Monday, February 07, 2005

The skinny on synesis

I wrote a column recently about synesis, that grammatical concept that allows mixing plural nouns or pronouns with singular (usually collective) verbs. We struggle with it sometimes in journalism, caught as we are between the stylbooks, the linguists and the changing language.

If you want to delve into it a little bit (and will put up with the academicese) Language Log has two pretty good and not-too-hard-to-understand posts on it. In the first, Mark Liberman looks at family and is vs. are. In the second, he shares some psychological insight (psycholinguistics) into this struggle of rule vs. meaning.

It's really worth reading, if nothing else just to take away a different perspective that will give you new appreciation for the certainty of a stylebook, even if that certainty might be misplaced.

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