French language starting to change to gender neutral

Sounds like the type of book that is right up my street.

1 Like

No - language is organic, and changes all the time. Both grammar and dictionaries are snapshots of how language is actually working - but in 10 or 100 years time language - and the grammars and dictionaries - will be different.

The confusion comes I think from teachers who for obvious reasons explain the ‘rules’ of grammar to children as if they are to be obeyed - rather than as just descriptive of how most people are using language (and will expect them to use it when they grow up). And of course there are special cases like Scrabble, where you have to treat a dictionary as an authority (although having said that in my wife’s family the mere presence of a word in the dictionary is enough to allow it - enabling people to ‘cheat’ by putting down any combination of letters then finding it in the dictionary after the event - my family tradition was that you had to know both the spelling and the meaning to get away with a word).

It’s also true, of course, that grammars and dictionaries have slowed down language change - but not stopped it.
And it’s interesting also that language change itself seems to follow some rules - some changes are indeed predictable, and linguistics is akin to science in this respect. The greatest linguist of all - Frenchman Ferdinand de Saussure - originally made his reputation by predicting an evolution of language that was later discovered.

And mine!


I imagine we will agree that a dictionary cannot really show contemporary usage: it’s always “one edition behind” what is being said and, in any case, will only show larger-scale usage.

Don’t you think that’s a very modern (postmodern, perhaps?) way of looking at grammar: a sort of “This is my grammar, tell me yours” approach which the lads from Blackwood would have approved of?

There is a place for descriptive grammar, at least for grammarians and those interested in language, but you have benefited from being taught “the rules” of a prescriptive grammar because you can communicate clearly.

Tongue in cheek - I’m pretty sure the writer knew what she was doing when she threw in the word ‘viral-ling’.