Random language thread 6

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Re: Random language thread 6

Postby suruvaippa » 2019-10-09, 3:22

I had a good laugh out of this list of Finnish "not the brightest tool in the crayon box" equivalents, my favorite being ei ole kaikki mummot bingossa = "(Name of idiot) hasn't got all their grannies at the bingo" :)
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Re: Random language thread 6

Postby Linguaphile » 2019-10-09, 4:10

suruvaippa wrote:I had a good laugh out of this list of Finnish "not the brightest tool in the crayon box" equivalents, my favorite being ei ole kaikki mummot bingossa = "(Name of idiot) hasn't got all their grannies at the bingo" :)


Some of them are truly awful, but I liked these:

Ei ole kaikki appsit päivitetty (hasn't got all their apps updated)
Ei ole käyttistä päivitetty (hasn't got their OS updated)
Tonttuja vintillä (gnomes in the attic)

I'm pretty sure I do have gnomes in my attic some days. (And yeah, I do mean the attic that I carry around above my shoulders! Blame the gnomes. Always blame the gnomes.)

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Re: Random language thread 6

Postby vijayjohn » 2019-10-09, 6:31

Linguaphile wrote:English: twelve point oh five or twelve point zero five

I forgot about point. Thanks!
Or four and a quarter, without saying the word "dollars".

This I just don't say, though.

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Re: Random language thread 6

Postby linguoboy » 2019-10-09, 18:13

vijayjohn wrote:
Or four and a quarter, without saying the word "dollars".

This I just don't say, though.

You've always struck me as a "four and two bits" kind of fellow.

TIL that an Irish euphemism equivalent to "answering the call of nature" is "undo a button", e.g. Caithfidh mé cnaipe a scaoileadh "I must undo a button" = "I have to pee/crap".
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Re: Random language thread 6

Postby Linguaphile » 2019-10-09, 22:12

vijayjohn wrote:
Linguaphile wrote:English: twelve point oh five or twelve point zero five

I forgot about point. Thanks!

I definitely say and hear "point" more often than "dot".
vijayjohn wrote:
Linguaphile wrote:Or four and a quarter, without saying the word "dollars".

This I just don't say, though.

In my experience it's mainly used in very informal contexts. Like at a yard sale / garage sale where someone holds something up and says "hey, how much is this?" the answer might be "four and a quarter".
"Four dollars and a quarter" is the one that actually sounds a bit odd to me. It doesn't sound wrong, I just don't think I've heard it as often.
In any case I think "four twenty-five" is probably the most common in my experience, more common than either of those.
It's probably regional, as far as what tends to be preferred.

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Re: Random language thread 6

Postby md0 » 2019-10-11, 8:20

This is pretty much the only forum I trust to open the following discussion and not be lumped together with reactionaries, so here goes:

There was trouble all week over at StackExchange (a site whose business model is making money off of volunteers intellectual labour) over a new site rule under discussion about mandating respect of other users' stated pronouns. I'm a passive user of that website, as is everyone who ever tried to write more than 3 lines of code.

A volunteer moderator was removed from their position for insisting that they are not going to enforce this new change because they can accept pretty much any neologism (eg ze, xe, etc) or intentionally rewrite everything to avoid using pronouns if it was necessary to avoid using singular they. This detail was lost on most people who rushed to defend the dismissed moderator, since their comments where more focused on denying trans people's validity and/or ranting about SJW's ruining tech culture more than peeving about singular they.

I now noticed that the new rule has been made public, and I find it bad in exactly the opposite way than the dismissed moderator. More specifically:
Q9: Do I have to use pronouns I’m unfamiliar or uncomfortable with (e.g., neopronouns like xe, zir, ne... )?

Yes, if those are stated by the individual.

Q10: What if I believe it is grammatically incorrect to use some pronouns (e.g. they/them to refer to a single person)?

If they are the pronouns stated by the individual, you must respect that and use them. Grammar concerns do not override a person’s right to self identify.


My main problem is Q9, but Q10 pre-empts my objection to Q9. I know that language is not just stringing words together, there are principles in place that are not socially constructed. Much as the laws of mathematics don't give a damn for the laws of Australia, the principles of language are also rather inflexible, although not entirely fixed because inter-generational transmission of a specific language allows for reanalysis of grammatical structures, which if they catch up, lead to language change.

Pronouns form a closed class. They rarely change, there's neurolinguistic evidence that they are processed differently than open word classes of similar function, like nouns. That English has not once, but twice evolved to neutralise the number distinction on some of its pronouns (first you, then they) is a very fortunate outcome. The change for they a pronoun unvalued for number is probably near complete and it's not going away in the same way that starting sentences with "So, ..." won't be going away no matter how much it annoys people who didn't acquire that use early on.

Neologisms on the other hand often die off early. Neo-pronouns have it especially bad, because they are competing into a near impossible field, ie a closed class. There have been attempts to make them catch up for one or two centuries already, and there was an explosion of them in the last half a century, but the chances of them making it into the mental grammar of English speakers are extremely slim.

My short response would be that is time to give up on neo-pronouns and go with singular they. We tried many things, and what worked has clearly emerged. Singular they works. I wish that kind of linguistic shift was also realistically possible in my native language (but there's no indication of it happening even in small intentional communities).

To be fair I would then add that maybe there's one way to keep neo-pronouns around. That would be if English develops an honorific system like the one in the Japanese pronoun system (3P.SG: kare, anohito, anokata, koitsu, yatsu, and so on). Those are something of a semi-open class and they mostly behave like common nouns. If that ever becomes a realistic language change in English, I would think that the neo-pronouns will have to stop being proposed as declinable for case, since English nouns aren't, and they would have to be used alongside singular they for a long time. But honestly, I don't think that's going anywhere.

tl;dr I think that if you have to mandate a rule from above, because the people you are managing are not going to act in good faith and show basic politeness on their own, then the focus should be on using the gender neutral singular pronoun that English naturally developed and that is part of the mental grammar of many of its native speakers and that is only increasing in adoption by the day. The use of neo-pronouns or gender-specific pronouns (like he and she) where stated is a courtesy that can be strongly encouraged, but not mandated.
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Re: Random language thread 6

Postby Ciarán12 » 2019-10-11, 10:12

md0 wrote:This is pretty much the only forum I trust to open the following discussion and not be lumped together with reactionaries, so here goes [...]


I don't often agree with you about gender identity politics, but I totally agree with everything you just said, and not because I'm in any way anti-trans but for exactly the reasons you mentioned about the relative immutability of fundamental, grammatical building-blocks of language such as pronouns (and, of course, as a life-long user of singular they I have never understood the objection to it whatsoever...).

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Re: Random language thread 6

Postby Osias » 2019-10-11, 10:48

I wrote some answers on SE sites and can't remember ever needing to use personal pronouns. :hmm:
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Re: Random language thread 6

Postby md0 » 2019-10-11, 11:30

Osias wrote:I wrote some answers on SE sites and can't remember ever needing to use personal pronouns. :hmm:

"OP said that OP already tried X" is less elegant than "OP said PRONOUN already tried X". Even more opportunities to need pronouns in the non-programming sections of the site.
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Re: Random language thread 6

Postby Osias » 2019-10-11, 13:29

I didn't even use 'OP' or remember people interacting with me using it, or any form to refer to people. I mean, there must be, but it's so rare it shouldn't be a issue in a site like that.
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Re: Random language thread 6

Postby md0 » 2019-10-11, 13:46

I mean, feel free to run Google ngram on it or something, but people use pronouns all the time when they want to refer back to previously stated individuals. So they are used when discussing what someone else wrote in the question thread after they are named once. There's really no reasonable room to doubt that pronouns are commonly used on SE.
They are even more common in the SE sections that deal with anything other than code because there are more mentions of humans there.

It's quite established in experimental linguistics that people wildly mis-estimate (under- or over-) how commonly they use a certain word, so don't trust your brain on this.
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Re: Random language thread 6

Postby Osias » 2019-10-11, 16:39

ok
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Re: Random language thread 6

Postby Car » 2019-10-11, 20:34

What you, md0 wrote, makes perfect sense to me.
Please correct my mistakes!

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Re: Random language thread 6

Postby Vlürch » 2019-10-12, 14:26

Is there any more vocabulary of Peninsular Japonic known (and listed anywhere) than the short list on Wikipedia? The article makes it sound like there aren't any more, but I figured I'd ask. Also, have any sound correspondences between Peninsular Japonic and standard Japanese (and other Japonic languages) been deduced? I couldn't find anything by googling, but I sometimes suck at googling, so...
md0 wrote:Neo-pronouns have it especially bad, because they are competing into a near impossible field, ie a closed class. There have been attempts to make them catch up for one or two centuries already, and there was an explosion of them in the last half a century, but the chances of them making it into the mental grammar of English speakers are extremely slim.

I'm not sure if I agree... I mean, obviously I agree from an objective point of view, but from a subjective point of view. Like, I used to be annoyed by them and rejected their validity, for an embarrassingly long time even after I stopped being transphobic, but then I realised that the main reason I was against them was uncertainty on how to pronounce them and the worry that mispronouncing them opens up an even bigger minefield than plain misgendering. I mean, people who state their neologistic pronouns rarely use IPA to indicate the pronunciation, so for example xe could be /k͡siː/, /ziː/, /ʃiː/ or something completely different. But asking is possible, even if it has to be done cautiously.

Now, personally I would prefer to be able to use singular they because it's the default for an unknown gender and is largely accepted, and as such it should be able to avoid the minefield entirely. However, what if they consider singular they to be misgendering? Wouldn't calling them them after they tell you to call them xer instead be just as bad as calling them him/her after they state that they prefer to be called them?

I'm still not completely over my opposition to neopronouns, though, even if it's just a remnant of transphobia, so to an extent I agree with you... I'd refuse to use somebody's stated pronouns if they're either very long and/or just plain not pronouns (ie. are common nouns). This might change in the future if it becomes more common to accept them, but at least for the foreseeable future I would for example never refer to somebody by derogatory epithets even if those were their stated pronouns; while I nowadays err on the side of caution and assume even the most outlandish pronouns are not trolling, there is still a line that I think shouldn't be crossed unless there's a consensus that it should be.

...but of course, in Finland, this is close to a non-issue. No idea how many transgender people there are here in general, but most of them presumably speak Finnish, so... Finnish being one of the most gender-neutral languages in the world is nice.
md0 wrote:The use of neo-pronouns or gender-specific pronouns (like he and she) where stated is a courtesy that can be strongly encouraged, but not mandated.

I'd say I agree, but if that was the case, the same could be extended to names and that doesn't sit right with me. Like, there are obviously more names than pronouns on several orders of magnitude, yet most people are just fine with calling somebody by their name even if it's not a common one, or using their nickname/pseudonym/username/whatever where the use of legal names isn't necessary or preferred.

There have been "controversies" when kids have been given common nouns as names or unorthodox variants of well-established names, and I'm sure they've been bullied by other kids, and I wouldn't put it past adults to continue bullying them, but should that stop parents from giving their kids new names or people from changing their name legally or from using a nickname informally? I don't think so, and I think the same applies to pronouns and ties into people's right to self-determination.

Again, the only exceptions I can think of are if they're uncharacteristic of pronouns (in English); if they're long and/or common nouns, especially ones that have derogatory implications, etc. The same standards that apply in names, more or less, even if they're somewhat different since names tend to be longer than pronouns.

PS: Please tell me if I said something illiberal in this post. I acknowledge that I'm still not completely a decent human being, but I try my hardest and think I've come a long way from even just a year ago... or even just a couple of days ago, on another issue...

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Re: Random language thread 6

Postby md0 » 2019-10-12, 15:30

but then I realised that the main reason I was against them was uncertainty on how to pronounce them and the worry that mispronouncing them opens up an even bigger minefield than plain misgendering. I mean, people who state their neologistic pronouns rarely use IPA to indicate the pronunciation, so for example xe could be /k͡siː/, /ziː/, /ʃiː/ or something completely different.


I'm not sure if that concern was a highly ranked one for people other than a self-selecting group such us language nerds.

However, what if they consider singular they to be misgendering? Wouldn't calling them them after they tell you to call them xer instead be just as bad as calling them him/her after they state that they prefer to be called them?

Xe was invented to-, and singular they came to be a gender neutral pronoun, so if we are being fair with our demands, they should be interchangeable in the same way different dialects may have different sets of pronouns (tú/vos in Spanish across the ocean for example). It cannot be misgendering if both are unvalued for gender.

What you describe would be an issue if those were honorifics instead though.

I'd refuse to use somebody's stated pronouns if they're either very long and/or just plain not pronouns (ie. are common nouns). This might change in the future if it becomes more common to accept them, but at least for the foreseeable future I would for example never refer to somebody by derogatory epithets even if those were their stated pronouns; while I nowadays err on the side of caution and assume even the most outlandish pronouns are not trolling, there is still a line that I think shouldn't be crossed unless there's a consensus that it should be.

I think that trolling around pronouns is pretty transparent. No-one acting in good faith has asked for them to be referred as "attack helicopter".

I'd say I agree, but if that was the case, the same could be extended to names and that doesn't sit right with me. Like, there are obviously more names than pronouns on several orders of magnitude, yet most people are just fine with calling somebody by their name even if it's not a common one, or using their nickname/pseudonym/username/whatever where the use of legal names isn't necessary or preferred.

I don't think that it can automatically be extended to proper names. I will have to be convinced of that, since pronouns and names are very different things by definition and usage.

I don't think so, and I think the same applies to pronouns and ties into people's right to self-determination.

There's perhaps a mission creep happening :hmm:

Gender neutral pronouns have been the goal because speakers of English (and several other languages with gendered pronouns) need a way to talk about people without having to label them as men or women, either because that information is unknown, unnecessary or has to remain secret, or because those two categories don't fit the third person's gender.
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Re: Random language thread 6

Postby Car » 2019-10-12, 15:55

md0 wrote:
but then I realised that the main reason I was against them was uncertainty on how to pronounce them and the worry that mispronouncing them opens up an even bigger minefield than plain misgendering. I mean, people who state their neologistic pronouns rarely use IPA to indicate the pronunciation, so for example xe could be /k͡siː/, /ziː/, /ʃiː/ or something completely different.


I'm not sure if that concern was a highly ranked one for people other than a self-selecting group such us language nerds.

No, but it's one for me. The other is the different case forms of those new pronouns. Even in English, pronouns are one of the few instances where you can see remnants of cases, but how do you inflect xe, to use that example? Obviously, that's more of a problem in languages that still have a (more or less) fully fledged case system, but still. Do you just treat it as if it was a proper name?
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Re: Random language thread 6

Postby md0 » 2019-10-12, 16:07

Car wrote:
md0 wrote:
but then I realised that the main reason I was against them was uncertainty on how to pronounce them and the worry that mispronouncing them opens up an even bigger minefield than plain misgendering. I mean, people who state their neologistic pronouns rarely use IPA to indicate the pronunciation, so for example xe could be /k͡siː/, /ziː/, /ʃiː/ or something completely different.


I'm not sure if that concern was a highly ranked one for people other than a self-selecting group such us language nerds.

No, but it's one for me. The other is the different case forms of those new pronouns. Even in English, pronouns are one of the few instances where you can see remnants of cases, but how do you inflect xe, to use that example? Obviously, that's more of a problem in languages that still have a (more or less) fully fledged case system, but still. Do you just treat it as if it was a proper name?


Neopronouns have proposed nominative, accusative, possessive, and reflexive forms. Some of them are more natural than others.
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Re: Random language thread 6

Postby Dormouse559 » 2019-10-12, 16:28

Car wrote:No, but it's one for me. The other is the different case forms of those new pronouns. Even in English, pronouns are one of the few instances where you can see remnants of cases, but how do you inflect xe, to use that example? Obviously, that's more of a problem in languages that still have a (more or less) fully fledged case system, but still. Do you just treat it as if it was a proper name?

When people tell others their pronouns in English, they usually say three forms: nominative, objective, possessive. The possessive form is normally the one used with no following noun. Those are pretty much the principal parts of an English pronoun. For example, "My pronouns are she, her, hers" or "My pronouns are they, them, theirs".
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Re: Random language thread 6

Postby Car » 2019-10-13, 13:36

Thanks, md0 and Dormouse, I've never seen that before.
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Re: Random language thread 6

Postby Vlürch » 2019-10-13, 14:24

md0 wrote:I'm not sure if that concern was a highly ranked one for people other than a self-selecting group such us language nerds.

Maybe not, but I used to be extremely paranoid about mispronouncing people's names and logically the same extends to pronouns. I no longer think it's that big a deal, but it still kind of is, especially if it causes someone suffering. I've obviously never had to refer to anyone who uses neopronouns in real life, or even online, but even just mentally it'd still be nice to know the correct pronunciations of everything.
md0 wrote:It cannot be misgendering if both are unvalued for gender.

If that's true, then I agree 100%. My understanding, which may be totally wrong as I've barely ever talked to people who use pronouns other than the standard ones (either masculine, feminine or singular they) and never about this, is that most neopronouns are not gender-neutral but rather used for specific neogenders? No idea which ones correspond to which, or if there's any universally agreed-upon correspondences anyway, though.
md0 wrote:I think that trolling around pronouns is pretty transparent. No-one acting in good faith has asked for them to be referred as "attack helicopter".

Yeah, that's usually true. However, I remember seeing posts on Tumblr about how some otherkin want things like dog or dragon to be used as pronouns when referring to them. Back then, that annoyed the hell out of me, and in all honesty I still find it annoying (even if for somewhat different reasons). Although I'm one of those people (bigots?) who agree more with the theory that otherkinism is more like a new religious movement than anything analogous to being transgender or non-binary, at least some otherkin themselves consider their situation the exact same as that of transgender/non-binary people, so I don't know... but like I said earlier, I'd still refuse to refer to somebody as "dog" or "dragon" or whatever, even if it was proven that they experience the exact same dysphoria/triggering/whatever as transgender people do at being misgendered, unless the consensus was that "pronouns" like "dog" are to be accepted.

And yes, I know even the transgender community tends to be against that kind of "pronouns", so it might be a non-issue. Still, if otherkin really do experience the same kind of dysphoria that transgender people experience and it's not concluded that it's just a new religious movement (or mental illness), and the otherkin movement doesn't just fizzle out with time... I think in the future, I mean real long-term (like decades), if language continues to evolve and progress continues to be made on every other issue of identity politics, then if the consensus was that otherkin should be allowed to use the non-pronoun "pronouns", who would I or anyone else who finds it annoying (and is probably not even alive anymore at the time) be to say that's wrong?
md0 wrote:I don't think that it can automatically be extended to proper names. I will have to be convinced of that, since pronouns and names are very different things by definition and usage.

I guess, but if people were allowed to choose their names, then they should also be allowed to choose their pronouns, and vice versa.

Legally changing your name is difficult and there are tons of restrictions, at least in Finland; you can't change it to a name that's too common or too rare, yet it has to be a well-established Finnish-language name; with surnames, you have to have some kind of family connection to the name (but it still can't be too common or too rare). Celebrities are exempt, of course, which I also think is wrong. Not sure if it's the same in other countries, but I'm not aware of any country giving its citizens full freedom in choosing their own names, and the name their parents gave them will always have special significance legally... and people who already knew you would still refer to you by your old name, anyway, so it'd be kind of pointless.

As someone who at 25 still cringes every time I hear my given name said out loud or written by anyone except family members and close friends, I wish there was a way to change it without the legal hassle and "yeah, but what's your REAL (GIVEN) name?"-type questions. Obviously this doesn't give me any meaningful insight into how transgender/non-binary people feel when the pronouns they consider to be offensive are used to refer to them, but I think it's somewhat similar, so by amplifying the cringe I can kind of imagine how it might feel. Experiencing that every single time you're being referred to would have to be depressing as fuck.

By amplifying the cringe, the conclusion is that pronouns must be even more meaningful than names because they're used more commonly. That might mean they form an even bigger part of a person's self-image than their name, but I admit that that's just speculation (and speculation coming from someone whose first language is gender-neutral at that) so it might not be true... but if it is, then logically using the wrong pronoun causes more cringe and/or suffering than using the wrong name.

All that said, though, at the fundamental level both theoretically and practically I agree with what you're saying, that singular they would ideally be able to be used to refer to literally anyone regardless of gender or their preferred pronouns as it can be as a substitute for the standard masculine and feminine pronouns. Forcing people to avoid it and forcing them to instead use neopronouns that only apply case-by-case would be a loss of diversty for the English language, because it'd disable the catch-all non-specific pronoun that they is both in singular and plural.
md0 wrote:There's perhaps a mission creep happening :hmm:

That's kind of true, but if the end goal is complete freedom, why not? Progress on one area doesn't exclude progress in other areas. I don't think parents deciding which pronouns their kids should use is the way forward, for example, and I think this ties in with the goal that kids themselves should be allowed to decide what they want to be called. Obviously they should be allowed to change their name if they want (I think once a year would be good, but maybe experts should be the ones devising the exact details), especially because a twelve-year-old might think that, for example, Bruh is a good name; I don't think there should be a problem with legally calling yourself Bruh (or anything), but being stuck with it would suck.


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