Singular 'they' and novel pronouns: Gender-neutral, nonbinary, or both?
Keywords:gender, pronouns, comprehension, LGBTQ
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 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.
Published by the LSA with permission of the author(s) under a CC BY 4.0 license.