Keep Moving Forward: Pronoun Inclusivity in a Changing World
Hey, someone forgot their jacket in my office.
As an English speaker—native or ESL, you may have been using the singular they to refer to someone if you don’t know their gender or to someone who identifies as non-binary.
Even though the use of the singular they is common it is not universally accepted as correct in the world of formal writing.
You can say “he or she” but it’s just too long, redundant, and does not include genders that people identify with!
Language changes and it has to support our necessities in everyday communication especially if you want to express yourself better.
This means in the next few decades the probability of everyone finally acknowledging the singular they for formal use is great.
But for now, let’s all take a look at how people of other tongues create innovations or improvise for the languages they speak to fit their needs!
If you’re learning a European language or you already speak one, chances are it might have grammatical gender.
But wait, what is grammatical gender?
Grammatical gender is a specific form of noun class system in which the division of noun classes forms an agreement system with another aspect of the language, such as adjectives, articles, pronouns, or verbs.
Simply put, when another aspect of the language is used with a noun, it must agree to the gender of the noun.
The motorbike is small.
La moto es pequeña.
The adjective pequeña and the determiner la agrees with the gender of the noun moto—which is feminine.
This is unlike English where pronouns are only gendered (usually called “Natural Gender.”)
Sometimes grammatical gender can be restricted into two genders only (masculine, feminine) leaving out the neuter and inanimate genders like in the French language.
Which makes it a problem for students to get used to when they’re learning vocabulary in a new language for the first time, especially if they do not speak a language with grammatical gender.
With all that grammar out of the way, let’s move on and talk about a language!
The French language—notably known as the language of love—has been gaining an equivalent to the English “(singular/plural) they” used mostly by people within the LGBT+ community.
Écriture inclusive (literally: “inclusive writing”) along with the pronoun iel are a few out of many efforts of making the French language gender-neutral.
The problem comes when you realize how unpleasant écriture inclusive looks and that the French language shouldn’t be forced into being gender-neutral—j’suis français·e!
So, how do you refer to someone in French whose gender is unknown or can not be revealed (because of personal reasons, maybe)?
Well, there’s a way and it’s pretty much used in newspapers and bulletins!
Eg: La victime, âgée de 15 ans, aura des séquelles à vie. Elle devra suivre une rééducation afin de réapprendre à marcher.
Translation: The victim, age 15, will be affected for the rest of their life. They will need to attend therapy in order to learn how to walk again.
We utilize the noun victime to indicate the third person, instead of saying their name. The pronoun, determiner, and the adjective will accordingly follow the gender of the noun victime—which is feminine—instead of the gender of the victim itself.
In this way, the people you’re talking to wouldn’t know about the gender of this person you’re talking about!
Can’t wrap your head around it? It’s best to ask a native speaker about this, you can go to the Rebel Federation hub and talk with actual people!
Let’s go a few inches north from Europe into Great Britain and a few more inches west to Ireland!
The Irish language or Gaelic is the official language of Ireland.
Despite this, almost all government businesses, debates, and the population settle with English anyway in means of communication.
Traditionally the masculine pronoun sé is used by default when someone’s gender is unknown, or you can use a masculine word or just an duine (Literally: the person) to refer to them.
The saorbhriathar AKA the “free verb” can be used as it doesn’t require a pronoun with it—though this isn’t ideal, it has been used as a workaround generally when the person’s gender is completely unknown which doesn’t exactly map well if you simply want to use a gender-neutral pronoun.
(Someone) will break.
But because most speakers are fluent in English, the use of the pronoun siad has become a more common trend.
They will break.
This is the third person plural pronoun in Irish and as most Irish speakers are also English speakers, it serves well and is understood as a singular gender-neutral pronoun by the vast majority of speakers like how the English pronoun they is used as a singular gender-neutral pronoun.
Using siad as a gender-neutral pronoun prevents them from having to rely on sé which can easily be interpreted as masculine.
Well, we’re now at the end of the post.
While there are lots of languages to cover under this topic and it would be a shame to not feature them it would take a while to read through all of them and reading is kinda tiring and will make this post quite boring.
So I’ll make this short and close this post off by asking this question.
What have we learned today?
If you have any comments, corrections, questions, or anything you want to add, feel free to comment under this post or you can ping me (@NickEman132) through the RF server.
And remember, stay safe!
GIFs are taken from Legally Blonde (2001), Legally Blonde the Musical MTV
Special thanks to Pookie for the wonderful title 👄