Gender-neutral pronouns, used by a writer when e wants to avoid making assumptions regarding the gender of a hypothetical character.
The Spivak pronouns were developed by mathematician MichaelSpivak?
for use in his books. They can be easily integrated into writing. They should be used in a generic setting where the gender of the person referred to is unknown, such as "the reader". They can also be used to describe a specific individual who has chosen not to identify emself with the traditional masculine (male) or feminine (female) gender.
The Spivak pronouns are
E -- subjective
Em -- objective
Eir -- possessive (adjective)
Eirs -- possessive (noun)
Emself -- reflexive
This has some advantages over other approaches:
- It's not hard to figure out what is meant by it. You don't need a document explaining the use.
- It's shorter than any other alternative word. The shortness will make it more popularly adopted.
- It sounds like "he" and "she". So, even in spoken conversation, it's a drop-in replacement.
- By calling someone "e" you sound like a Cockney.
- "Eirs", and indeed the other words, are awkward. The leading "e" makes saying the words like gasping.
have been popular in several different areas:
- Players of NomicGame are often inclined to nit-pick and claim that, for example, a rule which uses "he" or "they" will not apply to a player who is female or singular. Games which resolve this using SpivakPronouns seem to exist in about the same number as games which resolve this using a rule redefining the semantics of the normal pronouns. -- DanielKnapp
- SpivakPronouns are one of the pronouns you can use at this popular MultiUserDungeon.
- Some WikiCitizens use SpivakPronouns.
has invented an alternative set of pronouns - ve
for he/she/it (subject), ver
for he/she/it (object) and vis
for his/her/its, which he uses in his novel Diaspora
to describe gender-neutral PostHuman
s and in Distress
to describe "asex" humans.
Some people find SingularThey
to be more natural.
- Although controversial, there is considerable support for SingularThey having been acceptable usage for a very long time, and completely overwhelming support for he/him as a gender-neutral term. The latter became questionable purely for political reasons that amounted to an implicit belief in the SapirWhorfHypothesis.
- ''Not necessarily. When the gender of the referent is completely unknown, it is more precise, rather than less precise, to use a neutral pronoun such as e. Suppose 20% of programmers are female. Then, using he for the Generic Programmer will be wrong 20% of the time, whereas using a neutral pronoun will be right 100% of the time. This is the reasoning behind the colloquial adoption of "they/them/their" for an indeterminate person. Using the Spivak pronouns accomplishes the same function while eliminating the grammatical dissonance (plural prounoun referring to singular). It has nothing to do with the SapirWhorfHypothesis (which most linguists agree has been roundly disproven), but is more along the lines of Grice's ConversationalMaxims?.
"They can also be used to describe a specific individual who has chosen not to identify emself with the traditional masculine (male) or feminine (female) gender."
This option is dangerous from a language development point of view. If the pronoun is used in a specific niche too much, it will become attached to that niche. Which means it is essentially lost for the general use (in the same way that it cannot be used generally).