Saturday, February 16, 2019


I'm a linguistic conservative, but I don't think this is a fight we conservatives can win. Language is constantly changing, and if we grant that gender, being a social construct, is infinitely malleable, then there is a such thing as a "gender spectrum," and there is a such thing as "gender fluidity." Chromosomally speaking, sex—not gender—is objectively binary, but we're talking about gendered pronouns, here. As ridiculous as it may sound, future generations may indeed have to start reckoning with many, many new additions to the language. I may find these additions silly, stupid, and unnecessary, but I'm not the ultimate arbiter of how my native language ought to evolve. Score one for the descriptivists in this case: it's less about ought and more about is.


Charles said...

I'm kind of hoping we'll adopt the Korean approach and just eliminate gendered pronouns entirely. It would certainly make things a lot easier.

(Yes, I know there are words that can function as gendered pronouns in Korean, but they are rarely used in practice, except when you are yelling at or insulting someone, e.g. 이놈아, etc.)

Kevin Kim said...

A gender-neutral approach would be nice, but everyone wants a piece of the gendered-language pie as a way of staking out his/her/zyr own linguistic and conceptual territory. Greedy bastards.

I've never thought of "놈" as a pronoun before, but I suppose it fulfills the pronominal functions of referral and replacement.

Charles said...

Yeah, I don't know if it is officially a pronoun--technically it is a "dependent noun" (의존명사), which means that you need to specify the referent. But it acts like what we would consider a pronoun in English, if you consider it as a lexical replacement for 그 사람/그 분, etc. Technically, the pronoun there is 그, because you can say things like 그가. (In retrospect, though, 이놈아 is probably not the best example of this sort of usage.)