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If I can’t use she or ze, this kind of sexist/gendered assumption can be even more difficult to notice and correct. Some languages of the world (including most Austronesian languages, many East Asian languages, the Quechuan languages, and the Uralic languages [7]) 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 … [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. A school textbook promoting a more inclusive version of French had been released, making purists fly off the handle. 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. Faced with that level of discrimination, the use of pronouns can seem far down the list of priorities. As one Quora poster explained, “We just don’t distinguish the gender through the pronoun. Those who answered “yes and no” detailed both positive and negative aspects. “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.” A gender neutral or gender inclusive pronoun is a pronoun which does not associate a gender with the individual who is being discussed. It only takes a minute to sign 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. 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. I do not mean pronouns like He, She, It. In these languages, animate nouns are predominantly of common gender, while inanimate nouns may be of either gender. This pronoun is not typically applied to people; instead it is used only for objects with neuter noun names. I prefer ‘they’ or ‘he’ in English, but I don’t usually say it to people unless they ask. 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. She also thinks this is why other gender-neutral pronouns like ze pronounced zee and its variations: zir, zem, and zeir, have not caught on in everyday language. Story at a … Find out more at our Patreon page. Men are the standard and everything else is the exception. Without my clarification, most people will picture a male CEO. But you know what’s interesting? It’s not always easy to use gender-neutral language in German, but we’ve compiled a list of ideas of words and phrases that might be useful to you here. 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. For people who don’t identify along the gender binary, these grammatical differences can be significant. But what about genderless languages? 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. It makes some things so much easier…one does not need to make assumptions about gender when trying to address someone.” 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. [Image courtesy of Eesti keele õppimiseks]. Jan Bułhak – the Man Who Captured Turn-of-the-Century Vilnius, Photographic Notes on Latvia's Capital – Ģirts Raģelis, Copyright © 2021 Deep Baltic. A few gender pioneers, however, have co-opted it. 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, … But that’s maybe because the people I talk to in English are not native speakers. 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. Erin Crouch lives in Tacoma, Washington and Tallinn, Estonia. Gender neutrality and gender nullification lead to cleaner, more elegant sentences. 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. I lack usable and easy to learn/apply pronouns and descriptions of myself. Anagha Srikanth | Jan. 4, 2021. 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. There can also be situations where a woman can refer to herself in the masculine way grammatically and vice versa. Sign up to join this community. (Spotted by @antimytheme) 5. And notably, English as a language is mostly without grammatical gender). 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. 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. “I planted him in the forest, where he will grow very tall!” So people would default to ‘she’, which was unbearable to me. Tosha, a young Russian who identifies as agender, told me: It might be helpful to demonstrate how to execute gender pronoun nullification. Russian is a gendered language that does feature a neuter third-person pronoun, оно [it]. So there is some slip of pronouns going on unintentionally, especially with Estonian people speaking in English. But are they enough? Having just one pronoun for humans doesn’t equal perfect equality in society, though. Does Estonian offer a natural home for the nonbinary? This page was last edited on 12 January 2021, at 05:18. Female lawyers are called just that: female lawyers. This binary reference of gender no longer applies to the increasing broadening nomenclature of gender identities and expressions. For example, 'he/him/his' with men and 'she/her/hers' with women. Maybe someday I could use them, though. 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. I would prefer the gender-neutral pronoun ‘tema’ or my name. This is common in East Asian languages. 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. Too many options can feel a bit creepy, and people may feel like … If I can say in my language, “She (or ze) is the CEO,” I can draw attention to the fact that the term CEO is a false generic. 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. A personal pronoun diagram for Russian and Estonian learning. Asexual Finnish student Kati agrees, saying, “I’m so happy Finnish has only one [ungendered] pronoun. The document signed by the academy’s 40 members — only five of whom are women — de… House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during the first session of the 117th Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021. 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. House introduces gender-neutral language in new rules for Congress . Also, the dichotomy of “he … But what if you needed all those choices because of the English language? “When I don’t know someone’s gender, I talk about them in the plural,” they say. On November 2017, France was caught in the middle of a heated debate over the future of its own language. Certain language families, such as the Austronesian, Turkic and Uralic language families, usually have no grammatical genders (see genderless language). Plural or ‘neuter’ cases in Russian aren’t comfortable for me. ‘Homosexual propaganda’ is still a fineable offence in the Russian Federation…” New reforms promote inclusion and diversity. Please consider making a monthly donation – help support our writers and in-depth coverage of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. use “he/his” when referring to a generic individual in the third person. Pronomen. A version of this article appeared in The Establishment and is used here with permission. by Erin Crouch, TALLINN  Key words: gender, gender-specific pronouns, gender-neutral pronouns, language, social identity. 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. Would you care less about the pronouns for yourself? This is far from perfect—but it may be the best option yet for those who identify along a spectrum. Many of the world's languages do not have gender-specific pronouns. In principle, it refers to all lawyers, but in practice, it refers only to male lawyers. The Académie Française, France’s ultimate language authority, issued a furious statementright after the book’s release. 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 … These are typically borrowed words like кафе (cafe) that do not take a masculine or feminine case. We’re always open to additions, corrections and newly coined words! 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. 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. Gender in European languages. This was at an early stage of me asking them not to use ‘she’ (the pronoun I was ‘assigned’ at birth), so I think people were still getting used to the idea of any pronoun other than ‘she’ for me. The new Congressional rules swap out gender-specific pronouns and other references for neutral language. Lily’s book … I also speak English, and I use the ‘they/them’ in English. 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. A young Estonian agender person interviewed for this article who prefers the name Paul does find “tema,” the genderless Estonian pronoun, helpful. Friends and close acquaintances call me ‘Paul,’ which I really like to be called. We don’t have gender-specific pronouns. 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. I’m constantly misgendered, or I’m misgendering myself in order to be understood.” Depending on the context, there are several solutions with more or fewer labels. Let’s first see examples where the pronoun inherits the gender of the referent: Tu es une belle femme. In English when I use ‘they’ to refer to a person, most people don’t notice it. in written forms. English has many false generics (male nurse, anyone?) What if you spoke a language that didn’t even have separate words for “him” or “her,” like Estonian? Or what if just about every noun in your world was masculine or feminine—seemingly at random, like in Russian? To put it simply, choosing the right pronoun is a big deal. Generally, French pronouns don’t have a proper gender or number, they inherit from their referent. © Deep Baltic 2018. I somehow identify more with neutral or masculine marker words, and names. 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. Tema is used only for humans, and when used in a sentence, it is neither masculine nor feminine. 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 In English, these terms include they as a singular, ze/zir or zie/zir, ze/hir or other variations, and Mx. 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. And some Republicans are predictably, ignorantly, unnecessarily mad about it. Traditionally, many languages use gender binary pronouns and suffixes. 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