Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Ne what, nem who?

English as widely spoken and flexible as it is, just sucks balls at some perfectly simple things. Genderless pronouns being one of them. I've just used they and them, knowing perfectly well those plural forms don't really work or fit, and it irks me.

Then I read about some authors in science fiction that I haven't read (which in itself was amazing), and other fields who have been playing with some genderless pronouns for English.  A Canadian school started using a set of genderless pronouns with the nominative Xe.

And of course wiki has a bunch to say on the subject.

Then I found this delightful post on a blog devoted to the subject. The author's table leaves out a few of the wiki variations:

Nominative (subject) Objective (object) Possessive determiner Possessive Pronoun Reflexive
Traditional pronouns
He He laughed I called him His eyes gleam That is his He likes himself
She She laughed I called her Her eyes gleam That is hers She likes herself
It It laughed I called it Its eyes gleam That is its It likes
They They laughed I called them Their eyes gleam That is theirs They like themselves
Invented pronouns
Ne Ne laughed I called nem Nir eyes gleam That is nirs Ne likes nemself
Ve Ve laughed I called ver Vis eyes gleam That is vis Ve likes verself
Spivak Ey laughed I called em Eir eyes gleam That is eirs Ey likes
Ze (or zie) and hir Ze laughed I called hir Hir eyes gleam That is hirs Ze likes hirself
Ze (or zie) and zir Ze laughed I called zir Zir eyes gleam That is zirs Ze likes zirself
Xe Xe laughed I called xem Xyr eyes gleam That is xyrs Xe likes xemself

But can't argue too much with his selections.

I don't know that I agree with the author's ratings of: ease of pronunciation, distinction from other pronouns,  gender neutrality. However, we did agree our favorite were the Ne series. After experimenting with some of the others they seemed to consistently based on English feminine pronoun morphology.

In some respects this seems fair, since so much of English uses he and him as the only pronoun. But I personally feel that a genderless pronoun shouldn't promote any other agenda besides being genderless.  I want to like Xe, Xem, Xyr, Xyrs, and Xemself... but X is the stupidest frakin letter in the English alphabet - I mean really? It can mean: /ks/, /ɡz/, /kʃ/, /ɡʒ/, /ksj/, /ɡzj/, oh and also /z/. It has to have just been thrown together randomly as a joke.

So starting from the bottom of the table above... and if I remember aright from the Canadian school article it's pronounced using a /z/ sound. So we got:
Ze(he), Zem(him), Zir(her), Zirs(hers), Zemself(himself).... 2/3 female/male bias to my ears.

Next the actual Ze, which is almost the same:

Ze(he), Zir(her), Zir(her), Zirs(hers),Zirself(herself).... 4/1 clear feminine bias

Ze(he), Hir(her), Hir(her), Hirs(hers), hirself(herself).... 4/1 again

Ey(he), Em(him), Eir(her), Eirs(hers), Emself(himself)... 2/3 slight male bias like Xe

Ve(he), Ver(her), Vis(his), Vis(his), Verself(herself).... 2/3 slight male bias like Xe

Ne(he), Nem(him), Nir(her), Nirs(her), Nemself(himself).... 2/3 slight male bias like Xe

 All the rest of the ones in wiki, except for Humanist, Thon and Per; they all use some variation of vowel and m/r that makes them sound like the existing third person pronouns.

The Humanist, has a little more interesting phonology:
Hu, hum, Hus, hus, humself

While the Thon and Per system, just use Thon or Per for every grammatic case.

Whimsically, randomly, maybe with some purpose I don't see yet, I like the Ne series. I'm not entirely sure why yet.

Who knows if any of them will gain any great adoption, we maybe stuck with extra random plurality for the foreseeable future.

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