It bothers me to see that used where who
is clearly called for, as in this excerpt from my bike club newsletter:
卼he driver that killed Bob?
Is there a rule for selecting the appropriate pronoun here?
Current descriptive grammars allow the relative pronoun that
to refer to a person, although certainly prescriptive grammars would
not recommend this. Information reported in Longman Grammar
of Spoken and Written English, by Biber, Johansen, Leech,
Conrad, Finnegan (Longman, 1999, pp. 609-612), shows that that,
as a subject relative pronoun used to refer to a human being, occurs
frequently in spoken language.
However, Longman Grammar also reports that, in news and in
academic prose, who is used far more frequently than
The Grammar Book (Celce-Muria and Larsen-Freeman. Heinle and
Heinle, 1999, p. 582), states that 搮In informal conversational discourse,
that is often preferred over either which
or who(m). In written discourse, who(m)
is preferred for human antecedents??/p>
Some people feel that it is subtly dehumanizing to refer to a person
as that, and prefer who(m), even when
the person referred to is a killer driver.