Monday, July 27, 2009

They used to get more love

There's a great article in the NYT this weekend about the search for a gender-neutral singular pronoun and the rise and fall and rise again of the plural pronoun as a solution to that problem. If you enjoy language, trivia or social and cultural insights, I think you'll find this article interesting.

It was interesting learning to speak a little Chinese, because in the spoken language there is no differentiation made between he/she. Everybody is ta, male or female. Ta went to the market. Learning the gender pronouns in English took some time for our Asian friends, so we would occasionally be treated to sentences like, "My boyfriend is coming to visit this weekend. She is very wonderful."

An interesting sidenote is that while in Chinese there is no differentiation whatsoever in the pronoun used for he, she or it, the written language does have that distinction: 他(he), 她 (she), 它(it), all three pronounced ta.