Jump to content

Gender neutrality in languages with gendered third-person pronouns

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A third-person pronoun is a pronoun that refers to an entity other than the speaker or listener.[1] Some languages with gender-specific pronouns have them as part of a grammatical gender system, a system of agreement where most or all nouns have a value for this grammatical category. A few languages with gender-specific pronouns, such as English, Afrikaans, Defaka, Khmu, Malayalam, Tamil, and Yazgulyam, lack grammatical gender; in such languages, gender usually adheres to "natural gender", which is often based on biological sex.[2] Other languages, including most Austronesian languages, lack gender distinctions in personal pronouns entirely, as well as any system of grammatical gender.[1]

In languages with pronominal gender, problems of usage may arise in contexts where a person of unspecified or unknown social gender is being referred to but commonly available pronouns are gender-specific. Different solutions to this issue have been proposed and used in various languages.

Overview of grammar patterns in languages[edit]

No gender distinctions in personal pronouns[edit]

Many languages of the world (including most Austronesian languages, many East Asian languages, the Quechuan languages, and the Uralic languages[1]) do not have gender distinctions in personal pronouns, just as most of them lack any system of grammatical gender. In others, such as many of the Niger–Congo languages, there is a system of grammatical gender (or noun classes), but the divisions are based on classifications other than sex, such as animacy, rationality, or countability.[3] In Swahili, for example, the independent third person pronoun yeye 'she/he' can be used to refer to a female or male being. What matters in this case is that the referent belongs to the animate class (i.e humans or non-human animals) as opposed to an inanimate class.[4][5] Since pronouns do not distinguish the social gender of the referent, they are considered neutral in this kind of system.[6]

Grammatical gender[edit]

In other languages – including most Indo-European and Afro-Asiatic languages – third-person personal pronouns (at least those used to refer to people) intrinsically distinguish male from female. This feature commonly co-exists with a full system of grammatical gender, where all nouns are assigned to classes such as masculine, feminine and neuter.

In languages with grammatical gender, even pronouns which are semantically gender-neutral may be required to take a gender for such purposes as grammatical agreement. Thus in French, for example, the first- and second-person personal pronouns may behave as either masculine or feminine depending on the sex of the referent; and indefinite pronouns such as quelqu'un ('someone') and personne ('no one') are treated conventionally as masculine, even though personne as a noun ('person') is only feminine regardless of the sex of the referent. (See Grammatical gender § Grammatical gender can be realized on pronouns.) There are both direct and indirect options for nonbinary referents, although the use of some forms is contested.[7]

Example of agreement in a language with grammatical gender[8]

(1) Les tomates, elles sont encore vertes.      Formal French
    'The tomatoes, they are still green.' FP,
     (Lambrecht 1981:40, cited by Gelderen, 2022, p. 33)
(2) C'est que chacun, il a sa manière de ...   Swiss spoken French
    'Everyone has his own way of ...'
    (Fronseca-Greber 2000:338, cited by Gelderen, 2022, p. 33)

Gender distinctions only in third-person pronouns[edit]

A grammatical gender system can erode as observed in languages such as Odia (formerly Oriya), English and Persian.[9] In English, a general system of noun gender has been lost, but gender distinctions are preserved in the third-person singular pronouns. This means that the relation between pronouns and nouns is no longer syntactically motivated in the system at large. Instead, the choice of anaphoric pronouns is controlled by referential gender or social gender.[10]

Example of agreement in English[11]

(3) Maryi described Billj to herselfi.
(4) Johnj came in and hej was wearing a hat.

Issues concerning gender and pronoun usage[edit]

Issues concerning gender and pronoun usage commonly arise in situations where it is necessary to choose between gender-specific pronouns, even though the sex of the person or persons being referred to is not known, not specified, or (for plurals) mixed. In English and many other languages, the masculine form has sometimes served as the default or unmarked form; that is, masculine pronouns have been used in cases where the referent or referents are not known to be (all) female.[12] This collective masculine is also the case in ancient languages, like Classical Greek and Biblical Hebrew and have influenced the modern forms. This leads to sentences such as (5a) in English, and (6a) in French.

Example of gender-neutral masculine: English

(5) a.  If anybody comes, tell him.      masculine him used to refer to a person of unknown sex

    b. *If anybody comes, tell her.      feminine her is not used to refer to a person of unknown sex

Example of collective masculine: French

(6) a. Vos amis sont arrivés — Ils étaient en avance. 
       'Your friends have arrived - they were early.'
        Note: plural masculine ils used if group has men and women

    b. Vos amies sont arrivées — Elles étaient en avance. 
      'Your friendsFEM have arrivedFEM - theyFEM were early.'
       Note: plural feminine elles used if group has only women;
             noun is feminine (amies), as is past participle (arrivées)

As early as 1795, dissatisfaction with the convention of the collective masculine led to calls for gender-neutral pronouns, and attempts to invent pronouns for this purpose date back to at least 1850, although the use of singular they as a natural gender-neutral pronoun in English has persisted since the 14th century.[13]

Gender-neutral pronouns in modern standard English[edit]

The English language has gender-specific personal pronouns in the third-person singular. The masculine pronoun is he (with the related forms him, his and himself); the feminine is she (with the related forms her, hers and herself); the neuter is it (with the related forms its and itself). The third-person plural they (and its related forms them, their, themselves) are gender-neutral and can also be used to refer to singular, personal antecedents, as in (7).

(7) Where a recipient of an allowance under section 4 absents themself from Canada,
    payment of the allowance shall ...[14]

Generally speaking, he refers to males, and she refers to females. When a person has adopted a persona of a different gender (such as when acting or performing in drag), pronouns with the gender of the persona are used. In gay slang, the gender of pronouns is sometimes reversed (gender transposition).[citation needed]

She and he are normally used for humans; use of it can be dehumanizing, and, more importantly, implies a lack of gender even if one is present, and is usually, thus, inappropriate. It is sometimes used to refer to a baby or a child in a generic sense as in response to the question What is it? when a baby has been born: -It's a girl/boy. However, when talking to parents of intersex babies, some doctors are advised to use your baby instead.[15] It is often used for non-human animals of unknown sex, but he or she is frequently used for a non-human animal with a known sex. He or she are also for a non-human animal who is referred to by a proper name, as in (8) where Fido is understood to be the name of a dog.[16] At least one grammar states that he or she is obligatory for animals referred to by a proper name.[16]

(8) Fido adores his blanket.

The other English pronouns (the first- and second-person personal pronouns I, we, you, etc.; the third-person plural personal pronoun they; the indefinite pronouns one, someone, anyone, etc.; and others) do not make male–female gender distinctions; that is, they are gender-neutral. The only distinction made is between personal and non-personal reference (someone vs. something, anyone vs. anything, who vs. what, whoever vs. whatever, etc.).

She is sometimes used for named ships and countries; this may be considered old-fashioned and is in decline.[citation needed] In some local dialects and casual speech she and he are used for various objects and named vehicles (like a personal car). Animate objects like robots and voice assistants are often assumed to have a gender and sometimes have a name with a matching gender. (See Gender in English § Metaphorical gender.)

For people who are transgender, style guides and associations of journalists and health professionals advise use of the pronoun preferred or considered appropriate by the person in question.[17][18][19] When dealing with clients or patients, health practitioners are advised to take note of the pronouns used by the individuals themselves,[20] which may involve using different pronouns at different times.[21][22][23] This is also extended to the name preferred by the person referred to.[23][24][25] LGBTQ+ advocacy groups also advise using the pronouns and names preferred or considered appropriate by the person referred to.[26] They further recommend avoiding gender confusion when referring to the background of transgender people, such as using a title or rank to avoid a gendered pronoun or name.[27]

For English, there is no universal agreement on a gender-neutral third-person pronoun which could be used for a person whose gender is unknown or who is a non-binary gender identity; various alternatives are described in the following sections.

Singular they as a gender-neutral pronoun[edit]

Since at least the 14th century, they (including related forms such as them, their, theirs, themselves, and themself) has been used with a plural verb form to refer to a singular antecedent.[28] This usage is known as the singular they, as it is equivalent to the corresponding singular form of the pronoun.[29]

(9) There's not a man I meet but doth salute me
    As if I were their well-acquainted friend
    <(William Shakespeare, A Comedy of Errors, 1623)[30]
    instead of: As if I were his well-acquainted friend
(10) Every fool can do as they're bid.
     <(Jonathan Swift, Polite Conversation, 1738)[30]
     instead of: Every fool can do as he's bid.
(11) Both sisters were uncomfortable enough.
     Each felt for the other, and of course for themselves.
     <(Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, 1813)[30]
     instead of: Each felt for the other, and of course for herself.

Prescription against singular they has historically impacted more formal registers of writing. Conversely, to the present day, singular they continues to be attested in both speech and less formal registers of writing in British and American English.[31][30] Recent corpus data suggest that English dialects in Hong Kong, India, and Singapore use this epicene less than British English.[32] The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary include the following examples among the possible uses of singular they, which they note is not universally adopted by all speakers.

(12) Anyone who arrives at the door can let themself in using this key.[33]
(13) I knew certain things about ... the person I was interviewing ...
     They had adopted their gender-neutral name a few years ago,
     when they began to consciously identify as nonbinary ...
     (Amy Harmon)[34]

While many speakers recognize the need for gender neutral pronouns, they nevertheless deem referential singular they, as in (13), ungrammatical or unfit for the job due to the ambiguity it can create in certain contexts.[35] New pronouns such as ve (used in Science Fiction) and ze/hir have been proposed in order to avoid the perceived limitations of singular they.[36] Currently, these new pronouns are only used by a small percentage of speakers while singular they remains the most widely selected option.[37]

Antecedents for singular they[edit]

Syntax tree showing coreference in sentence (14) a

Generally speaking, there are three kinds of antecedents with which the singular they can be used.[38]

  • In (14), singular they occurs with a quantified singular antecedent or a singular antecedent of unknown gender.
  • In (15), singular they occurs with a singular antecedent known to be nonbinary or ungendered.
  • In (16), singular they occurs with a singular antecedent of any gender, with no restriction on description or name.

In examples (14-16), subscripti indicates coreference; moreover, examples such as (15) and (16) are sometimes referred to as 'referential they'.[39][40]

(14) a. Anyonei who thinks theyi need more time should ask for an extension.[38]

    b. The personi at the door left before I could see who theyi were.[38]
(15) a. Kellyi said theyi were leaving early.[38]

     b. The strongest studenti will present theiri paper next.[38]
Syntax tree showing coreference in sentence (16) a
(16) a. Mariai wants to send theiri students on the field trip.[38]

     b. We heard from Arthuri that theyi needed time to think about the idea.[38]

     c. We asked [the first girl in line]i to introduce themself/themselvesi.[38]

     d. Your brotheri called to say theyi would be late.[38]

Speaker variation[edit]

In the twenty-first century, syntactic research differentiates three groups of English speakers which can be identified, based on their judgments about pronoun usage for (14), (15) and (16).[30][38]

  • Group A speakers judge only (14) to be acceptable. Such speakers reject "referential" singular when they know the referent's binary gender, which is taken to indicate that gender features are contrastive in their lexicons. For this group of speakers, usage of singular they in (14) is acceptable to because the quantified antecedent anyone and the definite description the person lack a gender specification.
  • Group B speakers judge both (14) and (15) to be acceptable. For these speakers, gender is thought to still be contrastive in their lexicons; however, they have created special entries for individuals that use the singular they pronoun.
  • Group C speakers judge (14), (15) and (16) to be acceptable. It has been proposed that gender is losing its featural contrast in these speakers' lexicons.
Speaker variation with singular they pronoun usage
antecedent group A usage group B usage group C usage
quantified, or gender is unknown, (14) yes yes yes
nonbinary or ungendered, (15) no yes yes
any gender, (16) no no yes

A recent study by Kirby Conrod found these speaker groups to be correlated with age and gender identity.[39] Relative to age, participants of all ages accepted the usage in (14), whereas younger participants rated usage of referential they in (15) and (16) higher than did their older counterparts. Relative to gender identity, non-binary and transgender participants rated referential they higher than did cisgender participants. Elsewhere, cisgender speakers with at least one trans or non-binary family member have also been found to rate all three cases as acceptable.[38] Another study found a correlation between resistance to the second and third uses and prescriptivist attitudes about language.[41]

Work by Keir Moulton and colleagues, published in 2020, has also found that the presence of a linguistic antecedent — which is the case for examples (14), (15), and (16) — significantly improves the acceptability judgments of singular they. In sentences with a linguistic antecedent, such as (17a), the use of singular they is judged to be equally acceptable whether or not the hearer knows the (binary) gender of the referent. In sentences where singular they is purely deictic and has no linguistic antecedent, such as (17b), the use of singular they is judged to be less acceptable than the use of a singular gendered pronoun (such as he or she) when the hearer knows the referent's (binary) gender. The authors suggest that the use of a gender-neutral antecedent (e.g. server or reporter) may signal the irrelevance of gender in the discourse context, making singular they more acceptable. Additionally, having a linguististic antecedent clarified that the speaker was referring to a singular antecedent, rather than a plural one. In the deictic case, without a linguistic antecedent, these signals were not overt, and the speakers' judgment depended more on their experience with the pronoun itself.[40]

Type of antecedent affects acceptability of singular their (subscript i denotes coreference)[40]

(17) a. The reporteri said that theiri cellphone was recording the whole interview.
        Note: judged as more acceptable

     b. Theyi said that theiri cellphone was recording the whole interview. 
        Note: judged as less acceptable

Another study found an effect of social distance on speaker judgments of singular they use.[42] Usage was judged to be more acceptable when the speaker was not personally close with the referent, compared to use for referents with whom the speaker was personally close.[42] The authors suggested that, in the former case, the referent's gender may be less likely to be known or relevant.[42]

Reference to males and females[edit]

Generic he[edit]

Forms of the pronoun he were used for both males and females during the Middle English and Modern English periods. Susanne Wagner observed that "There was rather an extended period of time in the history of the English language when the choice of a supposedly masculine personal pronoun (him) said nothing about the gender or sex of the referent."[43] An early example of prescribing the use of he to refer to a person of unknown gender is Anne Fisher's 1745 grammar book A New Grammar.[44] Older editions of Fowler also took this view.[45] This usage continues to this day:

(18) a. The customer brought his purchases to the cashier for checkout.

     b. In a supermarket, a customer can buy anything he needs.

     c. When a customer argues, always agree with him.

This may be compared to usage of the word man for humans in general (although that was the original sense of the word "man" in the Germanic languages, much as the Latin word for "human in general", homo, came to mean "male human"—which was vir, in Latin—in most of the Romance languages).

(19) a. All men are created equal.

     b. Man cannot live by bread alone.

The use, in formal English, of he, him or his as a gender-neutral pronoun has traditionally been considered grammatically correct.[46] For example, William Safire in his "On Language" column in The New York Times approved of the use of generic he, mentioning the mnemonic phrase "the male embraces the female".[47] A reader replied with an example of use of the purportedly gender-neutral he, as in (20). Such examples point to the fact indiscriminate use of generic he leads to non-sensical violations of semantic gender agreement.[48]

(20) "The average American needs the small routines of getting ready for work.
      As he shaves or blow-dries his hair or pulls on his panty-hose,
      he is easing himself by small stages into the demands of the day."
      (C. Badendyck, The New York Times (1985);[49] as quoted by Miller and Swift.[48])

The use of generic he has increasingly been a source of controversy, as it can be perceived as reflecting a positive bias towards men and a male-centric society, and a negative bias against women.[50] In some contexts, the use of he, him or his as a gender-neutral pronoun may give a jarring or ridiculous impression:

(21) a. "... everyone will be able to decide for himself whether or not to have an abortion."
         (Albert Bleumenthal, N.Y. State Assembly (cited in Longman 1984,
          as quoted in Merriam-Webster's Concise Dictionary of English Usage[51]

     b. "... the ideal that every boy and girl should be so equipped
         that he shall not be handicapped in his struggle for social progress..."
         (C. C. Fries, American English Grammar (1940), quoted in Reader's Digest 1983;
          as cited in Merriam-Webster's Concise Dictionary of English Usage[51]

     c. "... She and Louis had a game—who could find the ugliest photograph of himself."
         (Joseph P. Lash, Eleanor and Franklin (1971), quoted in Reader's Digest 1983;
          as cited in Merriam-Webster's Concise Dictionary of English Usage)[51]

The use of generic he has also been seen as prejudicial by some, as in the following cases:

  • The Massachusetts Medical Society effectively blocked membership of female physicians on the grounds that the society's by-laws used the pronoun he when referring to members.[48]
  • The Persons Case, the legal battle over whether Canadian women counted as legal persons eligible to sit in the Senate, partially turned on use of "he" to refer to a (generic) person qualified to be a senator.[52]

Avoidance of the generic he is seen by proponents of non-sexist writing as indicating that the purportedly gender-neutral he is in fact not gender-neutral since it "brings a male image to mind".[48] The same would apply to the generic she, bringing a female image to mind. She has traditionally been used as a generic pronoun when making generalizations about people belonging to a group when most members of that group are assumed to be female:[48]

(22) a. A secretary should keep her temper in check.

     b. A nurse must always be kind to her patients.

The 19th and 20th centuries saw an upsurge in consciousness and advocacy of gender equality, and this has led in particular to advocacy for gender-neutral language. In this context, the usage of generic he has declined in favor of other alternatives.

He or she, (s)he[edit]

To disambiguate contexts where a referent encompasses both males and females, periphrasis is used. Though cumbersome, this solution is attested with the full range of English pronouns, include the subject pronouns he or she (23), the object pronouns him or her (24), the possessive pronoun his or hers (25), and the reflective pronouns himself or herself (26). In writing, these periphrastic forms are sometimes abbreviated to he/she, (s)he, s/he, him/her, his/her, himself/herself, hers/his, but are not easily abbreviated in verbal communication.[53] With the exception of (s)he and s/he, a writer does in principle have the choice of which pronoun to place first. However, usage indicates that the masculine pronouns is most often mentioned first.

(23) a. If any employee needs to take time off,
        s/he should contact the Personnel Department.[53]
     b. Talk to your doctor and see if s/he knows of any local groups.[54]

     c. Each employee must sign the register when she/he enters or leaves.[55]

     d. Read to children and let them participate from time to time by telling them what
        they think the author would add if she or he was present with them.[56]
(24) a. How often do you perform small acts of kindness for your partner
        (like making him or her coffee in the morning)?.[57]

     b. Clearly, no one in the entire United States simply meets someone,
        talks with him or her a while, and falls in love any more.[58]
(25) a. We must fight the tradition that forces the actor to accept poverty
        as a precondition of his or her profession.[56]

     b. [insert example]
(26) a. ... at the collegiate level the student must advocate for himself or herself.[59]

     b. ... no student, of any background, should be expected at the outset
        to recognize him or herself in it.[60]

     c.  Everyone will improve him/herself in his/her area ...[61]

Some observers, such as the linguist James McCawley, suggest that the use of periphrastic forms may promote stereotypes: "he and she [can foster] the standard sexual stereotypes [in that] if you say he or she, you imply that women aren't included unless they are specifically mentioned, and you make it easier to talk about cases where only one sex is included than where both are."[62]

Alternation of she and he[edit]

Authors sometimes employ rubrics[according to whom?] for selecting she or he such as:

  • Use the gender of the primary author.
  • Alternate between "she" and "he".
  • Alternate by paragraph or chapter.
  • Use she and he to make distinctions between two groups of people.

It as a gender-neutral pronoun[edit]

Old English had grammatical gender, and thus commonly used "it" for people, even where they were clearly female or male:

  • cild (meaning 'child') had grammatical neuter gender, as did compound words formed from it, e.g. wæpnedcild 'male-child' and wifcild 'female-child'. All three were pronominalized by the neuter pronoun it (hit).
  • wif (meaning "female", modern "wife") had grammatical neuter gender, and so were pronominalized by the neuter pronoun it "it". When wif was the non-head member of a compound — as with wifmann 'female-person', modern 'woman' — the gender of the compound was determined by the head of the compound, in this case mann, which had grammatical masculine gender, and so was pronominalized by the masculine pronoun he.[63]

Over time, English gradually developed a system of natural gender (gender based on semantic meaning) which now holds sway in Modern English.[64]

For human children[edit]

In Modern English, pronouns referring to adult humans are typically gendered: feminine she, masculine he. However, in some contexts, children may be referred to with the gender-neutral pronoun it. When not referring specifically to children, it is not generally applied to people, even in cases where their gender is unknown.

The 1985 edition of the Quirk et al. grammar observes that whereas he and she are used for entities treated as people (including anthropomorphized entities), the pronoun it is normally used for entities not regarded as persons. But the pronoun it can be used of children in some circumstances, for instance when the sex is indefinite or when the writer has no emotional connection to the child, as in a scientific context lsuch as (26).[65] According to The Handbook of Non-Sexist Writing (1995), it is also sometimes the "obvious" choice for children.[66] Examples given include (27a), and the more colloquial (27b). It may even be used when the child's sex is known: In the passage given in (27c), the characters refer to the boy-child at the center of the narrative as a he, but then the narrator refers to it as an it. In this case, the child has yet to be developed into a character that can communicate with the reader.

(27) a. A child learns to speak the language of its environment.
        (Quirk et al., A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (1985), p. 316–317, 342)
     b. To society, a baby's sex is second in importance to its health. 
        (Miller & Swift, The Handbook of Non-Sexist Writing (1995), p. 58)

     c. "He looks like nobody but himself," said Mrs. Owens, firmly.
         ... It was then that ... the child opened its eyes wide in wakefulness.
         It stared around it ...
       (Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book (2008), p. 25)

For non-human animals[edit]

The Quirk et al. 1985 grammar states that the use of gendered he or she is optional for non-human animals of known sex.[65] It gives the following example, which illustrates the use of both the gender-neutral possessive its and the gendered possessive her to refer to a bird:

(28) The robin builds its nest in a well-chosen position ...
     and, after the eggs have hatched, the mother bird feeds her young there for several weeks ...
     (Quirk et al., A comprehensive grammar of the English language (1985), p. 316–317, 342)

One as a gender-neutral pronoun[edit]

Another gender-neutral pronoun that can be used to refer to people is the impersonal pronoun "one". This can be used in conjunction with the generic he according to the preference and style of the writer.

  • Each student should save his questions until the end.
  • One should save one's questions until the end.
  • One should save his questions until the end.

In everyday language, generic you is often used instead of one:

  • You should save your questions until the end.

Historical, regional, and proposed gender-neutral singular pronouns[edit]

Historically, there were two gender-neutral pronouns native to English dialects, ou and (h)a.[67] According to Dennis Baron's Grammar and Gender:[68]

In 1789, William H. Marshall records the existence of a dialectal English epicene pronoun, singular "ou": "'Ou will' expresses either he will, she will, or it will." Marshall traces "ou" to Middle English epicene "a", used by the 14th century English writer John of Trevisa, and both the OED and Wright's English Dialect Dictionary confirm the use of "a" for he, she, it, they, and even I. This "a" is a reduced form of the Anglo-Saxon he = "he" and heo = "she".

Relics of these gender-neutral terms survive in some British dialects of Modern English — for example hoo for 'she', in Yorkshire — and sometimes a pronoun of one gender can be applied to a human or non-human animal of the opposite gender.

  • hoo is also sometimes used in the West Midlands and south-west England as a common gender pronoun[69]
  • er can be used in place of either he or she in some West Country dialects, although only in weak (unstressed) positions such as in tag questions[70]
  • hye could refer to either he[71] or she[72] in Essex in the south-east of England, in the Middle English period
  • yo: a 2007 paper reports that in some schools in the city of Baltimore, yo has come to be used as a gender-neutral pronoun.[73][74]

Since at least the 19th century, numerous proposals for the use of other non-standard gender-neutral pronouns have been introduced:

  • e, (es, em) is the oldest recorded English gender-neutral (ungendered) pronoun with declension, coined by Francis Augustus Brewster in 1841.[75] E, es, em, and emself were also proposed by James Rogers in 1890.[76] The aim was to provide a neutral, ungendered pronoun because the link of pronouns to sex was considered a major flaw. Donald G. MacKay (1980) experimented with the use of e, es, em, and eself.[77]
  • thon, proposed by Charles Crozat Converse in 1884 — other sources date its coinage to 1858[78] — received the greatest mainstream acceptance. A contraction of 'that one', thon was listed in Funk and Wagnall's Standard Dictionary from 1898 through to 1964, and was also included in Webster's Second New International Dictionary (but not in its the first and third editions).[79]
  • co was coined by the feminist writer Mary Orovan in 1970.[80] It is in common usage in intentional communities of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities,[81] appearing in the bylaws of several of these communities.[82][83][84][85] In addition to using co when the gender of the antecedent is unknown or indeterminate, some use co as gender-blind language, where co replaces gendered pronouns.[86]
  • ze has several variants (see table below) and is used to meet the needs of unspecified gender situations and transgender persons.[87][88] Kate Bornstein, an American transgender author, uses the pronoun forms ze and hir in the 1996 book Nearly Roadkill: An Infobahn Erotic Adventure.[89] Jeffrey A. Carver, an American science fiction writer, uses the pronoun hir in the 1989 novel From a Changeling Star for a different-gendered nonhuman.

Table of standard and non-standard third-person singular pronouns[edit]

Source Nominative
Independent genitive
Dependent genitive
Standard pronoun usage
he he is laughing I called him his eyes gleam that is his he likes himself
she she is laughing I called her her eyes gleam that is hers she likes herself
they (singular) they are laughing I called them their eyes gleam that is theirs they like themself
it it is laughing I called it its eyes gleam that is its it likes itself
one one is laughing I called one one's eyes gleam that is one's one likes oneself
they (plural) they are laughing I called them their eyes gleam that is theirs they like themselves
'em I called 'em
Orthographic conventions for gender-neutral pronouns
she/he he/she is laughing I called him/her his/her eyes gleam that is his/hers he/she likes him/herself
s/he s/he is laughing I called him/r[citation needed] his/r eyes gleam that is his/rs s/he likes him/herself
Artificial and proposed epicene pronouns
e Brewster, 1841[75] e is laughing I called em es eyes gleam that is es e likes emself
thon Converse, 1884[90] thon is laughing I called thon thons eyes gleam that is thons thon likes thonself
e Rogers, 1890[91] e is laughing I called em es eyes gleam that is es e likes emself
ae Lindsay, 1920[citation needed] ae is laughing I called aer aer eyes gleam that is aers ae likes aerself
tey Miller and Swift, 1971[citation needed] tey is laughing I called tem ter eyes gleam that is ters tey likes temself
xe Rickter, c. 1973[92] xe is laughing I called xem/xim xyr/xis eyes gleam that is xyrs/xis xe likes xemself/ximself
te Farrel, 1974[citation needed] te is laughing I called tir tes eyes gleam that is tes te likes tirself
ey Elverson, 1975[93] ey is laughing I called em eir eyes gleam that is eirs ey likes emself
per Piercy, 1979[94][not specific enough to verify] per is laughing I called per per eyes gleam that is pers per likes perself
ve Hulme, c. 1980[95] ve is laughing I called ver vis eyes gleam that is vis ve likes verself
hu Newborn, 1982[96][not specific enough to verify] hu is laughing I called hum hus eyes gleam that is hus hu likes humself
E Spivak, 1983[97][98][99] e is laughing I called em eir eyes gleam that is eirs e likes emself
ze, mer Creel, 1997[100] ze is laughing I called mer zer eyes gleam that is zers ze likes zemself
ze, hir Bornstein, 1998[101] ze is laughing I called hir hir eyes gleam that is hirs ze likes hirself
sie, hir Hyde, 2001[102] sie is laughing I called hir hir eyes gleam that is hirs sie likes hirself
sey, seir, sem Rogerson, 2013[103] sey is laughing I called sem seir eyes gleam that is seirs sey likes semself
fae[104][105] fae is laughing I called faer faer eyes gleam that is faers fae likes faerself
eh Steinbach, 2018[106][107] eh is laughing I called ehm ehs eyes gleam that is ehs eh likes ehmself
thay Gori Suture, 2022[108][109] thay are laughing I called thym thayr eyes gleam that is thayrs thay like thymself

Emergence of gender-neutral pronouns in languages with grammatical gender[edit]

French iel[edit]

In 2021, the dictionary Le Petit Robert de la Langue Française added a third-person gender neutral pronoun to its lexicon: iel[110] (plural iels). Although Petit Robert has added iel, there is no discussion in its entry regarding how the language, which uses a grammatical gender system in which every content word has a gender, should proceed with agreement.[111]

As reported in the New York Times, this merger of the third person masculine pronoun il 'he' and the third person feminine pronoun elle 'she' is used to refer to a person of any gender. It has caused controversy amongst both linguists and politicians who claim that the French language cannot be manipulated.[112] The dictionary takes the position that it is observing how the French language evolves, adding it as a point of reference. However, the Larousse (a prominent encyclopedia of the French language) disagrees, calling iel a "pseudo pronoun".[112]

Polish onu and ono[edit]

The Polish language does not have officially recognized and standardized gender-neutral pronoun. The most popular neopronoun, created to address nonbinary people, is onu. It was originally created by science fiction and fantasy writer Jacek Dukaj, for his 2004 book Perfect Imperfection. From the surname of the author, this, and similar neopronouns created by him, are referred to as dukaizmy, and after term coined by him, the post-gender pronouns (Polish: zaimki postpłciowe).[113][114][115][116]

Some nonbinary Polish-speakers also use ono, which corresponds to the English it.[117][118][119] The use of ono as a gender-neutral pronoun was recommended in a grammar book in 1823.[120]

Pronoun onu
Singular Plural
nominative onu ony
genitive jenu / nu / nienu ich / ich / nich
dative wu im
accusative nu ni
instrumental num nimi
locative num nich
Suffixes corresponding to onu
Singular Plural
-um –ałuśmy
–uś –ałuście
–u –ły
adjectives –u -y

Swedish hen[edit]

The Swedish language has a four-gender distinction for definite singular third-person pronouns:

  • masculine singular han 'he'
  • feminine singular hon 'she'
  • common singular den 'it'
  • neuter singular det 'it'

The indefinite/impersonal third person is gender-neutral, as is the plural third person:

  • plural third person de 'they'
  • man 'someone'

As for first-person and second-person pronouns, they are gender-neutral in both the singular and plural

  • first person: singular jag; plural vi
  • second-person: singular du; plural ni

On nouns, the neuter gender is marked by the definite singular suffixal article -t, whereas common gender is marked with the suffix with -n. The same distinction applies to the indefinite adjectival singular forms. For people and animals with specified gender, the masculine or feminine pronouns are used, but the nouns still take either neutral or common articles. There is no gender distinction in the plural.

In Swedish, the word hen was introduced generally in the 2000s as a complement to the gender-specific hon ("she") and han ("he"). It can be used when the gender of a person is not known or when it is not desirable to specify them as either a "she" or "he". The word was proposed by Rolf Dunås in 1966 and could be used occasionally, like in a guideline from the Swedish building council from 1980, authored by Rolf Reimers. Its origin may have been a combination of han and hon.

It was proposed again in 1994, with reference to the Finnish hän, similarly pronounced, a personal pronoun that is gender-neutral, since Finnish completely lacks grammatical gender. In 2009 it was included in Nationalencyklopedin. However, it did not receive widespread recognition until around 2010, when it began to be used in some texts, and provoked some media debates and controversy, but is included since 2015 in Svenska Akademiens ordlista, the most authoritative spelling dictionary of the Swedish language, by the Swedish Academy.[121]

As of 2016, Swedish manuals of style treat hen as a neologism. Major newspapers like Dagens Nyheter have recommended against its usage, though some journalists still use it. The Swedish Language Council has not issued any general recommendations against the use of hen, but advises against the use of the object form henom ("her/him"); it instead recommends using hen as both the subject and object form. Hen has two basic usages: as a way to avoid a stated preference to either gender; or as a way of referring to individuals who are transgender, who prefer to identify themselves as belonging to a third gender or who reject the division of male/female gender roles on ideological grounds. Its entry will cover two definitions: as a reference to an individual's belonging to an unspecified sex or third gender, or where the sex is not known.

Traditionally, Swedish offers other ways of avoiding using gender-specific pronouns; e.g., "vederbörande" ("the referred person") and "man" ("one", as in "Man borde ..."/"One should ...") with its objective form "en" or alternatively "en" as both subjective and objective since "man"/"one" sounds the same as "man"/"male adult" although they are discernible through syntax. "Denna/Denne" ("this one or she/he") may refer to a non-gender-specific referent already or soon-to-be mentioned ("Vederbörande kan, om denne så vill, ..."/"The referent may, if he wishes, ..."). Because "denne" is objectively masculine, the use of the word to refer to anyone irrespective of gender is not recommended. One method is rewriting into the plural, as Swedish – like English – has only gender-neutral pronouns in the plural. Another method is writing the pronoun in the referent's grammatical gender ("Barnet får om det vill."/"The child is allowed to, if it wants to." The word "barn"/child is grammatically neuter, thus the use of the third-person neuter pronoun "det"); some nouns retain their traditional pronouns, e.g., "man"/"man" uses "han"/"he", and "kvinna"/"woman" uses "hon"/"she". While grammatically correct, using "den/det" to refer to human beings may sound as if the speaker regards the referenced human beings as objects, so "han"/"hon" is preferred, for example about children or work titles such as "föraren" ("driver") or "rörmokaren" ("plumber").

Norwegian hen[edit]

As a continuation of earlier discussions along the same lines as well as the continuing uptake, the Language Council of Norway proposes the gender-neutral pronoun hen (from Swedish hen; compare Finnish hän) to be recognised officially.[122]

Previously, the gender-neutral pronoun hin has been proposed to fill the gap between the third person pronouns hun ('she') and han ('he').[citation needed] However, the usage of hin has not widely embraced, as it is rarely used, and even then only by limited special interest groups.[citation needed] A reason for the marginal interest in a neuter gender word is the constructed nature of the word, together with the fact that the word is homonymous with several older words both in official language and dialectal speech, such as hin ('the other') and hinsides ('beyond').[citation needed] One can also use man or en or den (en means 'one'). These three are considered impersonal.[citation needed]

Amongst LGBT interest groups the word hen is now in use after the Swedish implementation in 2010.[123][failed verification]

Emergence of gendered pronouns in languages without grammatical gender[edit]


Lack of gender contrasts in spoken language[edit]

Traditionally, the third person pronoun in Mandarin is gender-neutral. In spoken standard Mandarin, there is no gender distinction in personal pronouns: can mean 'he' or 'she' (or even 'it' for non-human objects). Although it is claimed that when the antecedent of the spoken pronoun is unclear, native speakers assume it is a male person,[124] no evidence is given to support this claim. Many studies instead demonstrate the opposite: Mandarin speakers do not differentiate pronoun genders in the composition of the preverbal message that guides grammatical encoding during language production.[125] Even proficient bilingual Mandarin-English learners do not process gender information in the conceptualizer.[126] As a result, Mandarin speakers often mix up the gendered pronouns of European languages in speech.[127] Even if they seldom make other types of errors, native Mandarin speakers can make such pronoun errors when speaking in English. This is even the case after they have been living in an immersive environment and after having attained a relatively high English level.[128]

Emergence of gender contrasts via orthography[edit]

Although spoken Mandarin remains ungendered, a specific written form for 'she' ( ) was created in the early twentieth century under the influence of European languages. In today's written Chinese, the same sound is written with different characters: () for 'he', () for 'she' and () for 'it'. However, such distinction did not exist before the late 1910s. There was only () as a general third person pronoun (he/she/it'), which did not specify gender or humanness.

In 1917, the influential poet and linguist Liu Bannong borrowed the Old Chinese graph (, with the radical which means 'female') into the written language to specifically represent 'she'. As a result, the old character (), which previously could also refer to females, has become sometimes restricted to meaning 'he' only in written texts. The character has the radical rén () with means 'human', which also shows it originally was a generic term for people in general instead of a term for males, which should take the radical for male, nán (), like other Chinese characters that represent specifically male concepts.[129]

The creation of gendered pronouns in Chinese orthography was part of the May Fourth Movement to modernize Chinese culture, and specifically an attempt to assert sameness between Chinese and European languages, which generally have gendered pronouns.[124] The leaders of the movement also coined other characters, such as for objects, (radical: niú , "cow") for animals, and (radical: shì , 'spirit') for gods. Their pronunciations were all . The latter two have fallen out of use in mainland China.

Liu and other writers of that period tried to popularize a different pronunciation for the feminine pronoun, including yi from the Wu dialect and tuo from a literary reading, but these efforts failed, and all forms of the third-person pronoun retain identical pronunciation. (This situation of identical pronunciation with split characters is present not only in Mandarin but also in many other varieties of Chinese.[129])

The Cantonese third-person-singular pronoun is keui5 (), and may refer to people of any gender. For a specifically female pronoun, some writers replace the person radical rén () with the female radical (), forming the character keui5 (). However, this analogous variation to is neither widely accepted in standard written Cantonese nor grammatically or semantically required. Moreover, while the character keui5 () has no meaning in classical Chinese, the character keui5 () has a separate meaning unrelated to its dialectic use in standard or classical Chinese.[130]

There is a recent trend on the Internet for people to write "TA" in Latin script, derived from the pinyin romanization of Chinese, as a gender-neutral pronoun.[131][132]

For second-person pronouns, is used for both genders. In addition, the character has sometimes been used as a female second-person pronoun in Taiwan and Hong Kong.


Emergence of gendered third-person forms[edit]

Pure personal pronouns do not exist in traditional Japanese, as pronouns are generally dropped. In addition, reference to a person is using their name with a suffix such as the gender-neutral san added to it. For example:

'She (Ms. Saitō) came' would be 斎藤さんが来ました (Saitō-san ga kimashita).

In modern Japanese, kare () is the male and kanojo (彼女) the female third-person pronouns. Historically, kare was a word in the demonstrative paradigm (i.e., a system involving demonstrative prefixes, ko-, so-, a- (historical: ka-), and do-), used to point to an object that is physically far but psychologically near. The feminine counterpart kanojo, on the other hand, is a combination of kano (adnominal (rentaishi) version of ka-) and jo ('woman'), coined for the translation of its Western equivalents. It was not until the Meiji period that kare and kanojo were commonly used as the masculine and feminine pronoun in the same way as their Western equivalents. Although their usage as the Western equivalent pronouns tends to be infrequent—because pronouns tend to be dropped—kare-shi and kanojo are commonly used today to mean 'boyfriend' and 'girlfriend' respectively.[133]

Emergence of gendered first-person forms[edit]

First-person pronouns, ore, boku, and atashi, while not explicitly carrying gender, can strongly imply gender based on inherent levels of politeness or formality as well as hierarchical connotations.[134] While boku and ore are traditionally characterized as masculine pronouns, atashi is characterized as feminine. In addition, of the two masculine-leaning pronouns, boku is considered to be less masculine than ore and often connote a softer form of masculinity. When wishing to connote a sense of authority and confidence to their interlocutors, male speakers tend to use the first-person form ore.[134]

See also[edit]

Specific languages[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Siewierska, Anna (2005). "Gender Distinctions in Independent Personal Pronouns". In Haspelmath, Martin; Dryer, Matthew S.; Gil, David; Comrie, Bernard (eds.). The World Atlas of Language Structures. Oxford University Press. pp. 182–185. ISBN 0-19-925591-1.
  2. ^ Audring, Jenny (1 October 2008). "Gender assignment and gender agreement: Evidence from pronominal gender languages". Morphology. 18 (2): 93–116. doi:10.1007/s11525-009-9124-y. ISSN 1871-5621.
  3. ^ Corbett, Greville G. (2011). "Sex-based and Non-sex-based Gender Systems". In Dryer, Matthew S.; Haspelmath, Martin (eds.). The World Atlas of Language Structures Online. Munich: Max Planck Digital Library. Archived from the original on 1 December 2013. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  4. ^ Mpiranya, Fidèle (2015). Swahili Grammar and Workbook. New York: Routledge. ISBN 9781317612926. OCLC 892911314.
  5. ^ Corbbett, G. (1991). Gender. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 49. ISBN 0521329396.
  6. ^ Osoro, G. M. (2017). "Gender Construction in Swahili Proverbial Language". In Maganda, D. (ed.). The Literature of Language and the Language of Literature in Africa and the Diaspora. Adonis & Abbey Publishers. p. 94. ISBN 9781909112766.
  7. ^ Knisely, Kris A. (2020). "Le français non-binaire: Linguistic forms used by non-binary speakers of French". Foreign Language Annals. 53 (4): 850–876. doi:10.1111/flan.12500. S2CID 234510212.
  8. ^ Gelderen, Elly van (16 December 2021). Third factors in language variation and change. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781108831161. OCLC 1260132261.
  9. ^ Hellinger, Marlis; Bußmann, Hadumod (2001). "Gender across languages". Gender Across Languages: The Linguistic Representation of Women and Men. Vol. 1. Amsterdam / Philadelphia: John Benjamins. pp. 6–7. ISBN 1588110826.
  10. ^ Hellinger, Marlis; Bußmann, Hadumod (2001). "Gender across languages". Gender Across Languages: The Linguistic Representation of Women and Men. Vol. 1. Amsterdam / Philadelphia: John Benjamins. p. 14. ISBN 1588110826.
  11. ^ Sportiche, Dominique; Koopman, Hilda Judith; Stabler, Edward P. (2014). An Introduction to Syntactic Analysis and Theory. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 166, 176. ISBN 9781118470480. OCLC 861536792.
  12. ^ Garner, Bryan A. (2016). Garner's Modern English Usage. Oxford University Press. p. 821. ISBN 9780190491482.
  13. ^ Williams, John (30 April 2004). "History — Modern Neologism". Gender-Neutral Pronoun FAQ (Ver. 0.9.13 ed.). Archived from the original on 5 December 2006.
  14. ^ "Canadian War Veterans Allowance Act (1985) as amended 12 December 2013" (PDF). Government of Canada. 12 December 2013. p. 18. R.S.C., 1985, c. W-3. Archived (PDF) from the original on 30 April 2020. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  15. ^ McConnell-Ginet, S. (2014). "Gender and its relation to sex: The myth of 'natural' gender". In Corbett, G. (ed.). The Expression of Gender. De Gruyter Mouton. p. 23. ISBN 9783110306606.
  16. ^ a b Huddleston, Rodney; Pullum, Geoffrey (2002). The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge University Press. pp. 488–489. ISBN 0521431468.
  17. ^ Division of Public Affairs (September 2011). "Style Guide" (PDF). Vanderbilt University. p. 34. Archived (PDF) from the original on 17 February 2010. Retrieved 17 September 2013. Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth.
  18. ^ "transgender". The Associated Press Stylebook 2015. Associated Press. 2015. ISBN 9780465097937. Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.
  19. ^ "Meeting the Health Care Needs of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) People: The End to LGBT Invisibility". The Fenway Institute. p. 24. Archived from the original (PowerPoint (.ppt)) on 20 October 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2013. Use the pronoun that matches the person's gender identity
  20. ^ Elizondo, Paul M. III; Wilkinson, Willy; Daley, Christopher (13 November 2015). "Working With Transgender Persons". Psychiatric Times. 29 (9). Phychiatric Times. Archived from the original on 21 March 2015. Retrieved 17 September 2013. If you are not sure which pronoun to use, you can ask the patient
  21. ^ "Glossary of Gender and Transgender Terms" (PDF). Fenway Health. January 2010. pp. 2 and 5. Archived (PDF) from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 13 November 2015. listen to your clients – what terms do they use to describe themselves .... Pronoun preference typically varies, including alternately using male or female pronouns using the pronoun that matches the gender presentation at that time.
  22. ^ "Competencies for Counseling with Transgender Clients" (PDF). Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues in Counseling. 18 September 2009. p. 3. Archived (PDF) from the original on 3 May 2019. Retrieved 17 November 2018. honor the set of pronouns that clients select and use them throughout the counseling process
  23. ^ a b Stitt, Alex (2020). ACT For Gender Identity: The Comprehensive Guide. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. ISBN 9781785927997. OCLC 1089850112.
  24. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions on Trans Identity" (PDF). Common Ground – Trans Etiquette. University of Richmond. Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 October 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2013. Use the correct name and pronoun – Most names and pronouns are gendered. It's important to be considerate of one's gender identity by using the pronouns of the respective gender pronouns [sic], or gender-neutral pronouns, they use
  25. ^ Glicksman, Eve (April 2013). "Transgender terminology: It's complicated". American Psychological Association. p. 39. Archived from the original on 25 September 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2013. Use whatever name and gender pronoun the person prefers
  26. ^ "Transgender FAQ". Resources. Human Rights Campaign. Archived from the original on 8 September 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2013. should be identified with their preferred pronoun
  27. ^ "Names, Pronoun Usage & Descriptions" (PDF). GLAAD Media Reference Guide. GLAAD. May 2010. p. 11. Archived from the original on 30 May 2012. Retrieved 17 September 2013. It is usually best to report on transgender people's stories from the present day instead of narrating them from some point or multiple points in the past, thus avoiding confusion and potentially disrespectful use of incorrect pronouns.
  28. ^ Pullum, Geoffrey (13 April 2012). "Sweden's gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun". Archived from the original on 8 May 2016. Retrieved 30 October 2016. our pronoun they was originally borrowed into English from the Scandinavian language family ... and since then has been doing useful service in English as the morphosyntactically plural but singular-antecedent-permitting gender-neutral pronoun known to linguists as singular they
  29. ^ Fowler, H. W. (2015). Butterfield, Jeremy (ed.). Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage. Oxford University Press. p. 814. ISBN 9780199661350.
  30. ^ a b c d e Bjorkman, Bronwyn M. (6 September 2017). "Singular they and the syntactic representation of gender in English". Glossa: A Journal of General Linguistics. 2 (1). doi:10.5334/gjgl.374. ISSN 2397-1835. Archived from the original on 8 December 2021. Retrieved 8 December 2021.
  31. ^ Bodine, Anne (1975). "Androcentrism in prescriptive grammar: Singular they, sex-indefinite he, and he or she". Language in Society. 4 (2): 129–146. doi:10.1017/S0047404500004607. JSTOR 4166805. S2CID 146362006.
  32. ^ Núñez-Pertejo, Paloma; Pérez-Guerra, Javier; López-Couso, María José; Méndez-Naya, Belén (2020). "Introduction". Crossing Linguistic Boundaries. Bloomsbury Academic. doi:10.5040/9781350053885.0007. ISBN 9781350053885. S2CID 243285248.
  33. ^ Huddleston, Rodney; Pullum, Geoffrey K. (2002). The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge University Press. p. 494. ISBN 0521431468.
  34. ^ "Definition of THEY". www.merriam-webster.com. Archived from the original on 29 June 2020. Retrieved 16 December 2021.
  35. ^ McConnell-Ginet, S. (2014). "Gender and its relation to sex: The myth of 'natural' gender". In Corbett, G. (ed.). The Expression of Gender. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. pp. 3–38 [22]. ISBN 9783110306606.
  36. ^ Krauthamer, H. S. (2021). The great pronoun shift: The big impact of little parts of speech. New York: Routledge. p. 95. ISBN 9780367210175.
  37. ^ Krauthamer, H. S. (2021). The great pronoun shift: The big impact of little parts of speech. New York: Routledge. pp. 97–98. ISBN 9780367210175.
  38. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Konnelly, Lex; Cowper, Elizabeth (29 April 2020). "Gender diversity and morphosyntax: An account of singular they". Glossa: A Journal of General Linguistics. 5 (1). doi:10.5334/gjgl.1000. ISSN 2397-1835. S2CID 201083227. Archived from the original on 8 December 2021. Retrieved 8 December 2021.
  39. ^ a b Conrod, Kirby (2019). Pronouns raising and emerging (Thesis). U of Washington. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021. Retrieved 12 December 2021.
  40. ^ a b c Moulton, Keir; Han, Chung-hye; Block, Trevor; Gendron, Holly; Nederveen, Sander (23 December 2020). "Singular they in context". Glossa: A Journal of General Linguistics. 5 (1). doi:10.5334/gjgl.1012. ISSN 2397-1835. S2CID 234453318. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021. Retrieved 12 December 2021.
  41. ^ Bradley, Evan D. (1 March 2020). "The influence of linguistic and social attitudes on grammaticality judgments of singular 'they'". Language Sciences. 78: 101272. doi:10.1016/j.langsci.2020.101272. ISSN 0388-0001. S2CID 213389978. Archived from the original on 11 March 2022. Retrieved 9 December 2021.
  42. ^ a b c Camilliere, Sadie; Izes, Amanda; Leventhal, Olivia; Grodner, Daniel (2019). Pragmatic and grammatical factors that license singular they. XPrag 2019, University of Edinburgh.
  43. ^ Wagner, Susanne (22 July 2004). Gender in English Pronouns: Myth and Reality (PDF) (PhD). Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 November 2014. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  44. ^ O'Conner, Patricia T.; Kellerman, Stewart (21 July 2009). "All-purpose Pronoun". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 30 May 2012. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  45. ^ Fowler, H. W. (2009) [1926]. A Dictionary of Modern English Usage. Oxford University Press. pp. 648–649. ISBN 9780199585892. Reprint of the original 1926 edition, with an introduction and notes by David Crystal.
  46. ^ Huddleston, Rodney; Pullum, Geoffrey K. (2002). The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge University Press. p. 492. ISBN 0521431468.
  47. ^ Safire, William (28 April 1985). "On Language: You Not Tarzan, Me Not Jane". The New York Times. pp. 46–47. Archived from the original on 7 January 2017. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  48. ^ a b c d e Miller, Casey; Swift, Kate (1995) [1981]. Mosse, Kate (ed.). The Handbook of Non-Sexist Writing (3rd British ed.). London: The Women's Press. pp. 46–48. ISBN 0704344424.
  49. ^ Adendyck [Badendyck], C. (7 July 1985). "[Letter commenting on] Hypersexism And the Feds". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 28 June 2017. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  50. ^ Dale Spender, Man Made Language, Pandora Press, 1998, p. 152.
  51. ^ a b c Merriam-Webster's Concise Dictionary of English Usage. Penguin. 2002. p. 735. ISBN 9780877796336.
  52. ^ Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. "Reference to Meaning of Word 'Persons' in Section 24 of British North America Act, 1867. Edwards v. A.G. of Canada [1930] A.C. 124". Archived from the original on 28 March 2015 – via CHRC-CCDP.ca.
  53. ^ a b "s/he". Cambridge Dictionary. Archived from the original on 12 November 2020.
  54. ^ "Definitione of 's/he'". Collins English Dictionary. Archived from the original on 10 October 2015. Retrieved 31 December 2021.
  55. ^ "Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary". The Free Dictionary. Random House. Archived from the original on 31 December 2021. Retrieved 31 December 2021.
  56. ^ a b Dubois, Betty Lou; Crouch, Isabel (1987). "Linguistic Disruption: He/She, S/He, He or She, He-She". In Penfield, Joyce (ed.). Women and Language in Transition. Vol. 10. Albany: State University of New York Press. p. 30. ISBN 9780887064852.
  57. ^ Parker-Pope, Tara (16 July 2019). "Do You Have a Generous Relationship?". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 31 December 2021. Retrieved 31 December 2021.
  58. ^ Schneller, Johanna (5 April 2002). "Whatever happened to 'boy meets girl'?". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on 31 December 2021. Retrieved 31 December 2021.
  59. ^ Delp, Deana R. (2021). WIP: Practical Applications for Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders in the Freshman Engineering Curriculum. 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. American Study for Engineering Education (ASEE). Archived from the original on 11 March 2022. Retrieved 31 December 2021.
  60. ^ Smith, Justin E.H. (3 June 2012). "The Stone: Philosophy's Western Bias". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 31 December 2021. Retrieved 31 December 2021.
  61. ^ Ates, Haydar (2012). "The Importance of Lifelong Learning has been Increasing". Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences. 46: 4092–4096. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.06.205.
  62. ^ "Suggestion for gender-based language change". ProQuest. Archived from the original on 23 April 2021. Retrieved 23 April 2021.
  63. ^ Hall, John Richard Clark (1916). A Concise Anglo−Saxon Dictionary (PDF) (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 788. Archived (PDF) from the original on 30 August 2021. Retrieved 5 September 2021.
  64. ^ Algeo, John; Pyles, Thomas (2010). The Origins and Development of the English Language (PDF) (6th ed.). pp. 91–92, 167. Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 September 2021. Retrieved 6 September 2021.
  65. ^ a b Quirk, Randolph; Greenbaum, Sidney; Leech, Geoffrey; Svartvik, Jan (1985). A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. Harlow: Longman. pp. 316–317, 342. ISBN 9780582517349.
  66. ^ Miller, Casey; Swift, Kate (1995) [1981]. Mosse, Kate (ed.). The Handbook of Non-sexist Writing (3rd British ed.). London: Women's Press. p. 58. ISBN 0704344424.
  67. ^ As with all pronouns beginning in h, the h is dropped when the word is unstressed. The reduced form a is pronounced /ə/.
  68. ^ Williams, John (1990s). "History - Native-English GNPs". Gender-Neutral Pronoun FAQ. Archived from the original on 5 December 2006. Retrieved 1 January 2007.
  69. ^ "hoo". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  70. ^ Arthur Hughes, Peter Trudgill, Dominic Watt, English Accents and Dialects: An Introduction to Social and Regional Varieties of English in the British Isles, 5th edition, Routledge, 2012, p. 35.
  71. ^ "he". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  72. ^ "she". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  73. ^ Stotko, Elaine M.; Troyer, Margaret (21 September 2007). "A New Gender-Neutral Pronoun in Baltimore, Maryland: A Preliminary Study". American Speech. 82 (3): 262–279. doi:10.1215/00031283-2007-012. Archived from the original on 10 March 2016. Retrieved 26 November 2013 – via americanspeech.dukejournals.org.
  74. ^ Liberman, Mark (7 January 2008). "Language Log: Yo". Itre.cis.upenn.edu. Archived from the original on 21 March 2019. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
  75. ^ a b Baron, Dennis (2020). "The oldest genderless pronouns are lo and zo, for French, and e, es, em, for English". The Web of Language. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved 5 January 2024.
  76. ^ Baron, Dennis (1 January 1981). "The epicene pronoun: The word that failed". American Speech. 56 (2): 83–97. doi:10.2307/455007. JSTOR 455007.
  77. ^ MacKay, Donald G. (May 1980). "Psychology, Prescriptive Grammar, and the Pronoun Problem". American Psychologist. 35 (5): 444–449. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.35.5.444.
  78. ^ Writing about literature: essay and translation skills for university, p. 90 Archived 20 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Judith Woolf, Routledge, 2005
  79. ^ Baron, Dennis (1986). "10: The Word That Failed". Grammar and Gender. Yale University Press. p. 201. ISBN 0300038836. Archived from the original on 9 May 2014. Retrieved 5 January 2010.
  80. ^ Baron, Dennis. "The Epicene Pronouns". Archived from the original on 9 May 2014. Retrieved 22 June 2010.
  81. ^ Kingdon, Jim. "Gender-free Pronouns in English". Archived from the original on 1 July 2010. Retrieved 22 June 2010.
  82. ^ "Bylaws". SkyhouseCommunity.org. Skyhouse Community. Archived from the original on 11 July 2009. Retrieved 22 June 2010.
  83. ^ "Bylaws – Sandhill – 1982". TheFEC.org. Federation of Egalitarian Communities. Archived from the original on 15 April 2013. Retrieved 22 June 2010.
  84. ^ "Bylaws – East Wind – 1974". TheFEC.org. Federation of Egalitarian Communities. Archived from the original on 15 April 2013. Retrieved 22 June 2010.
  85. ^ "Bylaws – Twin Oaks". TheFEC.org. Federation of Egalitarian Communities. Archived from the original on 13 August 2010. Retrieved 22 June 2010.
  86. ^ "Visitor Guide – Twin Oaks Community: What does all this stuff mean?". TwinOaks.org. Archived from the original on 26 July 2010. Retrieved 22 June 2010.
  87. ^ "Pronouns - Safe Zone". WOU.edu. Western Oregon University. Archived from the original on 11 May 2018. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  88. ^ "ze". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  89. ^ Sullivan, Caitlin; Bornstein, Kate (1996). Nearly Roadkill: An Infobahn Erotic Adventure. High Risk Books. ISBN 9781852424183. Archived from the original on 7 March 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2017 – via Google Books.
  90. ^ proposed in 1884 by American lawyer Charles Crozat Converse. Reference: "Epicene". The Mavens' Word of the Day. Random House. 12 August 1998. Archived from the original on 8 March 2007. Retrieved 20 December 2006.
  91. ^ Rogers, James (January 1890). "That Impersonal Pronoun". The Writer. Vol. 4, no. 1. Boston. pp. 12–13. Archived from the original on 29 September 2020. Retrieved 29 August 2019.
  92. ^ Blackburn, J.; Gottschewski, K.; George, Elsa; L, Niki (May 2000). "A Discussion about Theory of Mind: From an Autistic Perspective". Proceedings of Autism Europe's 6th International Congress, Glasgow, 19–21 May 2000. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016 – via Austistics.org. A paper that uses and defines these pronouns.
  93. ^ Black, Judie (23 August 1975). "Ey Has a Word for it". Chicago Tribune. p. 12.
  94. ^ MediaMOO's "person" gender, derived from Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time (1979), in which people of 2137 use "per" as their sole third-person pronoun.
  95. ^ Proposed by New Zealand writer Keri Hulme some time in the 1980s. Also used by writer Greg Egan for non-gendered artificial intelligences and "asex" humans.
    Egan, Greg (July 1998). Diaspora. Gollancz. ISBN 0752809253.
    Egan, Greg (1996). Distress. Phoenix. ISBN 1857994841.
  96. ^ Used in several college humanities texts published by Bandanna Books. Originated by editor Sasha Newborn in 1982.
  97. ^ Capitalized E, Eir, Eirs, Em. The change from ey to E means that, in speech, the Spivak subject pronoun would often be pronounced the same as he, since the h of he is not pronounced in unstressed positions.
  98. ^ Williams, John. "Technical: 5.2. Declension of the Major Gender-neutral Pronouns". Gender-Neutral Pronoun FAQ. Archived from the original on 6 October 2013 – via Aetherlumina.org.
  99. ^ Beeton, Barbara (2021). "Michael D. Spivak, 1940–2020". TUGboat. 42 (3): 226–227. doi:10.47397/tb/42-3/tb132beeton-spivak. ISSN 0896-3207. S2CID 244121636.
  100. ^ Creel, Richard (1997). "Ze, Zer, Mer". APA Newsletters. American Philosophical Association. Archived from the original on 12 May 2006. Retrieved 15 May 2006.
  101. ^ Example: Bornstein, Kate (1998). My Gender Workbook. Psychology Press. ISBN 0415916739.
  102. ^ Hyde, Martin (2001). "Appendix 1 – Use of gender-neutral pronouns". Democracy Education and the Canadian Voting Age (PhD). University of British Columbia. pp. 144–146. doi:10.14288/1.0055498. Archived from the original on 11 March 2022. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  103. ^ Rogerson, Mark (2013). This Moonless Sky. FriesenPress. ISBN 9781460221976. Archived from the original on 8 October 2021. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  104. ^ "Beyond 'he' and 'she': 1 in 4 LGBTQ youths use nonbinary pronouns, survey finds". NBC News. 30 July 2020. Archived from the original on 17 August 2020. Retrieved 24 August 2020.
  105. ^ "1 in 4 LGBTQ+ Youth Use Gender Neutral Pronouns, New Study Shows". Pride.com. 30 July 2020. Archived from the original on 7 August 2020. Retrieved 24 August 2020.
  106. ^ Named in domain ehshehe.com.
  107. ^ Steinbach, G. "eh, she, he, Resolving pronoun conflicts". weareall.com. Retrieved 14 December 2023.
  108. ^ Suture, Gori (November 2022). "Regarding third sex/third person singular gender-neutral pronouns". Gori Suture's Strange Tomes. Retrieved 22 January 2024.
  109. ^ Suture, Gori (April 2022). The Taste of Void. Inside Henry's Head. ISBN 978-0-359-93894-0.
  110. ^ "iel - Définitions, synonymes, conjugaison, exemples". Dico en ligne Le Robert (in French). Archived from the original on 9 December 2021. Retrieved 13 December 2021.
  111. ^ Larocque, Véronique (17 November 2021). "Le Robert | L'entrée du pronom " iel " sème la controverse". La Presse (in French). Archived from the original on 15 December 2021. Retrieved 15 December 2021.
  112. ^ a b Cohen, Roger; Gallois, Léontine (28 November 2021). "In a Nonbinary Pronoun, France Sees a U.S. Attack on the Republic". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 13 December 2021. Retrieved 13 December 2021.
  113. ^ a b c "onu/jenu". Zaimki.pl (in Polish).
  114. ^ a b c "ony/ich". Zaimki.pl (in Polish).
  115. ^ Dunin, Kinga (19 June 2021). "Mów do mnie, jak ci wygodnie. Nie sprowadzajmy problemów osób niebinarnych do zaimków". KrytykaPolityczna.pl (in Polish).
  116. ^ Dec, Tomasz (20 June 2021). "dukaizm". Nowewyrazy.pl (in Polish).
  117. ^ "An overview of Polish nonbinary pronouns • Zaimki.pl". Zaimki.pl. Retrieved 17 January 2024.
  118. ^ "Gender neutral language in Polish - Nonbinary Wiki". nonbinary.wiki. Retrieved 17 January 2024.
  119. ^ Nowacka, Katarzyna (27 April 2022). "How to Conjugate: Being Nonbinary in Poland". Autostraddle. Retrieved 17 January 2024.
  120. ^ "ono". Zaimki.pl (in Polish). Retrieved 17 January 2024.
  121. ^ Benaissa, Mina (29 July 2014). "Svenska Akademiens ordlista inför hen". Sveriges Radio. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  122. ^ Strzyżyńska, Weronika (2 February 2022). "New gender-neutral pronoun likely to enter Norwegian dictionaries". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2 February 2022. Retrieved 2 February 2022.
  123. ^ Vindenes, Urd (1 May 2015). "Bør vi begynne å si "hen" i tillegg til "hun" og "han" også i Norge?" [Should we start using "hen" [gender neutral neologism] in addition to "she" and "he" in Norway too?]. Aftenposten (in Norwegian). Archived from the original on 29 November 2020. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  124. ^ a b Ettner, Charles (2001). "In Chinese, men and women are equal – or – women and men are equal?". In Hellinger, Marlis; Bußmann, Hadumod (eds.). Gender Across Languages: The Linguistic Representation of Women and Men. Vol. 1. John Benjamins Publishing. p. 36.
  125. ^ 董, 燕萍; 李, 倩 (2011). "中国英语学习者he/she混用错误探源:语信编码中的代词性别信息缺失". 中国外语 (Foreign Languages in China) (in Chinese). 8 (3): 22–29. doi:10.13564/j.cnki.issn.1672-9382.2011.03.013. Archived from the original on 24 June 2021. Retrieved 22 June 2021.
  126. ^ Dong, Yanping; Wen, Yun; Zeng, Xiaomeng; Ji, Yifei (1 December 2015). "Exploring the Cause of English Pronoun Gender Errors by Chinese Learners of English: Evidence from the Self-paced Reading Paradigm". Journal of Psycholinguistic Research. 44 (6): 733–747. doi:10.1007/s10936-014-9314-6. ISSN 1573-6555. PMID 25178817. S2CID 11556837.
  127. ^ Robinson, Douglas (17 February 2017). Critical Translation Studies. Taylor & Francis. p. 36. ISBN 9781315387857.
  128. ^ 余, 佳颖 (2016). "海外中国英语学习者口语中代词性别错误研究". 武陵学刊 (in Chinese). 41 (1): 138–142. doi:10.16514/j.cnki.cn43-1506/c.2016.01.023.
  129. ^ a b Liu, Lydia H. (1995). Translingual Practice: Literature, National Culture, and Translated Modernity – China, 1900–1937. Stanford University Press. pp. 36–38. ISBN 9780804725354.
  130. ^ "Chinese Character Database: Phonologically Disambiguated According to the Cantonese Dialect". Humanum.Arts.CUHK.edu.hk. Chinese University of Hong Kong. 2006. Archived from the original on 21 February 2011. Retrieved 16 February 2007. The entry for "" notes its use as a third-person pronoun in Cantonese: "佢". Humanum.Arts.CUHK.edu.hk. Chinese University of Hong Kong. Archived from the original on 23 July 2020. But the entry for "" does not; it only gives the pronunciation geoi6 and notes that it is used in place names: "姖". Humanum.Arts.CUHK.edu.hk. Chinese University of Hong Kong. Archived from the original on 22 July 2020.
  131. ^ Mair, Victor (19 April 2013). "He / she / it / none of the above". Language Log. Archived from the original on 30 June 2020.
  132. ^ Mair, Victor (26 December 2013). "A Gender-neutral Pronoun (Re)emerges in China". Slate. Archived from the original on 30 August 2020. Retrieved 27 January 2020. others – all pronounced tā – are now being replaced by the actual letters 'ta'!
  133. ^ Iwasaki, Shoichi (2002). Japanese (Revised ed.). Philadelphia: J. Benjamins. ISBN 90-272-7314-6. Archived from the original on 1 December 2016.
  134. ^ a b Okamoto, Shigeko; Shibamoto Smith, Janet S., eds. (2004). Japanese Language, Gender, and Ideology: Cultural Models and Real People. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-534729-6. Archived from the original on 26 September 2015.

Further reading[edit]

  • Curzan, Anne (2003). Gender shifts in the history of English. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521820073. (includes chapters on "she" for ships and generic he)

External links[edit]