On 2020-07-02 17:14, Paul Moore wrote:
On Thu, 2 Jul 2020 at 16:53, David Mertz firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
On Thu, Jul 2, 2020, 11:08 AM Piper Thunstrom
Paul, this is actually a good question to ask. In general, singular "they" is becoming more popular. It's already used frequently for the singular indeterminate pronoun:
The first attested use of singular they in English was in 1375 CE. I'm not sure what time frame Piper uses as the increment for "becoming more popular", but its use has waxed and waned for 650 years.
I was aware of "they" as an option, so I agree it seems like a reasonable approach.
The usage has never been rare during those 650 years, but neither has it ever been predominant. It is a completely reasonable approach, and I would not object to encouraging it in Python documentation.
Nor would I.
Earlier in my life (30-40 years ago) I tended to use s/he or similar forms. I think that 'they' is more inclusive of gender non-binary people, as well as being much more historically established.
I tend to use "they" relatively often, but I have found in the past that it leads me into certain types of awkward sentences (no, I can't think of an example right now) where using "they" doesn't seem right. Maybe that's because I use "he" myself, and feel fairly uncomfortable when I'm referred to as "they", so that colours my impression - even though I'm writing for (generic) other people, I do tend to think in terms of how my words read if I view then as addressed to me. This is where I feel that "language hasn't caught up".
My understanding is that technically "he" takes a dual role in English, as both masculine (technical linguistics gender) 3rd person singular and "indeterminate" 3rd person singular (because English doesn't have an "indeterminate-but-not-neuter" gender - do any other languages?). But technical usage is irrelevant here, as people's feelings and identity are involved and language has to reflect that, not the other way round. Maybe sometime in the future, "they" will be the norm and "he and "she" will sound as archaic as "thou" does today. But until then, I feel that we should all tend to assume that everyone is *trying* to be inclusive, and shape our words as best we can to express and include ideas that maybe we don't personally have the experience to really feel as deeply as others do - that's not so much "privilege" in my view as "limited experience" and I hope people would assume I'd like to understand better and mean no harm, rather than that I'm smugly asserting my own world view as the only one that matters (sadly, I appreciate that some people *do* do that, but I doubt that applies to anyone in the Python community...)
Anyway, sermon over - thanks for the information and references everyone.
Indo-European languages tend to have grammatical gender (masculine/feminine/neuter or masculine/feminine), but it's not necessarily related to physical gender.
Other languages families might have many categories or 'genders', or just distinguish between animate and inanimate (and those might not necessarily be related to whether something is really animate or inanimate).
Having only one 3rd-person singular pronoun is by no means unusual.