Singular 'they' and novel pronouns: Gender-neutral, nonbinary, or both?




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.

Author Biography

  • Evan D. Bradley, Penn State Brandywine
    Assistant Professor of Psychology




How to Cite

Bradley, Evan D., Julia Salkind, Ally Moore, and Sofi Teitsort. 2019. “Singular ’they’ and Novel Pronouns: Gender-Neutral, Nonbinary, or Both?”. Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America 4 (1): 36:1–7.