American Psychological Association endorses use of singular “They” pronoun

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The American Psychological Association (APA) now endorses the use of “they” as a singular pronoun. They are the latest major organization to provide style guidelines around “they,” meaning that scholars, writers, and scientists will be mandated to use they/them pronouns when needed within their professional and educational fields.

It’s just one step towards the legitimization and standardization of the singular “they” pronoun, validating those who use it as a gender-neutral option within a major medical context.

“This means it is officially good practice in scholarly writing to use the singular ‘they,’” APA’s Content Development Manager Chelsea Lee writes in an APA Style blog post. Style and grammar guidelines for use of the singular “they” now appear in the seventh edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association and the APA Style website.

APA is America’s largest scientific and professional organization of psychologists, with over 118,000 members. Its Publication Manual is followed by a vast amount of professionals, educators, and scholars, who work in the social or behavioral sciences, medical field, and other related fields.

APA Style would have previously accepted the use of the phrase “he or she” to indicate a gender-neutral subject; for example: “A person should enjoy his or her vacation.” But Lee writes that this usage “presumes that a person uses either the pronoun ‘he’ or the pronoun ‘she,’” which might not always be the case since some people use other pronouns such as “they,” “zir,” “ze,” and “xe,” among others. “When readers see a gendered pronoun, they make assumptions about the gender of the person being described,” Lee writes. “APA advocates for the singular ‘they’ because it is inclusive of all people and helps writers avoid making assumptions about gender.”

Read on…

Merriam-Webster dictionary adds gender-neutral ‘they’ pronoun

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Merriam-Webster gave the use of “they” as a nonbinary, gender neutral pronoun this certain whiff of linguistic authority by adding the definition to the dictionary in their most recent batch of additions.

The announcement was made on Twitter and certain people predictably lost their shit. But as Merriam-Webster acknowledged, the definition reflects an increasingly common usage of the “singular they.”

A recent study has shown that usage of the singular “they” has a welcome side-effect: It boosts positive attitudes towards women and queer people.

The dictionary’s senior editor Emily Brewster told the Guardian, “Merriam-Webster does not try to be at the vanguard of change in the language. Over the past few decades, there has been so much evidence that this is a fully established use of ‘they’ in the English language. This is not new.”

In a blog post, the authors of the dictionary addressed critics who argue that using “they” to describe one person is grammatically incorrect, which includes many right-wingers who seem to only care about grammar when it comes to the pronouns queer people choose to identify themselves with:

We will note that they has been in consistent use as a singular pronoun since the late 1300s; that the development of singular they mirrors the development of the singular you from the plural you, yet we don’t complain that singular you is ungrammatical; and that regardless of what detractors say, nearly everyone uses the singular they in casual conversation and often in formal writing.

It’s not quite as newfangled as it seems: we have evidence in our files of the nonbinary they dating back to 1950, and it’s likely that there are earlier uses of the nonbinary pronoun they out there.

 

Study: gender-neutral pronouns boost positive attitude towards queer people & women

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More than 100 failures litter the battleground that is the hunt for an English gender-neutral singular pronoun. From thon, ip and hiser to hem, ons and lers, the discarded terms have piled up since the mid-19th century.

But the quest for the right word is not in vain, a new study suggests. Using a gender-neutral pronoun, it found, reduces mental biases that favour men, and boosts positive feelings towards women and LGBT people.

The finding marks an easy win, the researchers believe, and shows how a minor change in language can help chip away at long-standing gender inequities.

“Let’s assume there are societies that generally agree on being more inclusive of women and LGBT individuals, and there are more than a few,” said Efrén Pérez at the University of California in Los Angeles. “Our findings suggest that the words we choose to use can matter in getting us a little bit closer toward reaching that ideal.”

Pérez and Margit Tavits at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, explored the impact of gender-neutral pronouns on the views of more than 3,000 Swedes. In 2015, the country adopted the gender-neutral term “hen” to sit alongside the existing terms “hon” and “han”, the English equivalents of “she” and “he”.

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Swedish Pronoun: Hen

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Identifying as non-binary can be difficult but Sweden has an official gender neutral pronoun: hen. It’s  similar to the use of singular “they” in English. It took inspiration from the neutral pronoun in the Finnish language (hän) and after much debate “hen” was officially adopted.

Its use is:
– for talking about someone who’s gender is unknown
– when the gender is unnecessary in the conversation
– for talking about someone who identifies as neither male nor female

It’s been used in various places in Sweden, some say since the 1960s, but was discussed in mainstream media in 2013 and eventually placed into the official Swedish dictionary in 2015.

It has two main uses in Sweden. The first is, obviously, for LGBT+ groups but the second is interesting. Some schools and pre-schools have started using “hen” for their pupils so as not to push gender roles or identities on their students.

First studies suggest that the use of “hen” in early education doesn’t reduce children’s tendency to use gender to categorise people but it reduces their tendency to gender-stereotype and gender-segregate.

The use of hen is the same and just as simple as han (he) or hon (she), for exmaple “hen är vacker” – “they are beautiful”.

A Very Queer Word of the Year: The Singular “They”

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Bad news for people who have been arguing that the gender-neutral pronoun “they” doesn’t make any sense because it’s not grammatically correct: a crowd of over 200 linguists who met at the American Dialect Society’s annual meeting last Friday evening have chosen the singular “They” as the most significant term or word in the past year in a landslide vote.

they

Using a singular they is common habit in English & American speech, as in “That cat loves their owner,” but has risen to prominence again as a useful way to refer to people who don’t use the pronouns “he” or “she.”

A practise several languages introduced over the last few years. Swedish speakers for example can use “hen” when the gender of a person is unknown or the classic pronouns don’t apply.

Ben Zimmer, a language columnist for the Wall Street Journal who presided over the voting on Friday afternoon, said in a press release: “In the past year, new expressions of gender identity have generated a deal of discussion, and singular they has become a particularly significant element of that conversation,” Zimmer said. “While many novel gender-neutral pronouns have been proposed, they has the advantage of already being part of the language.

Other contenders for the 2015 title of Word of the Year were “on fleek,” “ammosexual,” “ghost,” and “thanks Obama.” For a full list of the nominees and winners in each category, read the American Dialect Society’s press release here.