Singular ‘they’ and novel pronouns: gender-neutral, nonbinary, or both?

Evan D. Bradley, Julia Salkind, Ally Moore, Sofi Teitsort

Abstract


Pronouns have recently become a highly visible aspect of the LGBTQ+ movement among the general public and in linguistics. We investigated whether singular, specific ‘they’ and the novel singular gender-neutral pronoun ‘ze’ are interpreted as gender-neutral (slient on gender and the gender binary) or or referring specifically to referents of non-binary gender. Participants read descriptions of scholarship applicants, and guessed which photo matched the applicant they read about from an array of male, female, and non-binary subjects. Results suggest that ‘they’ is interpreted as gender-neutral, including non-binary/gender-nonconforming referents. ‘Ze’ does not appear to be recognized by enough English speakers to determine a definitive interpretation.


Keywords


gender; pronouns; comprehension; LGBTQ+

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3765/plsa.v4i1.4542

Copyright (c) 2019 Evan D Bradley, Julia Salkind, Ally Moore, Sofi Teitsort

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