Naturally, social and political events leave their mark on the development of the language. Today, English is changing at an unbelievable speed. Literally over the past 10 years, political correctness has become almost the main global trend.
In this article we will analyze how exactly the political situation in the world is changing the English language. Ready? Go!
Brief Gender Excursion
Let’s start with the gender issue. More and more countries and jurisdictions are recognizing that there are more than two sexes and that society cannot be divided only into men and women.
Initially, the question was raised only from a physiological point of view. The very first case of the official adoption of the “third sex” was in Australia in 2003, when a person from a gene mutation in court proved that he can not be called either a man or a woman.
For bores: he (or her) had Klinefelter’s syndrome, when instead of two sex chromosomes in the genome there are three – XXY.
In Europe, especially in Germany, where the policy of absolute tolerance was actively introduced, this case received a wide response. But if with same-sex marriages the question of legislation was resolved more actively – in general, the requirements of homosexuals and how to implement them legally were understood, then with non-binary gender everything was more complicated.
According to the UN, intersex people make up from 0.5 to 1.3% of the world’s population, which is a lot. That is, in the world there are from 38 to 100 million people who identify themselves differently than men and women.
We will not try to explain the differences between agender, biegenger, gender fluid and a number of other genders. In the legal field, they are usually gathered in the concept of genderqueer, which means “special gender”. By the way, the word itself appeared in 2008 with the filing of the British media.
Today, the “third floor” has official status in Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Austria, Canada and several other Asian countries. In the United States, everything is complicated so far, but in five states it has already been allowed to issue documents where Paul X is indicated.
Gradually, socio-political issues began to change and languages. We will analyze the most acute problems of the English language that are associated with them.
Mr, Mrs, Miss or Mx? Gender-neutral treatment in action
What can be offensive in normal use? It turns out that very much can according to intersexuals.
In the English language, there were no common references for non-binary genders. Actually, in some 19th century there was no even the concept of non-binary genders. The appeals were quite ordinary.
Mr Mister – Mr., for men
Mrs, Missis – Mrs., for married women
Miss – Miss, for single women
It was also possible to apply by title or rank. That is, Lord or Professor is also a perfectly acceptable treatment. But not so long ago, another appeal became popular:
Mx – Mixter – Mickster
It applies to non-binary people and transgender people. Because it does not indicate gender.
The very gender-neutral treatment appeared in 1970, but the British began to popularize it not so long ago. IN 2014 the Royal Bank of Scotland officially included this appeal as official in correspondence. A little later, Mx began to use the Royal Mail. Moreover, in 2015 it began to be used at an official level in government agencies. For example, in the official correspondence of the House of Commons, the Ministry of Labor and Pensions, the Office of Tax and Customs Fees and the National Health Service.
In the same 2015 year Mx was included in the Oxford English Dictionary.
That is, if you are in official correspondence with British companies or government agencies, it is quite possible that Mx will contact you in letters. Even if your gender will be known. There have already been precedents when Mister or Miss filed a lawsuit for the appeal, because the person identifies himself somehow differently.
However, some companies relate to this trend with exclusively English humor. For example, on the site Railcard, where you can buy tickets for British rail transport, during registration you will be asked to indicate how to contact you. And there are as many as 44 options!
In addition to the standard Mr, Mrs, Miss, and the new Mx, you can find Baron, Duke and Lord titles, status appeals of Rt Hon and Hon, professional Her Honor, His Honor, Judge and Prof, as well as religious Prebendary, Rabbi, Sister, Canon and many other. You can choose for every taste.
No “he” and “she”, Or a little about gender-neutral pronouns
With pronouns it is more difficult than with appeals. Because in modern English there are no pronouns that could be used as gender-neutral. Not “it,” indeed.
The following option is most popular today:
We have a new teacher. They will come tomorrow.
We have a new teacher. They will come tomorrow.
“They” is essentially a replacement for the usual pronouns “she” and “he”. That is, in this way they mark a person who defines himself differently than “man” or “woman”.
Despite the fact that the trend has become relevant only in the last 5 years, the very definition of the pronoun “They” as a neutral pronoun of the singular is far from new.
Back in 1795, a group of scholars, including linguists Lindy Murray, Joseph Priestley, and Hugh Blair, proposed using “they” as the common third person singular. That is, it was supposed to combine “he” and “she.” And although then the initiative did not find a large number of supporters, now this option is again gaining popularity. Despite the fact that it sounds unusual, it has a linguistic background.
Among other historical attempts to “find” a gender-neutral pronoun, one should also highlight the work of William Marshall, who in 1789 discovered the dialectic pronoun “Ou” in historical chronicles.
“Ou” simultaneously means three pronouns at once – “he”, “she” and “it”, without singling out any of them. Presumably, this word was created by the writer and translator John Trevis in the XIV century.
“Ou” is essentially a reduced form of the masculine and feminine pronouns “he” and “heo”, which were used in Old English and Middle English. These two forms were almost indistinguishable in pronunciation, so verbally could mean both a man and a woman. And the she pronoun, which appeared around the middle of the 12th century, was an attempt to somehow separate the pronouns by sound. That is, historically there was already a word that means neutral gender. Why it is not used now is unclear. Perhaps they are just a more familiar option.
Another linguist Robert Baker in 1770 suggested using the pronouns “one, ones” instead of “one, his”. In his opinion, the lack of an analogue of “one, hers” was not too honest, so he proposed a neutral option. True, his idea was considered overly pedantic. Nevertheless, it “surfaced” as references many times, but each time it was considered irrelevant. We look forward to next time soon.
Recently, there have also been several artificial attempts to create gender-neutral pronouns. But they look, frankly, ridiculous.
Here is a table with possible gender-neutral pronouns. In modern English, this is an apocrypha – that is, they are not the canonical norms of the language. But there are organizations that are actively promoting their use. If the trends with the empowerment of non-binary people increase, it is quite possible that in 5-10 years such options will appear in official English.
In fact, such artificial constructions claim to be original, but at the same time they are quite clumsy and have no linguistic-cultural background. And judging by the fact that they have not even received a minimal distribution, these options will remain concepts.
English is an ever-evolving system. And any socio-political changes leave their imprint in the language. Tell us, what do you think of such trends? Write in the comments.