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syllogism comments on Prospect Theory: A Framework for Understanding Cognitive Biases - Less Wrong

66 Post author: Yvain 10 July 2011 05:20AM

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Comment author: syllogism 10 July 2011 08:34:06AM *  10 points [-]

Deal. I'll even pull rank with my formal qualifications on English grammar, should they care about that.

Comment author: Yvain 12 July 2011 08:45:47PM *  2 points [-]

Question for the formally qualified grammarian: When using singular "they", which is correct?

  1. "When a person is biased, they make mistakes"

  2. "When a person is based, they makes mistakes"

The second sounds absolutely horrible, but if singular "they" is really being used as a singular in the same sense as "he" or "she", it sounds like it ought to be correct.

Comment author: Morendil 12 July 2011 08:58:23PM *  5 points [-]

Have a gander at Language Log where the "singular they" has been extensively discussed - mostly, apparently, because it's something of a litmus test to determine whether someone is a descriptivist or a prescriptivist grammarian; the LL crowd falling squarely in the descriptivist camp.

The short answer is that it's grammatically plural; it's a "plural of indeterminacy of number" primarily, and has taken on under social pressure an aspect of "plural of indeterminacy of gender". Number one is correct.

ETA: background info.

Comment author: syllogism 17 July 2011 11:31:27PM 4 points [-]

Consider:

When you, Yvain, are biased, you make mistakes

Clearly in the 2nd person singular, the verb displays "plural" agreement. It's the same for "they".