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Daniel Moody is wrong in his essay on transgender pronouns


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Has anyone read Mr. Moody's borderline terrible essay? I really don't advise it, you never know how much of somebody's stupidity rubs off on random passers-by. Let me quickly explain why this 'philosopher's' essay on transgendered pronoun is the stupidest thing I've read this week.

First some history. A very long time ago, English used to be a gendered language (probably due to English's tendency to steal from other languages) with nouns expressing a gender like in France. Le horror. A simplified explanation can be found here:

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Until the 1200s, English had grammatical gender. Instead of using the articles “the” or “a”, Old English had a masculine article “se” and a feminine article “seo”. The sun, for instance, was feminine, so it would be written “sēo sunne”. If you referred to the sun, you would even say “she”.

Or for a more in depth explanation you can read the book - English Historical Linguistics 2006: Syntax and morphology

However this wouldn't last. In the 1300s gender was eliminated from English nouns, and there was a concerted push to do the same for pronouns. This is why you had people like Shakespeare using the word 'they' in the singular - this was the word that was designated to for a non-gendered third person pronoun. Examples can be found here:

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/002748.html

Unfortunately later on, many centuries later actually, grammarists struck this down telling people it was wrong. 'They' is plural, they said, and therefore using it to indicate a singular pronoun is obviously terrible English. So after this people tried using 'he' as a universal pronoun that included both the sexes, but this is obviously quite controversial these days.

Now knowing this, how can anybody read Daniel Moody's essay with a straight face when he opens with: 

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Third-person personal pronouns are those sets of words through which we refer to a person via that person’s sex … This is a simple, well-established, and entirely uncontroversial system, because sex is the only viable candidate for what to attach personal pronouns to: it represents the whole of a person’s body, it cannot change, and it exists independent of our mind. In other words, it is the only anchor by which we can secure the relationship between language and people.”

You have permission to laugh, I certainly did.

What he does is take a system everybody agrees is obsolete, and have been happily finding ways around for 800 years or more and atrributes a reason for its existence that is not only non-sensical but is incorrect. A third person pronoun denotes a person, it does not NEED to denote more than that, just like ‘it’ just denotes and object and ‘they’ denotes a group of people. Details are lacking because they aren’t needed, and can be added later if they are. That gender/sex was used was a hangover from an obsolete system of English which attributed gender, or sex, to many nouns.

So he’s wrong. But not only is he wrong, he ludicrously writes an essay extrapolating from his wrong assumption. He then concludes with this statement –

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“As an anchor to communication, the body works. Sex works. The mind does not.”

People have been trying to get rid of the system for almost a millennia because 'it works', apparently. Referring to people via sex is a pain in the arse. Why? Well the first obvious reason is that the sex of an individual is not always known. A less obvious one is when you’re looking right at somebody, and still can’t figure out a person’s sex. But watch out you don’t slip. Ever call a woman a guy mistakenly? It’s not fun.

So as an ‘anchor’ for communication, it’s a pretty lousy one. 

It's also unclear what he means by 'transgender pronouns'. 

He actually doesn’t say anything about this at all. However, the term has been thrown at gender neutral pronouns which is quite hilarious. Gender neutral pronouns are a way to refer to a person without referring to anything else about them. Recalling from before that a third person pronoun by definition refers to a person in the third person, not a GENDERED or SEXED person in the third person. 

But this is quite beside the point. Daniel Moody begins with a misunderstanding, and extrapolates that until everything he says is an embarrassment, and is an example of extremely shoddy and wishy-washing thinking. This is why you do your research BEFOREHAND.

Daniel Moody describes himself as a philosopher and has released a book about … who cares. If this is the type of thinking coming out of the mouths of modern day philosophers, then maybe the field is in as dire shape as people say.

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PS: At the beginning of his essay he referenced Professor Peterson:

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Peterson is a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, so it’s a fair bet that he knows a good deal about the workings of the human mind. In “Fear and the Law” he imagines being told to refer to a student or colleague via “gender-neutral pronouns”:“I don’t recognize another person’s right to determine what pronouns I use to address them. I won’t do it.” Cue storms of fire from students and professional bodies alike.

Quick note: You don't use pronouns to 'address' somebody, and especially not 'gendered pronouns'. I don't 'address' anybody here as 'he' or 'him'. 

Not much of a philosopher if he let THAT slide.

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>Sex works

An extremely bold claim that I don't quite trust. 

I have to say, I was expecting something completely different when I read the thread title. Not sure I like the actual content much better. Grammarians are a joke, as always. The only language experts we need are those who teach our children how to read and write, and those who transcribe what the actual people are speaking and writing. If you're a linguist seeking to be the guiding hand of the English language, then nah, we're good. You can find a new job now. We're actually doing just fine without you.

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10 hours ago, Decay said:

>Sex works

An extremely bold claim that I don't quite trust. 

I have to say, I was expecting something completely different when I read the thread title. Not sure I like the actual content much better. Grammarians are a joke, as always. The only language experts we need are those who teach our children how to read and write, and those who transcribe what the actual people are speaking and writing. If you're a linguist seeking to be the guiding hand of the English language, then nah, we're good. You can find a new job now. We're actually doing just fine without you.

No actual scientist that studies proper linguistics does this anymore. What you're describing is something called prescriptive grammar, and it was abandoned (at least in large part, and hopefully in all of academia) for literally serving no purpose in further advancing the study of grammar. Nowadays we do what is called descriptive grammar. As the name indicates, it focuses solely on documenting how language is used, not whether it's correct or wrong. 

Prescriptive grammar was primarily used to showcase the most elegant way of using a language (as if that's an objective and quantifiable thing) and it was almost always studied by upper class people so they could feel superior. 

If you ever see somebody saying there is a correct way of using something (outside of the actual cohesive rules of the current system we use, which is also subject to change anyways) you can tell them to go back to the 18th century. :)

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13 minutes ago, Nosebleed said:

If you ever see somebody saying there is a correct way of using something (outside of the actual cohesive rules of the current system we use, which is also subject to change anyways) you can tell them to go back to the 18th century. :)

Or back to French

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5 hours ago, Rooke said:

PS: At the beginning of his essay he referenced Professor Peterson:

Quick note: You don't use pronouns to 'address' somebody, and especially not 'gendered pronouns'. I don't 'address' anybody here as 'he' or 'him'. 

Not much of a philosopher if he let THAT slide.

Of course not. You address people with the gendered pronoun "you", as is good and right and holy.

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2 hours ago, Fred the Barber said:

Of course not. You address people with the gendered pronoun "you", as is good and right and holy.

You is a second person pronoun. When you want to refer in third person to someone who is present, instead of using 'he' / 'she' you call them by name or some other way, e.g. our chief technician (here).

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2 hours ago, UnlimitedMoeWorks said:

Bringing back an obsolete English system just to make use of the so-called "transgender pronouns" because "sex works"? Yeah, this guy has some screws loose. :makina:

This is actually similar to the time the Canadian government tried to change the word "sons" to "us" in the lyrics of the Canadian national anthem because they think it was derogatory to transgenders.

I think you're getting it a bit mixed here. Moody is arguing against transgender pronouns because sex works.

...And to be fair, only including sons is derogatory to women, too.

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1 hour ago, Lambda said:

I think you're getting it a bit mixed here. Moody is arguing against transgender pronouns because sex works.

People wanting to change words cause they don't like them is people wanting to change words cause they don't like them regardless of their intentions.

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1 hour ago, Flutterz said:

People wanting to change words cause they don't like them is people wanting to change words cause they don't like them regardless of their intentions.

I'm not certain I get your intention in quoting that, I was just correcting UnlimitedMoeWorks' perception of the article. There was no judgement either way there, and I probably won't post any beyond "I think referring to people with their preferred pronouns or totally neutrally using they is a good practice and the only time I'm :/ is when people insist on making you not use they".

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14 minutes ago, Lambda said:

I'm not certain I get your intention in quoting that, I was just correcting UnlimitedMoeWorks' perception of the article. There was no judgement either way there, and I probably won't post any beyond "I think referring to people with their preferred pronouns or totally neutrally using they is a good practice and the only time I'm :/ is when people insist on making you not use they".

I'm just misunderstanding misunderstandings I guess, ignore me :vinty:

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Ermergawd, Rooke's taking his text'owall'odeaths onto the forums now, 

I'm gonna be one of those 'didn't bother reading + gives uninsightful comment/conclusion' plebs,


"Daniel Moody is wrong in his essay on transgender pronouns" -> Topic Title
"Why you shouldn't use transgender pronouns" (Daniel Moody) -> 1st thing i see in topic 

Therefore, the obvious conclusion is that we should be using transgender pronouns, right?

Awesome! I totally agree with Rooke-sama's rant#3314, keep 'em coming good sir 

 

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7 hours ago, WinterfuryZX said:

romance languages are more problmatic.

There is nothing "problematic" with languages that make more distinction between male/female.

 

8 hours ago, RedK said:

I wonder if the japanese have the same problem.:sleep:

Hell no they don't -> 出る杭は打たれる

Japan doesn't have the superior culture for nothing.

 

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5 minutes ago, WinterfuryZX said:

There's costant debates abuot this. Expecially regarding names of professions. For exhample "chief technician" in Italian is masculine.

Portuguese as well. And the thing is, we can't really come up with a nice sounding gender neutral variation of things that doesn't sound either slightly female or slightly male, just because of the way the language has worked for centuries.

I wouldn't mind having a genderless pronoun in Portuguese, hell it'd probably be more useful than the current gendered system (why is my pencil case male!?) but fuck if I can even come up with one lol.

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Since we're sharing gender crap in languages, pretty much every profession in Russian is masculine, and they don't even have proper feminine conjugations. Also if you want to use the word "both", you have two choices. You use the masculine one if there's at least one of the two things you are referencing are masculine, and you only use the feminine one if both are feminine.

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3 hours ago, UnlimitedMoeWorks said:

Ok, I can't help but laugh at this. Japan is in no way perfect at all, and by saying that alone, you're just bound to be called a weeb. Trust me, I've been down that road. I used to have that mindset that Japan has the "god" culture, and I had been called a weeb so many times because of it. The Japanese culture obviously has flaws. They're still dense, stubborn to change, and have a strict code of honor. And even though they've opened up to foreigners a little, they still have the belief of a single unicultural society and will not even look at foreigners as true equals in their country. Does that mean I dislike their culture? Hell no. I still love Japanese culture and definitely will visit Japan in the future. I just no longer have the "Japan is perfect" mindset anymore.

As for their language, like all other languages, even Japanese is prone to using specific gender pronouns. In fact, they have the most complicated system of gendered pronoun use than any other language. It makes English look simple by comparison.

You completely missed the point.

http://jisho.org/word/出る杭は打たれる

I'm pretty sure the "superior culture" Nier mentioned refers to prescriptive grammar.

Edited by Funnerific
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