Non-binary pronouns: a simple guide to understanding everything

Non-binary pronouns: a simple guide to understanding everything

Non-binary pronouns: a simple guide to understanding everything

How do other languages ​​treat non-binary pronouns?


In German-speaking countries, linguists are currently considering the possibility of neutralizing the three-gender noun system. The Niederdeutsch dialect achieves this by eliminating the pronouns der , die , das masculine , feminine , neuter ) in favor of a single pronoun de  . As for pronouns, a few speakers of Goethe’s language use the inclusive pronouns sier and xier , but their use is still restricted to queer activist circles.


In Molière’s language, non-binary pronouns are still not officially defined. The pronouns listed in the infographic above are currently commonly used within the lgbtqi+ community, but remain relatively rare outside of activist spaces.


In Spanish-speaking countries, the move towards a more gender-neutral Spanish has resulted in various linguistic innovations in recent years. Among them: the use of the @ symbol as an alternative to the —o and —a endings . The use of the term latinx as an alternative to Latino or Latina has gained a lot of speed across the Atlantic and recognition at the institutional level in recent times, not without facing certain criticisms pointing to a more frequent use in the United States than in the countries from Latin America. Although using itAs neuter pronouns are not very common, there is growing interest in alternatives to personal pronouns. 


In Portuguese, it is increasingly common to replace the masculine endings — o and feminine — a with the neuter ending — There doesn’t seem to be a known neuter pronoun in Brazil or Portugal, and sexual identity is rarely expressed in a direct way. However, some members of the male gay community intentionally refer to them using female pronouns, even though they do not identify as female. Often they randomly alternate between masculine and feminine pronouns. This confuses the “novices” and challenges the limits of a binary categorization of gender and sexuality. In Brazil, the LGBTQI+ community has popularized the use of a “secret” language calledPajubá , which draws elements from the languages ​​of the Yoruba family , and in which age plays a much larger role than gender.


Unfortunately, the Italian language does not have neuter pronouns to express non-binary descriptors . The use of the plural is avoided because of its cultural implications: it is, indeed, considered to be discriminatory at the level of social classes in everyday language. This is because the plural pronoun “they” ( lorolisten)) was historically used very formally, associated first with royalty and by extension with anyone associated with high social rank. The issue of linguistic non-binarity is currently being discussed within the LGBTQ+ community, which has introduced the use of the asterisk (*) in written language to avoid declension. But no solution has yet been implemented to allow the neutral practice of oral language. 


Swedish is a so-called semi-gendered language, just like English. But his relatively successful adoption of hen serves as an interesting case study . The use of the term “hen” as a non-binary pronoun was met with great skepticism when it was first introduced in the 1960s by linguists. Their main concern was that it was not clear who they were referring to.

Over time (and especially in the 2000s), the pronoun hen has gained popularity among non-binary people. After creating buzz and sparking debate in 2012, it was added to the SAOL Swedish dictionary in 2015. Today it is used in the media, in Parliament, in everyday language and in official texts. More importantly, almost everyone in Sweden understands the word, without the confusion that linguists feared.


The Russian language ranks among the gendered languages ​​that do not have a well-defined neuter pronoun. As a result, some non-binary Russian-speaking people use the masculine ‘он’ because it aligns with other more neutral terms, while feminist communities will sometimes use the default feminine gender, while separating the feminine suffix with ‘ _”, or choose to use the pronoun “они” (equivalent to English “  they  ”). Other popular options include alternating between masculine and feminine pronouns and verb tenses, using the neuter “оно” (which usually doesn’t refer to people), or even inventing new endings for certain past tense verbs!

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