The “singular they” articles (short link: bit.ly/3k7g7vc)
Compiled by Gael Spivak
First a wee poem by Dennis Baron
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Singular *they* is older
Than singular *you*
One of the articles James references is well worth reading if you can track it down. It gives evidence that shows "he" as the default being introduced to English (after hundreds of years of "they"), explicitly to support the idea that "human beings were to be considered male unless proven otherwise."
You can find the actual changes documented in this academic article. It has the dates and citations (in the 1700s) and then the act in the British Parliament (1850) (superseded by this act: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1978/30/contents). This act applies only to British acts, not to all English writing.
Ann Bodine, “Androcentrism in prescriptive grammar: singular ‘they’, sex-indefinite ‘he’, and ‘he or she” (Language in Society 4: 129–146), 1975.
"... prior to the nineteenth century, 'singular' they was widely used in written, therefore presumably also in spoken English."
2. Singular ‘They’: a Footnote
3. Singular they, you, and a ‘senseless way of speaking’
4. Why you dislike singular "they"
John E. McIntyre
5. English and thermodynamics
John E. McIntyre
6. There they go again
John E. McIntyre
7. Faceoff: ‘he’, ‘he or she’, ‘he/she’, ‘s/he’ versus ‘they’
8. ‘He or she’ versus ‘they’
Oxford Dictionaries blog
9. Subject-Verb Agreement and the Singular They
10. They v. the peeververein
11. Everything you ever wanted to know about singular “they”
12. Jane Austen and other famous authors violate what everyone learned in their English class
13. Everyone knows each other
“Avoid singular they if you want to; nobody is making you use it. But don't ever think that it is new (it goes back to early English centuries ago), or that it is illogical (there is no logical conflict between being syntactically singular and semantically plural), or that it is ungrammatical (it is used by the finest writers who ever used English, writers who uncontroversially knew what they were doing).”
14. The Royal They: Fighting against the tyranny of pronouns
15. Everyone has their opinion, often uninformed
John E. McIntyre
16. Singular “they” and the many reasons why it’s correct
“You don’t have to use singular they yourself. You can go ahead and re-work your sentences to avoid it. You can employ he or she, or s/he, or a made-up gender-neutral pronoun of your own devising like xe. You can even just stubbornly plow on, using he as a gender-neutral pronoun until you grow tired of people pointing out that it isn’t really. I don’t care, and you’re not grammatically wrong. But you’re just making a fool of yourself when you go around telling users of singular they that they’re wrong, because they’re not.”
17. Resources Discussing the Use of Singular "They"
The OED link no longer works but she is quoted here; http://languagehat.com/themself/
19. Witnessing a Rule Change: Singular ‘They’
20. Tide's coming in, and some people are getting wet
John E. McIntyre
Quotes Katherine Barber: “I have found from years of giving talks about the history of English that people find language evolution that happened centuries ago delightfully charming and entertaining but now it should STOP.”
21. This year marks a new language shift in how English speakers use pronouns
22. Gender politics of the generic “he”
23. It is they: Word of the Year is a longtime copy-editing conundrum
24. "They" Won! Gender-Neutral Pronoun is 2015 Word of the Year
25. The Year in Words 2015: One Pronoun to Rule Them All?
26. She? Ze? They? What’s In a Gender Pronoun’
27. The Singular They: “Everyone has their preference”—see anything wrong with that sentence? Neither do we
28. Singular They, Them, Their, and . . .
29. Gender neutral pronoun chart.
30. A 1714 comment about the singular they
31. We make the rules
John E. McIntyre
32. You are being assimilated.
John E. McIntyre
33. The Linguistic Turf Wars Over the Singular 'They'
34. Watch English change
John E. McIntyre
35. The "war on grammar" was lost a long time ago
John E. McIntyre
“If Mr. Gelernter were more inclined to consult history and evidence instead in indulging in pique, he could find out that singular they has been in regular use in English for half a dozen centuries and is recorded as a standard usage in the Oxford English Dictionary (the they entry published in 1919, the first edition completed in 1928).”
36. More twaddle about singular "they"
John E. McIntyre
37. Stupidity on Singular They
38. Calling them what they want
39. AP style change: Singular they is acceptable ‘in limited cases’
See also: https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/ap-stylebook-embraces-they-singular-gender-neutral-pronoun-n739076
40. English has a traditional solution to gender-neutral pronouns
41. All-Purpose Pronoun
Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman
“If any single person is responsible for this male-centric usage, it’s Anne Fisher, an 18th-century British schoolmistress and the first woman to write an English grammar book, according to the sociohistorical linguist Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade. Fisher’s popular guide, “A New Grammar” (1745), ran to more than 30 editions, making it one of the most successful grammars of its time. More important, it’s believed to be the first to say that the pronoun he should apply to both sexes.”
42. Against atheyism
43. Generic "he" vs. "they" in Bibles
44. Singular they
Michael Quinion, World Wide Words
45.Themself Is a Perfectly Cromulent Word
46. Chicago Manual of Style: CMOS Shop Talk
47. American English is officially changing and linguists say resistance is futile
48. The two types of singular they: specific and nonspecific
Gretchen McCulloch @GretchenAMcC Mar 28
Nonspecific singular they: "someone left their umbrella"
Specific sg they: "Alex left their umbrella"
49. Schooled on singular "they"
“I think this clearly illustrates the way the kids use "they". We know it's a girl, but since we're not sure which girl, it becomes "they". And it was such a firm rule in her mind she felt the need to sneer at me.”
(See the list of Language Log articles on the singular they: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?cat=27)
50. Globe & Mail adopts it.
51. All Your Questions About Gender-Neutral Pronouns Answered (Teen Vogue)
52. When Will ‘They’ Ever Learn?
53. Singular They
AMA Style Insidergainin
54. The singular “they” is gaining acceptance
[Yes, this one is self-referencing...]
55. Singular 'They'
Though singular 'they' is old, 'they' as a nonbinary pronoun is new—and useful
56. A Word, Please: Proposed 'ze' pronoun isn't a singular idea
57. A Word, Please: He or she may be happier with 'they'
58. A Word, Please: Singular ‘they’ inches closer to commonplace
59. Personal pronouns are changing fast
60. Bad Advice On Grammar-Policing Gender-Neutral Pronouns
“On the one hand, you have human people with human feelings, and on the other hand, you have an entirely insentient entity, the English language, which is wholly incapable of being hurt or offended in any way.”
61. “A Singular Use of ‘They’” from The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, Vol. 5 (1994–1995).
62. “We need the singular ‘they’ – and it won’t seem wrong for long”
In the Trans Allyship Workbook (2017), Davey Shlasko writes:
The rule against using singular they is enforced neither because it preserves some consistent, objective grammatical standard, nor because it serves our communication needs. It is enforced because enforcing language norms is a way of enforcing power structures.
63. Singular they and women
“My most interesting finding? That singular they was used more frequently by female than male characters in the novels but also that the pronoun was found more frequently in the novels of female than male authors, at an overwhelming ratio of 9 instances to 1. So, Masami argues, it is thanks to women that singular they survived during the 19th century, despite heavy proscription from grammarians as well as an Act of Parliament imposing sex-indefinite he in 1850.”
64. The bonuses of singular ‘they’: anonymity and bias avoidance
65. A Brief History of Singular 'they' by Dennis Barron
Also posted on OED site: https://public.oed.com/blog/a-brief-history-of-singular-they/
66. The Rise of They [podcast]
67. Call Them What They Wants: As more English speakers adopt the singular they and reject the gender binary, resisters will have to accept that language changes over time.
68. Humor piece
69.The long, long history — and bright future — of the genderless ‘they’ by Kory Stamper
70. Nonbinary pronouns are older than you think
Has more history on grammarians deciding that “he” was the default.
71. Pink, Blue and the Singular “They”
72. Countering the backlash against nonbinary pronouns
by Dennis Baron
"But it’s always more acceptable to stand up for “good grammar” than to attack the rights of a group of people to dignity and inclusion in public life."
73. Gender-neutral pronouns in English: using the singular 'they'
by Joanna Richardson
“I believe that we are currently in the middle of another important language change which also has to do with identity: gender-neutral pronouns.”
74. ‘They’ in Australian English: Non-Gender-Specific or Specifically Non-Gendered?
Tania E. Strahan
Pages 17-29 | Published online: 21 May 2008
75. James Harbeck: A Hidden Gender? (presentation, one hour)
76. They, Them, and Theirs
“This Article asks what the law would look like if it took nonbinary gender seriously.”
77. Evolving They
By Brad Charles and Thomas Myers
78. French and English: gender-inclusive writing: correspondence (Linguistic recommendation from the Translation Bureau)
79. Why some French-speaking non-binary people don't seek treatment in their language
80. Canadiens and Canadiennes in uproar as student paper takes stand on gender
81. Language needs to evolve as we do
82. Even A Grammar Geezer Like Me Can Get Used To Gender Neutral Pronouns
“Like the classic episodes of pronoun rage in earlier eras, these aren't about pronouns at all.”
83. Embracing the singular “they” as a gender-neutral pronoun
84. Actually, Gender-Neutral Pronouns Can Change a Culture
"New language, then, can become a useful tool for changing how people deal with each other. Think of it as the opposite of censorship—instead of trying to delete ideas from culture, new words can contribute to them." www.wired.com/story/actually-gender-neutral-pronouns-can-change-a-culture/?verso=true
85. He, She, or They: Thinking Rhetorically About Gender and Personal Pronouns
86. The Song of Singular they
87. AP’s transphobic Sam Smith story exposes journalism’s failings
“Still, its awkward phrasing to dance around pronouns does more to confuse the reader than using “they” and writing a brief explanation of pronouns and non-binary identities.”
88. OED cites Language Log again
89. Teachers' pronouns
90. God updates mankind on their pronouns
91. Opinion: The rightness of the singular ‘they’
92. Singular 'they' voted word of the decade by US linguists
93. Singular They Continues to be the Focus of Language Change by Mark Allen
94. So your friend came out as non-binary: here’s how to use pronouns they/them
95. The gender-neutral pronoun: after 150 years still an epic fail by Dennis Baron
“After all, if you, which is also gender neutral, can serve both for singular and plural, why can't they do the same? In any case, after more than 100 attempts to coin a gender-neutral pronoun over the course of more than 150 years, thon and its competitors will remain what they always have been, the words that failed.”
96. How do I use singular they? (MLA Style)
Singular they has two uses: specific and generic (“Pronouns”).
97.The Canadian politics – and history – of ‘he,’ ‘she’ and ‘they’
98. Verbing pronouns
(includes info on old ways of insulting people by using the wrong pronoun for them: “Before you replaced thou, people complained when someone addressed them using the wrong pronoun. Or they intentionally mispronouned in order to insult someone, as Coke did to Raleigh. But once the switch to singular you became complete in the later 17th century, thou lost its power to hurt.”)
99. Gender diversity and morphosyntax: An account of singular they
by Lex Konnelly and Elizabeth Cowper
“...the grammaticality of generic singular they was correlated both to attitudes to transgender people and to prescriptive attitudes more generally.”
100.He, She, One, They, Ho, Hus, Hum, Ita by Amia Srinivasan
It has some references to historical information.
“It was Kirkby rather than Fisher who was long given the dubious honour of being the first grammarian to claim that indefinite nouns are referred to with the pronoun ‘he’.”
“Disraeli, then chancellor of the Exchequer, explained that the Interpretation Act specified that masculine words were generic ‘unless the contrary as to Gender ... is expressly provided’, which Disraeli reassured Parliament was the case with the Reform Act.”
“Seventeenth-century medical texts used the singular ‘they’ to refer to hermaphrodites, contradicting Jordan Peterson’s claim that historically the singular ‘they’ has only been used in sentences with indefinites, and not to refer to people who exist beyond the sex binary.”
101. Department of Justice, Government of Canada
“Legistics: Gender-neutral Language”
102. Get with the Pronoun by Heidi K. Brown
Legal Communication and Rhetoric: JALWD.
"Overall, it's time for legal writers to get with the pronoun."
103. Singular Nonbinary ‘They’: Is it ‘they are’ or ‘they is’?
Notes on a conjugation (Merriam-Webster)
104. “Where Gender-Neutral Pronouns Come From”
“Mx.—the gender-neutral equivalent of Mr. or Mrs.—was first recorded in an April 1977 edition of the magazine The Single Parent.”
105. Why Aren't You Using the Singular "They" Yet? by Lynda Dietz
106. A brief history of singular ‘they’ [documents the first use]
107. Don’t blame the new French pronoun on Americans
It turns out that adapting pronouns or coining new ones began long before the age of wokeness, however that’s defined. Singular they, referring to a person whose gender is unknown or irrelevant, got its start in fourteenth-century England. The Scottish economist James Anderson suggested the dialect word ou as a “common gender” pronoun in 1792, and in 1808, the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge proposed repurposing it or which as non-gendered pronouns to replace generic he. In 1851, the English philosopher John Stuart Mill called for a new pronoun that wouldn’t leave out half the people. But until one came along, Mill resigned himself to using the generic he.
108. Authors use they/them pronouns less frequently
“A Carolina study shows that in digital publications, authors underuse “they” compared with he and she in similar contexts.”
109. The Pronoun Police: To Serve and Correct
by Denis Baron
Court cases about it. And this:
“Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, teachers marked students down for using singular you instead of thou, despite the fact that thou/thee/thy pronouns had long since disappeared from formal speech and writing (the singular th- pronouns survive today in some British spoken dialects). Since most grammar books at the time insisted that thou was the second person singular, that’s what schools required, even though students and their teachers regularly used you. The schools were in the wrong. Some called the schools “old fashioned,” but no one took them to court.”
110. People Have Used They/Them as Singular Pronouns for Hundreds of Years
by Cody Cottier
Despite these precedents, grammarians steered the generic antecedent in a different (and more masculine) direction. In the mid-1500s, William Lily declared in his Latin textbook that “the masculine gender is more worthy than the feminine, and the feminine more worthy than the neuter.”
111. Old ‘They,’ New ‘They’ — Language Change in Action
"If you want to get better at using they/them pronouns for the people in your life, you can approach it kind of like learning a second language: the best thing to do is practice, as much as possible, and put yourself in situations where you get lots of positive reinforcement."
And it links to a blog about pronoun studies:
112. A brief guide to inclusive writing resources
"It’s noteworthy that, according to the section on the singular “they,” the Government of Ontario adopted an official policy of using gender-neutral language in all official publications, including bills and regulations, as early as 1985."