(There are more open questions in the dictionary. Ones that are specifically about an existing word go in the word's Notes field; to search for them, put "Open question" in the Notes box.)

Pronouns... again...

Was I wrong to make the pronoun change I made a while ago?

I wrote this about gendered pronouns elsewhere:

The issue with having only 1 3rd person pronoun is that it would be frequently ambiguous; any splitting of 3rd person pronouns has the benefit of mitigating this problem by decreasing the rate of situations where a pronoun can't be used because of ambiguity, but it should be obvious that gender is not the best split for achieving this. Probably the best one is person/non-person (English has that too in the form of it). Even with that one taken, there are a lot of other splits to make that are more useful than gender. You could split non-person into object/abstract, or split the person pronoun into singular/plural, or all of them based on grammatical position of the antecedent.

Spem used to have a split based on grammatical position of the antecedent, but I eventually decided it was too confusing and switched it to the current system, which is person/object/abstract.

But what if the new split is actually a bad one because it splits over distinctions that were already more likely to be resolvable with context? Often, whether a pronoun refers to a person, an object, or an abstract will be obvious, but if there are multiple people, multiple objects, or multiple abstracts in the context, which one it refers to is a lot less likely to be obvious, making this pronoun split less useful.

In fact, gender might be the most useful split for this reason, precisely because it's arbitrary and not correlated with anything else. It's the most likely to actually resolve an ambiguity.

I have the adverbs jo and mo to talk about consent. But there are two concepts that might be worth having words for and I never decided which one these are for. If I steal and you whack me in the head to get your stuff back, I could say you whacked me without my consent, but it doesn't carry the moral weight it normally does because I don't need to consent to giving back stolen property. Maybe we need a second pair of words.



This page was last modified (UTC)