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RE: Neutral language in W3C specifications

From: Levantovsky, Vladimir <Vladimir.Levantovsky@monotype.com>
Date: Thu, 30 Jul 2020 14:53:43 +0000
To: Janina Sajka <janina@rednote.net>, Ivan Herman <ivan@w3.org>
CC: "lwatson@tetralogical.com" <lwatson@tetralogical.com>, Gregg Kellogg <gregg@greggkellogg.net>, Denis Ah-Kang <denis@w3.org>, Spec-prod <spec-prod@w3.org>, "chairs@w3.org" <chairs@w3.org>
Message-ID: <MN2PR06MB5438A13135C3A28FA4AB643FFC710@MN2PR06MB5438.namprd06.prod.outlook.com>
Quoting from both references Janina provided:
1) "A person who dictates how people should write or speak is called a prescriptivist or a prescriptive grammarian."
2) "prescriptive grammar, is the attempt to establish rules defining preferred or "correct" use<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage> of language. ... <snip, read the whole 1st paragraph> ... They may also include judgments on socially proper and politically correct language use."

Does the effort to neutralize the W3C specification language make us all "prescriptive grammarians"?
I have no doubt that the diversity of the participation in creating the W3C specifications is very valuable, but the specs themselves, as the final product of these efforts, should first and foremost serve the target audience (i.e. the implementers) and should be clear, easy to read, and as unambiguous as possible.


From: Janina Sajka <janina@rednote.net>
Sent: Wednesday, July 29, 2020 5:54 PM
To: Ivan Herman <ivan@w3.org>
Cc: lwatson@tetralogical.com; Gregg Kellogg <gregg@greggkellogg.net>; Denis Ah-Kang <denis@w3.org>; Spec-prod <spec-prod@w3.org>; chairs@w3.org
Subject: Re: Neutral language in W3C specifications

Ivan Herman writes:
> >
> > Doesn't lose anything if it becomes:
> >
> > "Alex is a developer who uses SVG as part of their job..."
> >
> > There are times when the gender of the person in a user story is important, but in the context of W3C I can't think of one that applies to technical standards!
> >
> i must admit that for a non-native English speaker the usage of the plural form as a gender-neutral pronoun sounds extremely strange in this case. I know it is coming to the fore but I am worried it would create lots of confusion. (It is certainly a usage that goes against my own English training.)
It goes against all our training, native or acquired English speakers.
The rule against using "they/their//them" in the singular is the legacy
of a group of academics known as the "Prescriptive Grammarians." It's
completely academic and artificial. Native English speakers have always
tended toward this usage, unless the schoolhouse knocked it out of them.

I offer two web pages with relevant explanations:

1.) https://www.thoughtco.com/prescriptive-grammar-1691668<https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/VMkwCM82gJsq8y6EuNzvpZ>

2.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prescriptive_grammar<https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/x-x-CNk2jYt0xqMvslWF0b>

These are the same grammarians, by the by, who created the rule that the
English infinitive verb is never to be split. Why? Because the Latin
infinitive is never split.



> Ivan
> >
> > Léonie.
> >
> >> [1] https://www.w3.org/TR/vc-use-cases/<https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/7T8xCOY2kPUpXL2qiR72Eh>
> > [2] https://github.com/w3c/idcg/issues/17<https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/sGUZCPN9lzhKm15yu9SJ8L>
> >
> >>> Denis
> >>>
> >>>
> >>> On 7/22/20 1:21 PM, Léonie Watson wrote:
> >>>> Denis, this is a really positive step, thank you to you and the team.
> >>>> One suggestion - is it possible for PubRules to check for gender specific pronouns (he/she, him/her etc.) too?
> >>>> They are rare in specifications, but do sometimes feature as part of use cases or examples.
> >>>> Léonie.
> >>>> On 22/07/2020 09:40, Denis Ah-Kang wrote:
> >>>>> Dear editors and chairs,
> >>>>>
> >>>>> In order to offer the best environment possible to its
> >>>>> community, W3C is supporting the push for a more inclusive and
> >>>>> neutral language, especially in our specifications.
> >>>>>
> >>>>> In the upcoming weeks, pubrules [1] will show a warning if
> >>>>> terms like "master", "slave", "grandfather", "sanity" or
> >>>>> "dummy" are detected in a specification and this will also
> >>>>> be reflected in the Manual of style [2] with a list of
> >>>>> alternatives.
> >>>>> Note, since it may take time for the editors to change the
> >>>>> branch name "master" to something else, we will not flag the
> >>>>> URLs containing that word in the first place.
> >>>>>
> >>>>> Going forward, we will audit all the specification repositories
> >>>>> and open issues if they contain problematic terms.
> >>>>>
> >>>>> Let me know if you have any comments/suggestions.
> >>>>>
> >>>>> Denis
> >>>>> W3C Systems team
> >>>>>
> >>>>> [1] https://www.w3.org/pubrules/<https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/Vj7RCQW2m6ikq1NzsVWO4p>
> >>>>> [2] https://w3c.github.io/manual-of-style/<https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/BcQfCR60nPhvlDg7spaLQO>
> >>>>>
> >>>
> >
> > --
> > Director @TetraLogical
> > https://tetralogical.com<https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/DmBMCVOkr7TxKnPOi82rS3>
> >


Janina Sajka

Linux Foundation Fellow
Executive Chair, Accessibility Workgroup: http://a11y.org<https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/Okb6CXD0wrhXNPMpIgl254>

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)
Co-Chair, Accessible Platform Architectures http://www.w3.org/wai/apa<https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/P7gbCYEnxytLZW6GsDv7h->
Received on Thursday, 30 July 2020 14:54:06 UTC

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