[Home]GenderNonSpecificPronouns

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For those times when you don't know or don't care what someone's gender is, but do care about his/her plurality (so won't use "they"/"them" etc.) and do care about his/her animacy (so won't use "it"), but don't want to use awkward slashed-option-style pronouns, one (e.g. Bobacus) can use the following pronouns:

e
third-person, animate, singular, nominative (he/she)

em
third-person, animate, singular, accusative and dative (him/her)

eir
third-person, animate, singular, genitive, adjective (their)

eirs
third-person, animate, singular, genitive, adjectival-noun (theirs)

eirself
third-person, animate, singular, reflexive

one
third-person, animate, singular, indefinite (included for completeness)

Idea pinched from somewhere else. Can't remember where.
WikiPedia identifies them as WikiPedia: Spivak pronouns.




I should add that these are almost universally regarded as silly.  And given that you managed to use 'one' above, you'd think that they weren't needed.  All we really need is "third-person, animate, singular, indefinite, non-poncy-sounding" and we're sorted :)  --Vitenka (Suggestion to future generations - don't go searching the net for information on this topic, the net takes the word 'gender' to mean something different... also you end up with such abominations as 'shi')

'one' is indefinite (i.e. "a person" instead of "this person" or "that person"). "One should not talk with his mouth full" is okay but gender-specific, "One should not talk with their mouth full" is JustPlainWrong?, "One should not talk with his/her mouth full" is cumbersome, "One should not talk with one's mouth full" is also wrong (c.f. "A person should not talk with a person's mouth full" instead of "A person should not talk with that self-same person's mouth full"). "One should not talk with eir mouth full" is better. (Of course someone will just point out that "You should not talk with your mouthful" is probably sufficient for most cases, but that's not the point!) --Bobacus

Lojban doesn't have gender (much - the predicate-words (Lojban also doesn't have nouns and verbs) ninmu and nanmu mean woman and man respectively, but it's not really gender), so all pronouns are gender non-specific. Regrettably, they're also rather confusing at times - how about "the previous thing mentioned", "the thing mentioned a while back", "the thing mentioned a long time ago". Oh, and "thing" is anything you might want to attach to a predicate, be it a verb-like or a noun-like. On the other hand, "the thing I declared to be thing 1(,2,3..,10) when I first used it" is quite handy. --ChrisHowlett
Not handy for actual speech, surely?  Too much pain to keep track of, I would have thought.  --Vitenka
I don't know; I could imagine it becomes natural. After all, it's perfectly plausible to hear sentences like "He asked him to pass it to her when they got there" spoken and understood with nobody realising the immense ambiguity and dependence on context... --AlexChurchill
On the site, it alleges that people are fluent in spoken Lojban. Suggesting it's possible, at least. --Requiem
I guess the depth to which you use them would depend upon ability of speaker and listener, just as in English, then.  --Vitenka
PeterTaylor is sure he has a lecturer quote somewhere about only teenage girls being able to use 10+ levels of referential ambiguity, but can't find it.

Another problem with the suggestions above is that some of them at least sound like the masculine version they are designed to replace, pronounced by a speaker of EstuaryEnglish?. --MJ
ItsNotABugItsAFeature - makes it much easier to convert people to their usage.  --Vitenka

The main problem with this page is that the opening sentence is incorrect:
1) epicene "they" has got literally centuries of use in literature and is used in the vernacular often
2) individuals can grok the difference between singular and plural "they" just as they can discern between single and plural forms of "you"
3) "it" is used for non-gendered items, regardless of animacy, it's just that in English non-animate objects are usually considered non-gendered
For proof of (1) see (2) --Phyphor

(Note that this page was written over ten years ago by someone who's no longer active on ToothyWiki, so it's not in any sense a reflection of current or collective opinion.)
Something people seem to miss in this discussion (including, I think, in your point (2)) is that, while "they" with a singular referent is common and well-understood and used by Shakespeare and the King James Bible, "they" with a specific referent is not. So most people have no problem understanding "If the owner of this scarf comes back, tell them it's on the coat rack", but would be tripped up by "If Sam comes back for their scarf, tell them it's on the coat rack".
Personally, I'm willing to try to call specific individuals "they" if that's what they prefer, but it is grammatically unnatural (in current English, although this may well change under pressure from current social trends), and it's not just a matter of "singular they".
(But, FWIW, I think "they" is the least bad option, and better than the nonsense in the OP.)
--Rachael

The other issue I have tripped over in speech is the use of "they", "them" or "their", which takes the plural form of the verb, for a singular person. So if I was to say of Sam, "that coat belongs to them", that's not a problem. But if I were to say "We're waiting for Sam. They are late," that I find a bit unnatural. And obviously "they is late" doesn't work!
However, I would absolutely go with whatever pronoun someone wants me to use, regardless of how I personally find the language, and I do think they/them/their is the best option currently (although I have used ey/em/eir for people who preferred that, and found them perfectly usable) - SunKitten



CategoryLanguage
CategoryGrammar? ?

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