Personal pronouns, particularly those of the third person, may differ depending on the grammatical gender or natural gender of their antecedent or referent. This occurs in English with the third-person singular pronouns, where (simply put) he is used when referring to a male, she to a female, and it to something inanimate or an animal of unspecific sex. This is an example of pronoun selection based on natural gender; many languages also have selection based on grammatical gender (as in French, where the pronouns il and elle are used with masculine and feminine antecedents respectively, as are the plurals ils and elles). Sometimes natural and grammatical gender do not coincide, as with the German noun Mädchen ("girl"), which is grammatically neuter but naturally feminine; either neuter or feminine pronouns may then be used. (See Grammatical gender: Grammatical vs. natural gender for more details.)
Issues may arise when the referent is someone of unspecified or unknown sex. In a language such as English, it is derogatory to use the inanimate pronoun it to refer to a person (except in some cases to a small child), and although it is traditional to use the masculine he to refer to a person of unspecified sex, the movement towards gender-neutral language requires that another method be found, such as saying he or she. A common solution, particularly in informal language, is to use singular they. For more details see Gender in English.
Similar issues arise in some languages when referring to a group of mixed gender; these are dealt with according to the conventions of the language in question (in French, for example, the masculine ils "they" is used for a group containing both men and women or antecedents of both masculine and feminine gender).
A pronoun can still carry gender even if it does not inflect for it; for example, in the French sentence je suis petit ("I am small") the speaker is male and so the pronoun je is masculine, whereas in je suis petite the speaker is female and the pronoun is treated as feminine, the feminine ending -e consequently being added to the predicate adjective.
On the other hand, many languages originally do not distinguish female & male in the third person pronoun.
Some languages that have/had a non-gender-specific third person pronoun:
- Indonesian/Malay, Malagasy of Madagascar, Philippine languages, Maori, Rapa Nui, Hawaiian, and other Austronesian languages
- Chinese, Burmese, and other Sino-Tibetan languages
- Vietnamese and other Mon–Khmer languages
- Swahili, Yoruba, and other Niger-Congo languages
- Turkish and other Turkic languages
- Luo and other Nilo-Saharan languages
- Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian, and other Uralic languages
Some of these languages started to distinguish gender in the third person pronoun due to influence from European languages.
Mandarin, for example, introduced in the early 20th century a different character for she (她) which is pronounced identically as he (他) and thus still indistinguishable in speech.
Korean geunnyeo (그녀) is found in writing to translate "she" from European languages. In the spoken language it still sounds awkward and rather unnatural.
Other articles related to "gender":
... Natural languages often make gender distinctions ... may be biased in favor of men has led some authors in recent times to argue for the use of a more Gender-neutral vocabulary in English and other languages ... See, for instance, Gender differences in spoken Japanese ...
... Cisgender Gender identity Gender identity disorder Gender role Pangender Bigender Trigender ...
... The New Testament is more ambiguous about gender-variant identities than the Old Testament is ... that the sex-change procedures do not change a person’s gender in the eyes of the Church ... Pope Benedict XVI has denounced gender theory, warning that it blurs the distinction between male and female and could thus lead to the "self-destruction" of the human race ...
... Gender binary Gender blind Gender queer Genderism Heteronormativity LGBT Non-binary discrimination Queer Third gender Transgenderism (social movement) Transgender Day of Remembrance Transphobia Trans ...
Famous quotes containing the word gender:
“... lynching was ... a womans issue: it had as much to do with ideas of gender as it had with race.”
—Paula Giddings (b. 1948)
“Most women of [the WW II] generation have but one image of good motherhoodthe one their mothers embodied. . . . Anything done for the sake of the children justified, even ennobled the mothers role. Motherhood was tantamount to martyrdom during that unique era when children were gods. Those who appeared to put their own needs first were castigated and shunnedthe ultimate damnation for a gender trained to be wholly dependent on the acceptance and praise of others.”
—Melinda M. Marshall (20th century)
“Anthropologists have found that around the world whatever is considered mens work is almost universally given higher status than womens work. If in one culture it is men who build houses and women who make baskets, then that culture will see house-building as more important. In another culture, perhaps right next door, the reverse may be true, and basket- weaving will have higher social status than house-building.”
—Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen. Excerpted from, Gender Grace: Love, Work, and Parenting in a Changing World (1990)