43: The grammar of singular they - Interview with Kirby Conrod


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Apr 17 2020 42 mins   1k
Using “they” to refer to a single person is about as old as using “you” to refer to a single person: for example, Shakespeare has a line “There's not a man I meet but doth salute me. As if I were their well-acquainted friend”, and the Oxford English Dictionary has citations for both going back to the 14th century. More recently, people have also been using singular they to refer to a specific person, as in “Alex left their umbrella”. In this episode, your host Gretchen McCulloch interviews Dr Kirby Conrod, a linguist who wrote their dissertation about the syntax and sociolinguistics of singular they. We talk about Kirby’s research comparing how people use third person pronouns (like they, she, and he) in a way that conveys social attitudes, like how some languages use formal and informal “you”, specific versus generic singular they, and how people go about changing their mental grammars for social reasons. --- This month’s bonus episode is about synesthesia, and research on various kinds of synesthesia, including the much-studied grapheme-colour, sound-colour, and time-space synesthesia, as well as rarer varieties such as Gretchen's attitude-texture synesthesia which she's never heard of anyone else having. Also, our producer Claire realized she was actually a synesthete while editing this episode! Support Lingthusiasm on Patreon to gain access to the teaching linguistics episode and 37 previous bonus episodes, and to chat with fellow lingthusiasts in the Lingthusiasm patron Discord. Lingthusiasm merch makes a great gift for yourself or other lingthusiasts! Check out IPA scarves, IPA socks, and more at lingthusiasm.redbubble.com Have a great idea for a linguistics communication project, but need a bit of money to get it off the ground? Looking to support emerging lingcomm projects? The LingComm Grant is four $500 grants for communicating linguistics to broader audiences in 2020. Applications close 1st of June 2020. Find out more and apply at lingcomm.org For links to everything mentioned in this episode, go to https://lingthusiasm.com/post/615600862742609920/lingthusiasm-episode-43-the-grammar-of-singular