Posts Tagged English
It occurred to me that now that I have a Zazzle store, I could print posters of the inadvertently-Zork-themed English pronoun flowchart I made at the start of the year. The image I used for the background has no ‘noncommercial’ condition on the license, after all. So I fixed a typo, fixed the alignment of the text in the boxes, thickened the lines, nudged a few things into better positions, and before I knew it I was moving a whole lot of things around to get it into more of a square shape to make better use of the space and fit onto a standard poster size. I think the result looks much tidier, and what’s more, in the process of doing that I noticed I’d somehow forgotten to add an example sentence for the pronoun ‘he’.
Now it is available as a 24″x24″ poster. You can order it at a smaller size if you like, but I think the text would be quite small (though still readable) in that case. I’ve also made an updated pdf of it, so if you want you could print that as a poster instead, or just read it on your screen; I don’t mind. The background might look slightly different from the Zazzle version due to resolution issues, but it’s only a faint background image so it doesn’t matter that much. I have yet to try either option.
It still doesn’t include relative, possessive or interrogative pronouns. Picking a pronoun is complicated enough without them. It does include we, ourselves, us, they, themselves, them, he, she, himself, him, herself, her, I, itself, it, myself, me, oneself, one, yourself, yourselves, you, and advice on when to look up a more exotic gender-neutral pronoun or dialectal plural ‘you’. Most of these rules will be obvious to native English speakers, but if you like grammar or flowcharts it’s interesting to see them written explicitly, and the example sentences may be entertaining. It could also be useful to people or robots whose native language is not English.
As with the other poster, if I get enough money that Zazzle actually pays me, I will lend it on Kiva, since I currently have enough money from my day job to live on.
Below is a flow chart to help people determine when to use which pronouns to use in English. Click for a full-sized pdf version. I did not originally intend for it to be Zork-themed, but the first example sentence I thought of for ‘you’ happened to be ‘You are likely to be eaten by a grue.’ I hope the resulting colours don’t make it too hard to read, though perhaps that would help people remember it. If I’d realised it was going to end up so Zorky, I would have made the questions and answers read more like a text adventure. It’s just as well I didn’t, since would probably have made it less comprehensible to the non-native English speakers who are most likely to need help with pronouns.
I am not a linguist, so if you spot something I’ve got wrong or missed out (apart from interrogative, relative and possessive pronouns, details of gender-neutral singular pronouns and informal plurals of ‘you’, and other cases where additional people are named separately, which I omitted for the sake of simplicity), let me know. My original plan was to do such flow charts for all four Swiss languages, with English for comparison and maybe Māori for its interesting system of pronouns, but this one took long enough, and it ought to be the easiest for me. I also intended to have clearer and more interesting example sentences, and simpler-to-understand questions about subjects and objects, but I’m already a few weeks late due to visitors and travel, and I’m busy preparing for a cruise, so this will have to do for now.
The match photo is by Sebastien Ritter. I used it to keep grues away and to ensure the diagram would be illuminating at least in some sense.