But what if you needed all those choices because of the English language? English Language Learners Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of other languages learning English. Generally, French pronouns don’t have a proper gender or number, they inherit from their referent. But are they enough? If it seems like English-speakers are dissatisfied, the situation for speakers of gendered languages—which stipulate strict gender distinctions for both humans and objects—is far worse. but at least in English, one can use female or other pronouns or nouns to, as the book Gender Across Languages put it, “emphasize women’s [or other’s] presence in the world.” In a language that can’t grammatically distinguish between he, she, and ze, androcentricity—or male bias—can be even more insidious. Transgender German respondent #98 added: “The options that English presents work reasonably well for me and I can express my gender identity and use preferred pronouns […]. A few gender pioneers, however, have co-opted it. That is because I am not really out as non-binary. Gender (le genre) is an intrinsic characteristic of nouns : they are grammatically either masculine or feminine.. In the same survey, transgender French respondent #171 was clear and succinct: All rights reserved. However, some languages don’t have gendered pronouns at all, so grammatical context clues are used to determine the speaker’s gender. “[S]peaking a gendered language as an agender person fuckin’ sucks. [In] German I struggle a lot with language and [I am] often very unhappy with the situation of [the lack of] German gender-neutral language. Gender Across Languages Volume 4, published in 2015, notes the appearance of the term tema-ke or ‘little him/her,’ in use in newspapers and online to force a feminine aspect; the 2013 Spike Jonze movie Her, for example, is called Temake in Estonian. It’s worth noting that the issue isn’t widely discussed [yet] in Russia, because in my opinion society isn’t ready to accept gender on a spectrum. Those who don’t know why I use that case either question it, or they think I think I’m a guy, or they just ignore it. use “he/his” when referring to a generic individual in the third person. A version of this article appeared in The Establishment and is used here with permission. The Académie Française, France’s ultimate language authority, issued a furious statementright after the book’s release. This is far from perfect—but it may be the best option yet for those who identify along a spectrum. “For example, in English, there are multiple nouns that I can use to classify myself (partner, student) without making reference to gender, whereas in German I’m supposed to say the feminine form of many common categories into which I fit, like student (Studentin), and have to explain myself when I refuse.” This binary reference of gender no longer applies to the increasing broadening nomenclature of gender identities and expressions. Introduction. It only takes a minute to sign up. And notably, English as a language is mostly without grammatical gender). Many of the world's languages do not have gender-specific pronouns. In my opinion, the language plays a pretty large role in how agender people feel about themselves, because [Russian] isn’t flexible enough for us. Broadly speaking, there are three kinds of languages: Find out more at our Patreon page. We’re always open to additions, corrections and newly coined words! “When I was using gender-neutral pronouns in English, it was almost impossible to get anyone who wasn’t in the queer community to use ‘they’ for me consistently. But you know what’s interesting? “I think after some time I’ll be able to do the same for myself [in Russian].”, It’s clear that, not surprisingly, natural gender and gendered languages pose problems for identity expression. The bottom-left corner shows the genderless third-person pronoun tema, which means “he” or “she”. I also speak English, and I use the ‘they/them’ in English. I do not mean pronouns like He, She, It. Note: in Slavic languages marked with an asterisk (*), traditionally only masculine, feminine and neuter genders are recognized, with animacy as a separate category for the masculine and feminine (in East Slavic languages) or masculine only (elsewhere); the actual situation is similar to Czech. Agender people have the hardest time expressing their identity in highly gendered languages, but genderless languages are not the utopia one may imagine. Even without considering the exclusionary effects of these strategies, they were the worst of the four, anyways. When a language has gendered pronouns, the use of a particular word as a dummy pronoun may involve the selection of a particular gender, even though there is no noun to agree with. Pronouns in English don’t hurt me, as long as no one does it on purpose. Turns out that genderless languages can include “seemingly gender-neutral terms” that do in fact have a sneaky male bias, just like natural and gendered languages. Gender-specific and gender-neutral pronouns; Gender-specific and gender-neutral third-person pronouns; I was responsible for the addition of "third-person", so I obviously agree with much of what you say, though I was wondering if I had gone too far, since there is a little information on first- and second-person pronouns in other languages. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during the first session of the 117th Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021. Gender in European languages. Also, the dichotomy of “he … In English, one can say they are a teacher with a partner, and no one’s gender is revealed; French and German lack that luxury. In French, there is no neutral gender like in some other languages, like German, so every noun has a grammatical gender, including the ones who describe things without a natural gender. But I had the impression that people outside the queer world (not LGBT but ‘queer’ as in challenging gender binaries) had an even harder time with the idea of a gender-neutral pronoun than with the idea of someone ‘crossing’ gender lines (i.e. All rights reserved, Between Two Shores: A Visual Love Letter to the Curonian Spit, An Eccentric Cold War Education: Revisiting the Lithuanian Gymnasium in Germany, Fiction: Saulius Šaltenis – Diary of a Jewish Girl, Searching for Nikolajs Hercbergs: the Mystery Man Who Photographed Riga, Sillamäe: Inside a Former Soviet Secret City in Estonia, [S]peaking a gendered language as an agender person fuckin’ sucks, one can use female or other pronouns or nouns. Please consider making a monthly donation – help support our writers and in-depth coverage of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. I’m constantly misgendered, or I’m misgendering myself in order to be understood.” These are typically borrowed words like кафе (cafe) that do not take a masculine or feminine case. ‘Homosexual propaganda’ is still a fineable offence in the Russian Federation…” In the mid-1500s, William Lily declared in his Latin textbook that “the masculine gender is more worthy than the feminine, and the feminine more worthy than the neuter.” (He was speaking in the context of grammatical gender, rather than biological sex or socially-constructed gender roles in humans. A young Estonian agender person interviewed for this article who prefers the name Paul does find “tema,” the genderless Estonian pronoun, helpful. Polina Ravlyuk, a Russian blogger who runs an information portal on gender and gender identification, wrote to me in an email: It shapes how we are thought about and sometimes contributes to social dysphoria. Maybe someday I could use them, though. Anagha Srikanth | Jan. 4, 2021. Routledge Dictionary of Language and Linguistics, 1996. p.437, http://babel.ucsc.edu/~hank/105/Esperanto16.pdf, Biak: Description of an Austronesian Language of Papua, https://web.archive.org/web/20070904225112/http://www.latrobe.edu.au/rclt/StaffPages/aikhenvald%2Bdownloads/ClassifiersELL2published.pdf, https://scholar.harvard.edu/mpolinsky/files/Dyirbal.pdf, https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/data/UQ_11037/rpopt.pdf?Expires=1495704752&Signature=f5dJsIP1bJ4D3ICf4UTKiBehPDgx4Q8AUj~SIe4tL1-2n-fkAHl7fKtYDxYQ918mu0UUKM9OfGxw~DC3I-T~QRiGWHUhtl~RnJ4hH5TZNFO7RFouVpXeaBlRRd1fT0t8I7sTswoT9qjwZ3zqV3O-fGfOHUoblz4Aayl7U5IsPGK6sXpacpkketqOf~bXayFbg9C~kj~QJkm-naqsAdVeQkngzUw1~hymGbd2rNcVnGXxeq4g6S04aoF2idHVfE8JAlJ1ov6~MG83dp6BhqtRRzCxV396TyyUjc4AdHqUZrsvchvpYnjPBqNH5MKMfKD8CKGDG7Fgtf9fBgTAiBz2qg__&Key-Pair-Id=APKAJKNBJ4MJBJNC6NLQ, https://www.africa.upenn.edu/NEH/rwlanguage.htm, "The Augment in Kirundi: When Syntax Meets Phonology", https://www.researchgate.net/publication/324224169_The_Ha_Language_of_Tanzania_Grammar_Texts_and_Vocabulary, "Difficult Languages: Tongue Twisters - In search of the world's hardest language", https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=List_of_languages_by_type_of_grammatical_genders&oldid=999834645, Articles with unsourced statements from February 2019, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Header image: Old Town of Tallinn, Estonia [Credit: maigi under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported Licence] “When I don’t know someone’s gender, I talk about them in the plural,” they say. In English, these terms include they as a singular, ze/zir or zie/zir, ze/hir or other variations, and Mx. Traditionally, many languages use gender binary pronouns and suffixes. As one Quora poster explained, “We just don’t distinguish the gender through the pronoun. Anybody can ask a question Anybody can answer The best answers are voted up and rise to the top Home Questions Tags Users Unanswered What is the possessive pronoun for a person whose gender we … English has many false generics (male nurse, anyone?) I did see that there is a writing system for ASL, Dragon, but #1 writing isn't practiced that much, and #2 this article is pretty much based on spoken languages without gender pronouns. In English when I use ‘they’ to refer to a person, most people don’t notice it. In Estonian there is no gender in pronouns, but there are marker words like ‘tüdruk’ (girl), ‘preili’ (Ms.), or ‘neiu’ (a young woman) that I don’t identify with, but which are used by older people addressing me. In Spanish, moon is feminine, and dress is masculine. I somehow identify more with neutral or masculine marker words, and names. I prefer ‘they’ or ‘he’ in English, but I don’t usually say it to people unless they ask. It might be confusing, she says, but many languages don't have gender pronouns at all. I would prefer the gender-neutral pronoun ‘tema’ or my name. Sign up to join this community. For people who don’t identify along the gender binary, these grammatical differences can be significant. However, when the referent doesn’t exist (in the case of the nominal pronouns) or if it has an indefinite gender, then the pronoun takes his masculine form. So people would default to ‘she’, which was unbearable to me. If I can’t use she or ze, this kind of sexist/gendered assumption can be even more difficult to notice and correct. Half of millennials in the United States think that gender isn’t limited to male and female, and in the U.S., Facebook offers 56 custom options to select for gender. So ‘he’ felt lots safer to me since it was farther away from ‘they’ and easier for people to wrap their minds around.” In Filipino, mostly Tagalog, we only use “siya” or “them” to refer to a person. What can we take away from all this? Gender neutrality and gender nullification lead to cleaner, more elegant sentences. Paul writes: “Usually people use the gender-neutral ‘tema’ [when] talking about any person, and because it’s the most common way to refer to a person, there is no issue with which pronoun to use. In languages with a neuter gender, a neuter pronoun is usually used, as in German es regnet ("it rains, it's raining"), where es is the neuter third person singular pronoun. Some languages that do have gender-specific pronouns have them as part of a grammatical gender system, where all or the vast majority of nouns are assigned to gender classes and adjectives and other modifiers must agree with them in that; but a few languages with gender-specific pronouns, such as English, Afrikaans, Defaka, Khmu, Malayalam, Tamil, … Would you care less about the pronouns for yourself? Genderless languages: Chinese, Estonian, Finnish, and other languages don’t categorize any nouns as feminine or masculine, and use the same word for he or she in regards to humans. requesting ‘he’ instead of ‘she’). Tosha, a young Russian who identifies as agender, told me: To find out how one’s native language and gender identity intersect, I spoke with people from several countries who have come out as genderqueer, nonbinary— gender-questioning in some way—and their answers reveal the importance of grammar in the expression of gender identity. Let’s first see examples where the pronoun inherits the gender of the referent: Tu es une belle femme. A table, for instance, is a feminine noun in French— “She is a lovely table!”—while a tree is a masculine noun in German. Some languages of the world (including most Austronesian languages, many East Asian languages, the Quechuan languages, and the Uralic languages ) 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 … Assumptions about the binary nature of gender and the status of masculinity seem to survive intact, even under genderless language conditions. Gendered languages: Russian, German, and French are prominent examples of this kind of language, in which both people and objects are given a gender. Friends and close acquaintances call me ‘Paul,’ which I really like to be called. One participant wrote: A gender neutral or gender inclusive pronoun is a pronoun which does not associate a gender with the individual who is being discussed. (Spotted by @antimytheme) 5. The aim is to enhance the language by making it easier to speak about a person without specifying their gender, though some Swedish speakers are trying to promote the use of hen as a replacement for male and female pronouns; meaning everyone would be referred to without their gender being specified. Language and Power in Politics: A Gender Stereotype Game; Using Language to Examine Power and Gender Gradients Between YouTube’s Influencers; Man Up! Were we able to go back in time over a hundred years and ask casual people in the streets about gender, we would notice that their answers would pertain to a grammatical category rather than a social phenomenon. For example, the word lakimies (literally lawman or lawyer) in Finnish is what is called a false generic. “I planted him in the forest, where he will grow very tall!” Be ready for a complex answer . Some languages, such as English, do not have a gender neutral or third gender pronoun available, and this has been criticized, since in many instances, writers, speakers, etc. What if you spoke a language that didn’t even have separate words for “him” or “her,” like Estonian? Scroll down for English version (in progress!) Pronomen. Lily’s book … Tema is used only for humans, and when used in a sentence, it is neither masculine nor feminine. House introduces gender-neutral language in new rules for Congress . We don’t have gendered pronouns, so a regular person might call a cis man a she by accident, and not be corrected, because we are not native speakers.”. A personal pronoun diagram for Russian and Estonian learning. [Image courtesy of Eesti keele õppimiseks]. That the language is very gendered is a big problem in my life.” Men are the standard and everything else is the exception. We don’t have gender-specific pronouns. In addition, the “-ke” ending in Estonian denotes a diminutive, something small and cute. In my own family, it’s been difficult for most of them, though my friends, mother, and grandmother easily adjusted to using masculine pronouns to refer to me. Key words: gender, gender-specific pronouns, gender-neutral pronouns, language, social identity. To start looking at the effects of language spoken on pronoun preferences, it’s important to understand grammatical gender, a method of categorizing nouns in a language, typically as masculine, feminine, or neuter. Those in light blue have no gender system [Image: Wikiwand], “Natural gender” languages like English perpetuate the idea of a strict gender binary for humans—one can be either “he” or “she.” But there is an option to challenge these parameters: the use of gender-neutral terms. Certain language families, such as the Austronesian, Turkic and Uralic language families, usually have no grammatical genders (see genderless language). To put it simply, choosing the right pronoun is a big deal. In Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation, authors Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman emphasize the politics of language itself and of having “the agency to have our own words and definitions of them, and insist upon them to linguistic passers-by.” A natural gender language with a history of borrowed words, like English, has the flexibility to create pronouns to suit how a person feels inside. It doesn’t allow for a lack of gender; you always have to pick something. Russian is a gendered language that does feature a neuter third-person pronoun, оно [it]. Because of the language barrier, that doesn’t feel unnatural for me, and besides, [i]n Russian almost all the verbs and adjectives have gender, and in English it’s not like that. It might be helpful to demonstrate how to execute gender pronoun nullification. Though Estonian people using the term tema may not specifically picture a man or a woman, they invariably picture either a man or a woman, not anyone else in between. by Erin Crouch, TALLINN These terms are undoubtedly beneficial, helping to allow for expression of gender fluidity. Like what Deep Baltic does? To put it simply, choosing the right pronoun is a big deal. Story at a … Those who answered “yes and no” detailed both positive and negative aspects. Some languages without noun class may have noun classifiers instead. Faced with that level of discrimination, the use of pronouns can seem far down the list of priorities. Jan Bułhak – the Man Who Captured Turn-of-the-Century Vilnius, Photographic Notes on Latvia's Capital – Ģirts Raģelis, Copyright © 2021 Deep Baltic. I use masculine pronouns, even though they don’t suit me very well. And some Republicans are predictably, ignorantly, unnecessarily mad about it. These factors would be the reason for why it wasn't included on the list, sweilan1. I lack usable and easy to learn/apply pronouns and descriptions of myself. Plural or ‘neuter’ cases in Russian aren’t comfortable for me. Without my clarification, most people will picture a male CEO. New reforms promote inclusion and diversity. This article lists languages depending on their approach to grammatical gender. By . I mean like in german,, sun is masculine, door is feminine, and grass is neutral. This pronoun is not typically applied to people; instead it is used only for objects with neuter noun names. There can also be situations where a woman can refer to herself in the masculine way grammatically and vice versa. Natural gender languages: English is an example of this kind of language, which doesn’t categorize non-human, non-animal nouns into male or female categories. Women in American Sitcoms; I Hate to Interrupt, but… Examining Interruptions, Face-Threatening Acts, and Banter in Mixed-Sex Two-Person Conversational Style Sports Interviews The document signed by the academy’s 40 members — only five of whom are women — de… Does Estonian offer a natural home for the nonbinary? Many Australian languages have a system of gender superclassing in which membership in one gender can mean membership in another. It makes some things so much easier…one does not need to make assumptions about gender when trying to address someone.” This is common in East Asian languages. The new Congressional rules swap out gender-specific pronouns and other references for neutral language. in written forms. There’s no “him/her” or “he/she” either. So there is some slip of pronouns going on unintentionally, especially with Estonian people speaking in English. Some languages have a gender-neutral case, such as German es and English it, but these pronouns usually don’t refer to people. Certain language families, such as the Austronesian, Turkic and Uralic language families, usually have no grammatical genders (see genderless language). Female lawyers are called just that: female lawyers. Erin Crouch lives in Tacoma, Washington and Tallinn, Estonia. On November 2017, France was caught in the middle of a heated debate over the future of its own language. Half of millennials in the United States think that gender isn’t limited to male and female, and in the U.S., Facebook offers 56 custom options to select for gender. Too many options can feel a bit creepy, and people may feel like … This page was last edited on 12 January 2021, at 05:18. And also,, i am fully aware that there are nouns that correspond to gender in english (but that change accordingly) such as blond/blonde, waiter/waitress, bachlor/bachlorette, etc. Tosha also notes that there’s the option to use a plural pronoun when referring to agender people. Depending on the context, there are several solutions with more or fewer labels. Asexual Finnish student Kati agrees, saying, “I’m so happy Finnish has only one [ungendered] pronoun. But what about genderless languages? Or what if just about every noun in your world was masculine or feminine—seemingly at random, like in Russian? You want to make it as simple as you can, so you don’t overwhelm users with options. For example, Seroe Fioletovoe [Gray Violet]—a transgender Russian activist who is part of the artist collective Война [War], best known for spawning punk activists Pussy Riot—uses “оно” to describe themself. In these languages, animate nouns are predominantly of common gender, while inanimate nouns may be of either gender. A school textbook promoting a more inclusive version of French had been released, making purists fly off the handle. Being Non-Binary in a Language Without Gendered Pronouns – Estonian. Issued a furious statementright after the book ’ s book … the new Congressional rules swap gender-specific! [ ungendered ] pronoun ’ s the option to use a plural pronoun when referring to agender people, genderless... To learn/apply pronouns and suffixes effects of these strategies, they inherit from their.... He ’ instead of ‘ she ’ ): they are grammatically either masculine or feminine—seemingly at random, in... That do not have gender-specific pronouns and suffixes have genders for nearly everything, even objects context, there several. Is the exception like кафе ( cafe ) that do not mean pronouns like he,,! You want to make it as simple as you can, so you don ’ t users... Corner shows the genderless third-person pronoun tema, which was unbearable to me English are native. These strategies, they were the worst of the world 's languages do not have gender-specific.. Slip of pronouns going on unintentionally, especially with Estonian people speaking English. Binary nature of gender ; you always have to pick something is being discussed languages on... Call me ‘ Paul, ’ which I really like to be called make as! Coverage of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania common gender, while inanimate nouns may be of gender! Simply, choosing the right pronoun is not typically applied to people ; instead is! One [ ungendered ] pronoun include they as a language is mostly without gender... Female lawyers are called just that: female lawyers are called just that: lawyers... For why it was n't included on the context, there are several solutions more... The nonbinary some slip of pronouns going on unintentionally, especially with Estonian people speaking in English when don... Yet for those who identify along a spectrum site for speakers of other languages learning English the effects. Feminine—Seemingly at random, like in Russian aren ’ t identify along the gender the... Diagram for Russian and Estonian learning off the handle people don ’ t me... It shapes how we are thought about and sometimes contributes to social dysphoria the Académie Française, France caught. French pronouns don ’ t overwhelm users with options being discussed and answer site for speakers of other learning! Corner shows the genderless third-person pronoun tema, which was unbearable to me a system of gender fluidity only. Beneficial, helping to allow for expression of gender superclassing in which membership one! Application, including examples male lawyers for humans, and only people are he she! “ I ’ m so happy Finnish has languages without gender pronouns one [ ungendered ].. Diminutive, something small and cute, more elegant sentences where the pronoun -ke ” ending in denotes! Language conditions me ‘ Paul, ’ which I really like to be called new rules Congress..., at 05:18 them in the third person because of the world languages! English language Learners Stack Exchange is a pronoun which does not associate a gender neutral masculine. Erin Crouch lives in Tacoma, Washington and Tallinn, Estonia cleaner, more elegant sentences solutions. Nullification lead to cleaner, more elegant sentences with options all lawyers, but in languages without gender pronouns, it to. Kind of sexist/gendered assumption can be significant mean membership in one gender can mean in... How we are thought about and sometimes contributes to social dysphoria have gender-specific pronouns and of! ’ which I really like to be called pronouns like he, she, it small cute! 2021, at 05:18 few gender pioneers, however, have co-opted it about pronouns! And Estonian learning Française, France ’ s release along the gender of the referent: Tu es belle! Off the handle a person in Spanish, moon is feminine, and dress is masculine and newly coined!... Donation – help support our writers and in-depth coverage of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania it! Is feminine, and Mx identities and expressions of ‘ she ’ which. You can, so you don ’ t hurt me, as long as no one does on... Reference of gender fluidity last edited on 12 January 2021, at 05:18 the pronoun binary! A language without Gendered pronouns – Estonian expressing their identity in highly Gendered languages, but languages... ‘ neuter ’ cases in Russian nouns may be of either gender school promoting... Pronouns like he, she, it is used only for humans, and only people are or. Is a pronoun which does not associate a gender neutral or gender inclusive pronoun is typically... With more or fewer labels first see examples where the pronoun inherits the gender through the pronoun the. For yourself are several solutions with more or fewer labels it refers only male... Inclusive pronoun is a big deal the best option yet for those who identify along gender... And gender nullification lead to cleaner, more elegant sentences for yourself gender, I about... I really like to be called natural home for the nonbinary without noun class may have noun classifiers instead addition. And cute, issued a furious statementright after the book ’ s maybe because the people talk! It might be helpful to demonstrate how to execute gender pronoun nullification language in new rules for.... About and sometimes contributes to social dysphoria you can, so you don ’ t identify along the of... Like to be called to be called, while inanimate nouns may the. Masculine way grammatically and vice versa vice versa languages have a system of gender and the status masculinity!