Page 2 of 3 FirstFirst 1 2 3 LastLast
Results 11 to 20 of 29
  1. Casiopea's Avatar

    • Join Date: Sep 2003
    • Posts: 12,970
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #11

    Re: Joe's grandmother / She

    Good.


    • Join Date: Mar 2007
    • Posts: 344
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #12

    Re: Joe's grandmother / She

    Ah, all my favorite curious people on one thread!
    Anyway, I didn't answer "Joe's grandmother" because I thought Joe was a girl (besides most female "Joes" are spelled "Jo") but because "birthday" was the subject, not "Joe's grandmother" (as Casiopea pointed out), so technically it is the first mention of Joe's grandmother, so a pronoun seems inappropriate.
    I totally agree that in this context, it seems obvious who "she" is, so the pronoun is o.k. and I would probably use it in speech (and probably do!).

    I can hear my own grandmother saying, however, "Who is she? The cat's aunt?!"

    Fiona

    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Interested in Language
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Malaysia
      • Current Location:
      • Malaysia

    • Join Date: Dec 2006
    • Posts: 1,277
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #13

    Re: Joe's grandmother / She

    Quote Originally Posted by fiona bramble View Post
    Ah, all my favorite curious people on one thread!
    Anyway, I didn't answer "Joe's grandmother" because I thought Joe was a girl (besides most female "Joes" are spelled "Jo") but because "birthday" was the subject, not "Joe's grandmother" (as Casiopea pointed out), so technically it is the first mention of Joe's grandmother, so a pronoun seems inappropriate.
    I totally agree that in this context, it seems obvious who "she" is, so the pronoun is o.k. and I would probably use it in speech (and probably do!).

    I can hear my own grandmother saying, however, "Who is she? The cat's aunt?!"

    Fiona
    The above sentence is similar to "The boys' teacher punished them for leaving the school without permission" If this sentences is fine, then the pronoun 'she' is also okay because the sentence is of the same structure. And so, formally, 'Joe grandmother ... she ... ' is alright in formal writing. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    Thanks in advance.


    • Join Date: Mar 2007
    • Posts: 344
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #14

    Re: Joe's grandmother / She

    Quote Originally Posted by kohyoongliat View Post
    The above sentence is similar to "The boys' teacher punished them for leaving the school without permission" If this sentences is fine, then the pronoun 'she' is also okay because the sentence is of the same structure. And so, formally, 'Joe grandmother ... she ... ' is alright in formal writing. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    Thanks in advance.
    Hi there
    To be honest, I don't think the sentences are similiar at all. Your original example is two sentences, not one, which is significant when using pronoun referents. If you created two sentences from the above, an object would be required, which would then establish a first reference. A related pronoun in the second sentence would not then be ambiguous!
    As to your "formal writing" query, I'm not sure this is a formal/informal debate but one of context and reasonable assumption and understanding. That said, in this instance (again, because the subject & pronoun referent are different), I would definitely use "Joe's grandmother", not "She" in this brief written context
    Just my view though!!
    Fiona

  2. Casiopea's Avatar

    • Join Date: Sep 2003
    • Posts: 12,970
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #15

    Re: Joe's grandmother / She

    Here are the two sentences side-by-side:

    [1] Joe's grandmother's birthday was a week away. Joe's grandmother /She decided to sew a dress for herself.

    [2] The boys' teacher punished them for leaving the school without permission. The boy's teacher / She had them stay after school.


    Fiona is correct. If Joe is female, then pronominal She doesn't fit the context; it admits ambiguity,


    [i] Joe's grandmother's birthday was a week away. She decided to sew a dress for herself.


    Who does pronominal she refer to? That is, who was going to make a dress for the party, the grandmother or the granddaughter? Pronominal She isn't an option.

    Now, the other option, Joe's grandmother, and keeping in mind here that we are still assuming Joe is female, not male:


    [ii] Joe's grandmother's birthday was a week away. Joe's grandmother decided to sew a dress for herself.


    It's redundant, true, which is not what you would expect for formal English / written English and so that's a problem. Then again, it doesn't admit ambiguity; it's got that going for it and, moreover, if we assume it's the only option left, well then, it has to be the best choice, right?

    On the contrary, there is another option. The phrase Her grandmother is more exact:


    [iii] Joe's grandmother's birthday was a week away. Her grandmother decided to sew a dress for herself.


    I understand the above phrase was not provided, was not an option, but neither was Joe = [+female]. In other words, however you interpret [1], there are only two possible answers, and Joe's grandmother isn't one of them.

    Now, and getting back to the original sentence (See post #1), the semantics are clear here, Joe is male; therefore, there are two options, She or His grandmother:


    [1] Joe's grandmother's birthday was a week away. His grandmother / She decided to sew a dress for herself.


    As for sentence [2] (shown below), She is also the best choice. Again, repeating the subject, boys' teacher, is redundant and not what we would expect to see in formal English / written English:


    [2] The boys' teacher punished them for leaving the school without permission. The boy's teacher / She had them stay after school.


    In sum, my choices, with Joe being [+male]:


    [1] Joe's grandmother's birthday was a week away. Joe's grandmother /She decided to sew a dress for herself.

    [2] The boys' teacher punished them for leaving the school without permission. The boy's teacher / She had them stay after school.


    What are your thoughts?
    Last edited by Casiopea; 02-Jun-2007 at 19:06.


    • Join Date: Mar 2007
    • Posts: 344
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #16

    Re: Joe's grandmother / She

    Hey you two!
    Thanks C, for being so clear and outlining the examples
    I should probably just bow out at this point because I still feel that there is no gender ambiguity because "Joe" (with that spelling) is a male name in my part of the world, so that part of the discussion (for me) is redundant.

    I also firmly believe that the use of "she" is faulty here because although "Joe's grandmother" is part of the subject phrase, she isn't the subject itself and therefore a pronoun referent directly related to the grandmother can create confusion (even though, as I said before, in a greater context, it would probably be obvious; even in this context, we can logically extrapolate who "she" is. I just don't think it is technically correct.

    If K is offering a test question here, I'd be interested in knowing the result!
    Also, K, your second sentence is more similiar than I first acknowledged but it is still different in the sense that the subject can be directly related to the pronoun (as in C's example "She" [or "He"!! ]). It isn't "the boys' teacher's class"!
    Over and out!
    Fiona


    • Join Date: Mar 2007
    • Posts: 128
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #17

    Re: Joe's grandmother / She

    Quote Originally Posted by kohyoongliat View Post
    Joe's grandmother's birthday was a week away. Joe's grandmother / She decided to sew a dress for herself.

    Which word/s in bold should I use?

    Thank you very much.
    In normal English Joe is the male and Jo is the female. Joe is frequently a full name, and Jo is frequently a full name - they are often NOT abbreviations of Joseph or Josephine or Joanne or Joanna of Jolene...etc. I made that mistake once when referring to one of my employees...never again!

    The subject of the first sentence is open to the reader's perception...it could be Joe, it could be the grandmother, it could be the birthday. The reader will be enlightened in the next sentence.

    The second sentence refers to a subject introduced in the previous sentence, which is female. Given than neither Joe nor a birthday are female (not even in French!) a normal English speaking person would not have any difficulty in assuming that she referred to the grandmother.

    Anyone who wants to deliberately create an artificial difficulty here is just playing with words for their own benefit. Anyone who thinks a birthday might want to sew a dress for itself is just missing the whole point of being alive.

    There could perhaps be a very slight misunderstanding if the reader thought that Joe was female, so that could possibly be excused if the reader was not very fluent in English.

    However, the question was which to use? This implies that the questioner was not in any doubt about the sex of Joe, otherwise they would have probably understood the potential abiguity and rephrased it to be more clear.

    Therefore she would be perfectly acceptable and the more normal choice. How many of the respondents actually thought anything else when they read the question?


    • Join Date: Mar 2007
    • Posts: 344
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #18

    Re: Joe's grandmother / She

    Quote Originally Posted by pedant View Post
    In normal English Joe is the male and Jo is the female. Joe is frequently a full name, and Jo is frequently a full name - they are often NOT abbreviations of Joseph or Josephine or Joanne or Joanna of Jolene...etc. I made that mistake once when referring to one of my employees...never again!

    The subject of the first sentence is open to the reader's perception...it could be Joe, it could be the grandmother, it could be the birthday. The reader will be enlightened in the next sentence.

    The second sentence refers to a subject introduced in the previous sentence, which is female. Given than neither Joe nor a birthday are female (not even in French!) a normal English speaking person would not have any difficulty in assuming that she referred to the grandmother.

    Anyone who wants to deliberately create an artificial difficulty here is just playing with words for their own benefit. Anyone who thinks a birthday might want to sew a dress for itself is just missing the whole point of being alive.

    There could perhaps be a very slight misunderstanding if the reader thought that Joe was female, so that could possibly be excused if the reader was not very fluent in English.

    However, the question was which to use? This implies that the questioner was not in any doubt about the sex of Joe, otherwise they would have probably understood the potential abiguity and rephrased it to be more clear.

    Therefore she would be perfectly acceptable and the more normal choice. How many of the respondents actually thought anything else when they read the question?

    Hello Pedant,
    Thanks for your input; as I mentioned, it is just my perspective (as yours is just yours). I make a concerted effort not to be too personal here as it is often just professionals (in the end!) debating the finer points.
    Kohyoongliat is a very curious participant who is actively and seemingly happily involved in these friendly discussions, so it seems completely appropriate to extend the debate.
    Obviously, as a simple answer, "she" is fine (as I stated several times). Your supposedly rhetorical question is a bit off-putting to say the least; nevertheless, thanks for your thoughts.
    F

  3. Casiopea's Avatar

    • Join Date: Sep 2003
    • Posts: 12,970
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #19

    Re: Joe's grandmother / She

    Quote Originally Posted by pedant View Post
    How many of the respondents actually thought anything else when they read the question?
    On that note, You may want to take this time to read the thread. Your contribution sums up the thread quite nicely, yet fails to add anything new to the discusson.


    • Join Date: Mar 2007
    • Posts: 101
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #20

    Re: pronoun agreement

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea View Post
    [i] Joe's grandmother's birthday was a week away. She decided to sew a dress for herself.


    Who does pronominal she refer to? That is, who was going to make a dress for the party, the grandmother or the granddaughter? Pronominal She isn't an option.
    Hi,

    I'm going to rephrase the sentence:

    Sue's grandmother's birthday was a week away. She decided to sew a dress for herself.

    Thinking rationally, I can see the ambiguity, but I don't feel it. If I read the sentence I'd automatically assume it was the grandmother, without any second thought. Here's a theory on "pronoun agreement", which I think holds true for me.

    If a sentence starts with a pronoun I'm looking for the referent in the previous sentence's subject. (All agree to that, so far, I think).

    The subject is a noun phrase "Sue's grandmother's birthday" (not merely the noun "birthday"). So I'm working myself from head to modifiers:

    Step one: Birthday = she? Makes sense? No. Next = "Sue's grandmother"

    Step two: "grandmother" = she? Makes sense? Yes (both syntactically AND semantically). Stop right there (not: Next = "Sue")

    Since "Sue's" modifies "Grandmother's" it's a step down the hierarchy and doesn't really cause any confusion for me.

    Now let's view a case that makes syntactic sense, but is somewhat odd semantically:

    Sue's grandmother's birthday was a week away. She doesn't know what to give her grandmother.

    It's not "birthday", so I'll skip step one.

    Step two: "She = grandmother". Makes sense. go on reading. Detect semantic incongruity: Why would Sue's grandmother give her own grandmother anything for her birthday? Back to re-examination of "she". Next:

    Step three: "She" = "Sue". Makes sense. (But at that point reading has been disrupted, not by ambiguity but by misleading expectations.)

    Take, for example, this sentence, which uses three steps, but has no ambiguity:

    Sue's tree's leaves are green. She loves those leaves.

    I have no problem whatsoever, here. So what's happening is this: I think people quickly rule out impossible syntax, but as they read/listen on, the semantics may have them re-evaluate.

    So, basically, there are two types of ambiguity:

    (a) Sally's car is excessively shiney. She's such a beauty. (If you're not aware that some speakers refer to cars with feminine pronouns, you may be led to belief he's talking about Sally, not her car, even though "shiney" and "beauty" inhabit the same semantic field.)

    (b) Sue's grandmother's garden is always tidy. She's such a strict woman. (Here the ambiguity is semantic, but - if I'm right - syntax favours "grandmother".)

    I think ambiguity (a) is more problematic. But it's also rarer (as syntactically ambiguous pronouns are quite rare; often a matter of register like referring to the Sun as He...), so that (b) will more often become relevant in practice.

    So here's my syntactic-layer theory summarised:

    Where [subject] = [noun-phrase] a pronoun refers to the noun-phrases head, if possible. If not possible, it refers to head of any noun-phrase that may modify that head. If that's not eligible either, you go down one more step. And again. And again. And... (Although at some point it's impossible to keep track.)

    That's why I think that "Joe's" gender is irrelevant, at least for me. As long as "Grandmother" fits, I'm not going to even consider "Joe". (Note that if "birthday" was female, I wouldn't even consider "grandmother": "Joe's grandmother's sister is called Betsy. She likes tea but not biscuits." No ambiguity there, IMO.)
    Last edited by Dawnstorm; 04-Jun-2007 at 14:12. Reason: deleted a clause to avoid confusion

Page 2 of 3 FirstFirst 1 2 3 LastLast

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •