision of meaning where their cultures need
to make distintions, and simplify lexicon and grammar where distintions are
not important. Since the heritage of English includes major aspects of
classical Western philosophy, deconstucting this (as is the vogue of
post-Hippie decades) includes accidentally or deliberately destroying vast
machinery in our very language. I simply refuse to participate, because in
doing so one must speak and write like an ignorant rube.

In this case, users of English find it is important to distinguish between
human life, lesser animal life, and inanimate matter, and in doing so rank
them in that cosmic order. Some of the more enviro-weenie types bristle at
ranking non-human life below humanity, but with the concept of language
inherently expressing philosophy understood, it becomes clear that that and
most forms of environmentalism are mere expressions of self-hatred. The acme
of environmentalism as self-hatred comes in the form of eco-terrorism, which
is technically hate-crime against all humanity itself.

: g> : When one says "That is green", for example,
: g> : they're not normally referring to themselves.
:
: g> OUCH! One NEVER uses a plural 'they' to indicate a SINGULAR.
:
: Hmmm.  The gender issue is a secondary reason I use "they" and
: "themselves" in conjunction with "one".  There's another, more
: important reason.

Here again is where the precision of English applied admirably: 'gender' is
actually a grammatical term for why cabbage is 'male' and lettuce is female
in French, a baby is neuter in English ('it') and a young, unmarried woman is
also neuter - in German ('Das Madchen.") We, in this supposedly enlightened
age, find ourselves embarrased to use the word 'sex' where it is appropriate,
and instead cower behind the grammatical term 'gender.' Along with many
animals, a human, has a sex: male or female. That's the term for what you're
equipped with. I tend to anticipate that people who say 'gender' where they
mean 'sex' are the of same thinly-educated sort (think of case hardening) who
use 'flounder' as a verb when they ought to use 'founder.' (Hint: a flounder
is a fish.)

'Genders' on the other hand, are part of the traffic signs of language, and
define, for example why in a certain language most nouns ending in '-ind'
might take a plural form '-inden,' and the next thing you know, when its
speakers discover or create a new noun which happens to end in  'ind,' they
will form the plural as 'inden,' regardless of whether the actual thing
defined appears particularly masculine, feminine, or neutral.

Gender has all but disappeared from current English usage, but it's still
 nice to see the few fading bells and whistles used correctly: a 'blond' is a
 man, a 'blonde' is a woman, and a woman whom I shall marry soon is a
 fiancee. To her I am her fiance, which is pronounced "fyawnts." Older
 feminine gendered nouns such as huntress, aviatrix, and editrice are still
 quite pleasant to see in use (and if we had the word, what oyster would not
 long for his oystress?) They remind the reader of the age of the aerodrome,
 or when 'computer' meant a person who wrote arithmetic and solved equations
 for a living.

[A]

: "One", as in "When one says..." or "One [should] never ..." is
: actually a plural concept.  It seems singular; but, it's not.  "One"
: defines an entire _set_ of subjects.  <snip>

[B]

: So, when I say "When one says ...", it is completely appropriate
: to use an equally non-particular word like "them" or "themselves"
: in the predicate to indicate the same inductively defined set
: of referents.

[C]

: In this sense, "one" is refering to the same real world set of objects
: that "they" and "themselves" is refering to.  So, the context is
: preserved.  Now, I realize that "he", "him", "himself", etc can also
: indicate the same inductively defined set as "one".  But, since I'm
: guilty of trying to make English more like a calculus, I prefer to
: settle in on the less ambiguous words.

You are wrong about plurals in A, B, and C because 'a set' is a single entity
and takes a SiNGULAR verb. Many writers of lesser skill get seduced wtih the
phrase:

[a set, a collection, a group, etc] + [of objects, of people] + VERB

because in this case the verb is SINGULAR because we are talking about ONE
set, or collection of group. So, for 'a group of people,' the group of people
IS going to lunch together, even though the people in the group ARE going
together.

Then we have collectives like 'management IS doing better,' with one
exception being 'police,' which is a collective which that uses the plural.

"This set of elements is more numerous then that set." It can look odd to
follow a plural noun with a singular verb ("elements is,") but the verb
indeed agrees in number.

[D]

: And it seems to me that "he",
: "him", and "himself" are too personal to indicate these inductively
: defined sets.... simply because they indicate gender.  ("He" is more
: particular than "they" because it doesn't include the females.)

Actually as I said previously, the masculine gender in Standard English
subsume the feminine as a gesture of generosity. Gentlemen have gallantly and
chivalrously agreed to forgo expressing maleness at all times, and lend out
their pronouns to include all humanity at times. Thus, 'where no man has gone
before,' although it might easily be written 'where none has gone before' stil 
means everybody, and 'the rights of Man' includes everybody, especially when
written with a capital 'M,' even in today's usage. So, for those few times
when you paint yourself into a corner, go ahead and use the masculine gender
and don't fret about it, because mature people understand that the masculine
gender (words) isn't the male sex (bodies.)

: But, this whole rationalization about predicate nominatives doesn't
: wash. It smacks of post-hoc intellectualist grafting of a reasonable
: structure over the top of an historically accidental linguistic accretion.

Here's my take on it: Cultures use things like 'that one wierd traditional 
food no one except us can STAND' as identifiers. When an 'in group' can speak 
a language or a dialect that an oustider cannot understand or cannot blend in 
with the group, that group is comforted with a sense of community. This 
happens across social classes where the proletariat simply doesn't know the 
words used by the more educated classes, but also when one of those stuffy 
folks turns down the wrong alley, the locals know by accent when he asks for 
directions, that hello we've got an uptown mark here, and a blackjack might 
lead to the next round of drinks.

Languages also evolve weird exceptions or needlessly complex lists of
individual modes for a simple concept, not only to trip up and identify
outsiders but also in order to check up on who is paying attention, and
therby identify the intelligent among them. Japanese and Chinese, use
counting particle - think of the way 'sheets' is used in 'five sheets of
paper.' But these particles are not nouns themselves. They are used between
the number word and the thing being enumerated, and they supply a concept of
the shape or quality of the thing being counted. God know why, but it's
important for them: The farmer has three [small animals] dogs and two [large
animal] horses. But birds are counted with the same word used for rabbits.
Why? My guess is that silly execptions help identify who among the group can
learn and remember, and who cannot, and to help indicate approaching
senility, and to identify tourists and other social imposters.

English probably has more classes of exeptions simply because it has
agglomerated the cultural markings of several older and varied root
languages, from Celtic (they conjugate PREPOSITIONS but not verbs) to Roman
(word order?) to Germanic (gender and number, PLUS 'strong' and 'weak' verbs
and nouns!)

- GLL


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Where Speed & Service Have Always Mattered @ http://www.ados.com




More information about the PLUG-talk mailing list