Anonymous asked in Society & CultureLanguages · 1 month ago

they/them pronouns?

hi. this is a dumb question. i’m not exactly sure how to word this so i’ll try my best. so, i know english is one of the only words where you can use “they/them” when someone has an unspecified gender. in gendered languages like spanish, what would be an enby’s pronouns? 

1 Answer

  • Tangi
    Lv 7
    1 month ago
    Favorite Answer

    It's not a dumb question at all.

    I can only speak for French, which is my frist language, but it works mostly the same in other Romance languages like Spanish, and probably in a similar way in other European languages.

    The truth is that there is no close equivalent to the way English speakers use "they/them" in a neutral way, but that's also because there is less need for that, due to the very different way grammatical gender work in those languages compared to English.

    Grammatical gender is a grammatical category of the nouns themselves, and not of what the nouns describe.

    "Casa" is feminine in Spanish, not because the house itself has something to do with females, but because the word itself is part of the grammatical category called feminine. It could be called A and B or red and blue, it would work the same.

    Now, grammatical gender is not entirely decorrelated from males/females when talking about people. If you're talking directly about a person without using a noun as an intermediary, you will use the grammatical gender that matches the person's sex.

    I can say "Je suis grand" (I am tall). The word "grand" (tall) is in the masculine form because I am a man and I'm talking directly about myself.

    But I can also say "Je suis une personne assez grande" (I'm a rather tall person).

    The noun "personne" is feminine, regardless of who the person is. The word "grande" is in its feminine form, because it agrees with "personne", even though I am a man.

    I can't say "Je suis un personne grand" because that's not grammatically correct.

    This example shows two things.

    One is that grammatical gender doesn't necessarily match with a person's sex or gender identity.  I am a man, and yet feminine words are used to describe me.

    The second thing is that the pronoun is not the only thing reflecting a grammatical gender in a sentence. Nouns and pronouns all have a gender, and adjective and some forms of verb have forms in masculine and feminine to reflect the noun/pronoun's gender.

    Additionally, when something has no gender in French, the masculine is used as a default. Maybe some form of historical sexism played a role in that, but also the fact that the masculine in French is a fusion of the masculine and neuter in Latin, and also because the words in masculine are generally shorter and simpler.

    Some people did create new pronouns that are supposed to be gender neutral. I think I remember that to replace "il" (masculine) and "elle" (feminine), the word "iel" was created as a neutral alternative.

    But there are several problems with that. The first one is that most people don't know or recognize those words and will not use them.

    An other one is the complexity of creating an entire new gender. Let's take an example.

    Let's say Jean is a man, Jeanne is a woman, and Jen is neither. You would normally say.

    About Jean : Il est grand (He is tall)

    About Jeanne : Elle est grande (She is tall)

    But what about Jen? Some people propose using both forms.

    About Jen : Iel est grand·e (They are tall)

    That's not very efficient, and how would you pronounce that?

    An alternative would be to use the masculine as a default form for adjectives and verbs, the same as we already do with things that have no gender. But in this case, there is very little gain in creating new pronouns.

    You can use whatever you want, but be aware that it's probable most people will either use the gender that corresponds to what they think you are, or default to the masculine.

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