‘SHE’ AND ‘HE’: POLITICALLY CORRECT PRONOUNS


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Abstract

It is argued that the pronouns ‘she’ and ‘he’ are disguised complex demonstratives of the form ‘that female/male’. Three theories of complex demonstratives are examined and shown to be committed to the view that ‘s/he’ turns out to be an empty term when used to refer to a hermaphrodite. A fourth theory of complex demonstratives, one that is hermaphrodite friendly, is proposed. It maintains that complex demonstratives such as ‘that female/male’ and the pronoun ‘s/he’ can succeed in referring to someone independently of his or her gender. This theory incorporates: (i) a multiple proposition view, i.e., the view that an utterance of a sentence containing a complex demonstrative expresses two (or more) propositions, namely the background proposition(s) and the official one; (ii) that the referent of a complex demonstrative is a component of the official proposition expressed whether it satisfies the nominal part of the demonstrative expression or not; (iii) that the nominal part of a complex demonstrative only affect the background proposition(s) and (iv) that the utterance inherits its truth-value only from the official proposition.

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