How can we entirely eliminate gendered pronouns?

A discussion concerning replacing gendered pronouns with gender-neutral pronouns

Discuss various aspects of natural language.

Moderators: Calilasseia, ADParker

How can we entirely eliminate gendered pronouns?

#1  Postby Jake » Oct 02, 2014 4:55 am

I've already posted my argument against the use of gendered pronouns here. Please post counterarguments or criticisms of my stance against gendered pronouns to that thread. If you agree with my stance and are interested in discussing methods of eliminating gendered pronouns or are interested in discussing specific gender-neutral pronouns, you've found the appropriate thread.

I'll begin the discussion by linking to Wikipedia's list of English gender-neutral pronouns. I'm personally partial to thon/thons/thonself because it flows naturally off of my tongue and feels similar to the singular "they" except that it can actually take singular rather than plural verbs. I dislike the apparently popular ey/em/eir/eirs/eirself because it sounds too much like he/him/himself when spoken quickly mid-sentence. I also like it/its/itself, but many people find it dehumanizing and may refuse to adopt it.

Overall I believe our goal should be to find a suitable gender-neutral replacement for the traditional he/she dichotomy that will actually be accepted by the mainstream. It seems people would be most willing to accept singular they/them/their/theirs/themself because it's most familiar and is often used to refer to people of unknown gender anyway. However I would personally prefer not to use it simply because its use of plural verbs seems clumsy.

The other issue we need to address is how we actually replace gendered pronouns with gender-neutral ones. I have no Linguistic expertise and would welcome the input of anyone with a better understanding of how language evolves over time, or an understanding of how certain words become politically incorrect and socially unacceptable.

Oh, and I suppose it's obvious I'm an English speaker and am referring to English when I talk about language and pronouns. I have a bit of experience with Spanish, and I must say the romantic languages are going to have a tough time eliminating inherently gendered language. I have no suggestions to those who wish to de-gender languages that seem to include gender in every other word. All I can say is I'm glad English only has to deal with pronouns!

P.S. If anyone is interested in experimenting with gender-neutral pronouns, I'd be enthusiastic about engaging in practice conversations about real or imagined people and situations using entirely gender-neutral language.
Last edited by Jake on Oct 02, 2014 2:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Jake
THREAD STARTER
 
Posts: 7

Print view this post

Ads by Google


Re: How can we entirely eliminate gendered pronouns?

#2  Postby Thomas Eshuis » Oct 02, 2014 7:13 am

Jake wrote:I've already posted my argument against the use of gendered pronouns here. Please post counterarguments or criticisms of my stance against gendered pronouns to that thread.

Where did you this and more importantly, how? Your avatar cites you as only having posted 1 post?!?
"Respect for personal beliefs = "I am going to tell you all what I think of YOU, but don't dare retort and tell what you think of ME because...it's my personal belief". Hmm. A bully's charter and no mistake."
User avatar
Thomas Eshuis
 
Name: Thomas Eshuis
Posts: 31080
Age: 31
Male

Country: Netherlands
European Union (eur)
Print view this post

Re: How can we entirely eliminate gendered pronouns?

#3  Postby babel » Oct 02, 2014 7:36 am

My first question, as a non native speaker, would be: what would be the purpose of this change to gender neutral pronouns. Are they inherently bad and should they be avoided as a result??
To me, they are carriers of information about the subject of the sentence. Making them neutral takes away some of that information. Now you could argue that gender is by default an unnecessary information and I would disagree. In many circumstances, it's still relevant.
Milton Jones: "Just bought a broken second hand time machine - plan to fix it, have lots of adventures then go back and not buy it, he he idiots.."
User avatar
babel
 
Posts: 4675
Age: 40
Male

Country: Belgium
Belgium (be)
Print view this post

Re: How can we entirely eliminate gendered pronouns?

#4  Postby Thomas Eshuis » Oct 02, 2014 7:41 am

babel wrote:My first question, as a non native speaker, would be: what would be the purpose of this change to gender neutral pronouns. Are they inherently bad and should they be avoided as a result??
To me, they are carriers of information about the subject of the sentence. Making them neutral takes away some of that information. Now you could argue that gender is by default an unnecessary information and I would disagree. In many circumstances, it's still relevant.

I can see use for people who don't identify as any particular gender, but to abolish them in general seems silly, as the vast majority does identify as either male or female.

Note: I think the OP is talking about gender specifically, not to be confused with sex, i.e. physical characteristics.
"Respect for personal beliefs = "I am going to tell you all what I think of YOU, but don't dare retort and tell what you think of ME because...it's my personal belief". Hmm. A bully's charter and no mistake."
User avatar
Thomas Eshuis
 
Name: Thomas Eshuis
Posts: 31080
Age: 31
Male

Country: Netherlands
European Union (eur)
Print view this post

Re: How can we entirely eliminate gendered pronouns?

#5  Postby epepke » Oct 02, 2014 7:53 am

Thomas Eshuis wrote:Note: I think the OP is talking about gender specifically, not to be confused with sex, i.e. physical characteristics.


That's a good comment, and it refers to a meaning of "gender" that was common 20 or 30 years ago but isn't any more. In a roundabout way, that's important.

Personally, I wish we could get rid of the idea of gender. I agree with Patti Smith that being any gender at all is a total drag. The idea that you're supposed to do or think things because of whether you are an innie or an outie (except for the obvious bits about which mucous membranes you can rub against which others) is an idea that makes no sense to me.

But most people seem to like it, and they aren't going to go for words that don't do it for them. It doesn't really matter how pretty or sensible a gender-neutral pronoun is; people aren't going to use it.

Speaking of which, "it" was a common word to use for infants up until about a hundred years ago. People find that abhorrent these days. They like to think in terms of masculine and feminine. They like thinking "you have a penis, therefore..." Even most of the people who object like to use it when it's the other one, or whatever.
User avatar
epepke
 
Posts: 4080

Country: US
United States (us)
Print view this post

Re: How can we entirely eliminate gendered pronouns?

#6  Postby hackenslash » Oct 02, 2014 8:08 am

I'm far more interested in verb tenses appropriate for time travellers myself. Not seeing the value of marmalising the language to deal with gender distinctions.
User avatar
hackenslash
 
Name: The Other Sweary One
Posts: 21440
Age: 51
Male

Country: Republic of Mancunia
Print view this post

Re: How can we entirely eliminate gendered pronouns?

#7  Postby orpheus » Oct 02, 2014 8:25 am

hackenslash wrote:I'm far more interested in verb tenses appropriate for time travellers myself. Not seeing the value of marmalising the language to deal with gender distinctions.


You must know this, of course.
“A way a lone a last a loved a long the”

—James Joyce
User avatar
orpheus
 
Posts: 7274
Age: 56
Male

Country: New York, USA
United States (us)
Print view this post

Ads by Google


Re: How can we entirely eliminate gendered pronouns?

#8  Postby orpheus » Oct 02, 2014 8:25 am

Thomas Eshuis wrote:
Jake wrote:I've already posted my argument against the use of gendered pronouns here. Please post counterarguments or criticisms of my stance against gendered pronouns to that thread.

Where did you this and more importantly, how? Your avatar cites you as only having posted 1 post?!?


I wonder about that too. And Jake, without seeing your arguments I cannot post counter arguments. So I'll just say that although gendered pronouns can sometimes be troublesome, I think the language would be far poorer without them. In other words, I think we'd lose more than we'd gain. It seems a bad bargain. Moreover, unless one is some sort of god, it's highly unlikely that one would be able to consciously make sweeping and enduring changes to a worldwide language - especially when the changes would go so deep in the chronological and structural roots of the language.



Edited to add most of the post. Apologies for that!
Last edited by orpheus on Oct 02, 2014 8:38 am, edited 2 times in total.
“A way a lone a last a loved a long the”

—James Joyce
User avatar
orpheus
 
Posts: 7274
Age: 56
Male

Country: New York, USA
United States (us)
Print view this post

Re: How can we entirely eliminate gendered pronouns?

#9  Postby hackenslash » Oct 02, 2014 8:28 am

orpheus wrote:
hackenslash wrote:I'm far more interested in verb tenses appropriate for time travellers myself. Not seeing the value of marmalising the language to deal with gender distinctions.


You must know this, of course.


Indeedy.
User avatar
hackenslash
 
Name: The Other Sweary One
Posts: 21440
Age: 51
Male

Country: Republic of Mancunia
Print view this post

Re: How can we entirely eliminate gendered pronouns?

#10  Postby Animavore » Oct 02, 2014 9:14 am

I'm not sure how gendered neutral pronouns are going to be helpful. Especially when telling a story about a conversation you overheard between a man and a woman. It's going to get muddled very quickly as to which thon said which.
A most evolved electron.
User avatar
Animavore
 
Name: The Scribbler
Posts: 44683
Age: 42
Male

Ireland (ie)
Print view this post

Re: How can we entirely eliminate gendered pronouns?

#11  Postby Fallible » Oct 02, 2014 9:21 am

I know! The man could be 'thon' and the woman could be 'thone'. That should prevent any misunderstanding. :whistle:
She battled through in every kind of tribulation,
She revelled in adventure and imagination.
She never listened to no hater, liar,
Breaking boundaries and chasing fire.
Oh, my my! Oh my, she flies!
User avatar
Fallible
RS Donator
 
Name: Alice Pooper
Posts: 51607
Age: 48
Female

Country: Engerland na na
Canada (ca)
Print view this post

Re: How can we entirely eliminate gendered pronouns?

#12  Postby Clive Durdle » Oct 02, 2014 9:25 am

Is there a problem with they being used as you is - both singular and plural? Why invent new words when you can tweak the meaning of existing words?
"We cannot slaughter each other out of the human impasse"
Clive Durdle
 
Name: Clive Durdle
Posts: 4854

Country: UK
United Kingdom (uk)
Print view this post

Re: How can we entirely eliminate gendered pronouns?

#13  Postby Evolving » Oct 02, 2014 9:28 am

Animavore wrote:I'm not sure how gendered neutral pronouns are going to be helpful. Especially when telling a story about a conversation you overheard between a man and a woman. It's going to get muddled very quickly as to which thon said which.


No more muddled than a story about a conversation between a man and another man. But I agree, since we have the pronouns, we might as well use them, because they do contribute to clarity, where they happen to be different; and the practical chances of persuading the entire English-speaking world to do away with them are, I estimate, about the same as those of persuading them to do away with English altogether and move to Esperanto.

I don't think the existence of gendered pronouns is an issue; what is an issue, is the lack of a gender-neutral default pronoun, when you are talking abstractly and the person in question could be of either sex. "Any person travelling with South West Trains must be able to produce a valid ticket for the whole of their journey": nowadays we are moving towards they/them/their, but we haven't got all the way yet.
How extremely stupid not to have thought of that - T.H. Huxley
User avatar
Evolving
 
Name: Serafina Pekkala
Posts: 11993
Female

Country: Luxembourg
Luxembourg (lu)
Print view this post

Re: How can we entirely eliminate gendered pronouns?

#14  Postby Evolving » Oct 02, 2014 9:29 am

Fallible wrote:I know! The man could be 'thon' and the woman could be 'thone'. That should prevent any misunderstanding. :whistle:


:)
How extremely stupid not to have thought of that - T.H. Huxley
User avatar
Evolving
 
Name: Serafina Pekkala
Posts: 11993
Female

Country: Luxembourg
Luxembourg (lu)
Print view this post

Re: How can we entirely eliminate gendered pronouns?

#15  Postby babel » Oct 02, 2014 9:30 am

Evolving wrote:
Animavore wrote:I'm not sure how gendered neutral pronouns are going to be helpful. Especially when telling a story about a conversation you overheard between a man and a woman. It's going to get muddled very quickly as to which thon said which.


No more muddled than a story about a conversation between a man and another man. But I agree, since we have the pronouns, we might as well use them, because they do contribute to clarity, where they happen to be different; and the practical chances of persuading the entire English-speaking world to do away with them are, I estimate, about the same as those of persuading them to do away with English altogether and move to Esperanto.

I don't think the existence of gendered pronouns is an issue; what is an issue, is the lack of a gender-neutral default pronoun, when you are talking abstractly and the person in question could be of either sex. "Any person travelling with South West Trains must be able to produce a valid ticket for the whole of their journey": nowadays we are moving towards they/them/their, but we haven't got all the way yet.

One wonders what to use in case of a single person. :shifty:
Milton Jones: "Just bought a broken second hand time machine - plan to fix it, have lots of adventures then go back and not buy it, he he idiots.."
User avatar
babel
 
Posts: 4675
Age: 40
Male

Country: Belgium
Belgium (be)
Print view this post

Ads by Google


Re: How can we entirely eliminate gendered pronouns?

#16  Postby Evolving » Oct 02, 2014 9:31 am

Clive Durdle wrote:Is there a problem with they being used as you is - both singular and plural? Why invent new words when you can tweak the meaning of existing words?


Exactly.

I admit to a certain reluctance in some cases, purely on aesthetic grounds, but I think tis is something we are going to have to get over. Old fogies presumably used to get the same feeling when young people started dropping the case endings off inflected nouns; but thank goodness they did that.
How extremely stupid not to have thought of that - T.H. Huxley
User avatar
Evolving
 
Name: Serafina Pekkala
Posts: 11993
Female

Country: Luxembourg
Luxembourg (lu)
Print view this post

Re: How can we entirely eliminate gendered pronouns?

#17  Postby Evolving » Oct 02, 2014 9:31 am

babel wrote:
Evolving wrote:
Animavore wrote:I'm not sure how gendered neutral pronouns are going to be helpful. Especially when telling a story about a conversation you overheard between a man and a woman. It's going to get muddled very quickly as to which thon said which.


No more muddled than a story about a conversation between a man and another man. But I agree, since we have the pronouns, we might as well use them, because they do contribute to clarity, where they happen to be different; and the practical chances of persuading the entire English-speaking world to do away with them are, I estimate, about the same as those of persuading them to do away with English altogether and move to Esperanto.

I don't think the existence of gendered pronouns is an issue; what is an issue, is the lack of a gender-neutral default pronoun, when you are talking abstractly and the person in question could be of either sex. "Any person travelling with South West Trains must be able to produce a valid ticket for the whole of their journey": nowadays we are moving towards they/them/their, but we haven't got all the way yet.

One wonders what to use in case of a single person. :shifty:


"They". That's the whole point.
How extremely stupid not to have thought of that - T.H. Huxley
User avatar
Evolving
 
Name: Serafina Pekkala
Posts: 11993
Female

Country: Luxembourg
Luxembourg (lu)
Print view this post

Re: How can we entirely eliminate gendered pronouns?

#18  Postby hackenslash » Oct 02, 2014 9:48 am

Fallible wrote:I know! The man could be 'thon' and the woman could be 'thone'. That should prevent any misunderstanding. :whistle:


Or 'thong' and 'chicken-choker'...
User avatar
hackenslash
 
Name: The Other Sweary One
Posts: 21440
Age: 51
Male

Country: Republic of Mancunia
Print view this post

Re: How can we entirely eliminate gendered pronouns?

#19  Postby Fallible » Oct 02, 2014 10:13 am

:shock: :lol:
She battled through in every kind of tribulation,
She revelled in adventure and imagination.
She never listened to no hater, liar,
Breaking boundaries and chasing fire.
Oh, my my! Oh my, she flies!
User avatar
Fallible
RS Donator
 
Name: Alice Pooper
Posts: 51607
Age: 48
Female

Country: Engerland na na
Canada (ca)
Print view this post

Re: How can we entirely eliminate gendered pronouns?

#20  Postby Jehannum » Oct 02, 2014 11:39 am

Yeah, we can use "he" and "his" in a gender-neutral way.

When I write, "a guitar player must look after his hands" I mean "his or her". It's gender-neutral because of the context and intention.
Extraordinary claims require ordinary evidence.
User avatar
Jehannum
 
Name: Peter
Posts: 252
Age: 50
Male

Country: England
Print view this post

Next

Return to Linguistics

Who is online

Users viewing this topic: No registered users and 1 guest