This subject is actually unsettling me the more I dwell on it, so I believe it is time to talk about this issue.
Not too long ago, while talking with my mate Calyo Delphi, she brought up the idea of including a generic neutral pronoun in my constructed language, Arcegaō. Now, this language does not use pronouns at all―or even the concept of genders beyond the physical sex of the individual―and I had mentioned as much once before. I still do not understand why attempting to force such a concept into the language even crossed her mind.
And then, I looked around, and found that many people have been attempting to do just that: to force the concepts of pronouns onto other languages that lack them, and to force gender neutral pronouns on those that lack them.
I do not enjoy stating the obvious, but the internet has turned rather…insane as of late, in regards to gender and sex. Tumblr alone has likely caused more than its fair share of pronouns to be created for the English language. This is not a problem in and of itself, but I honestly question just how far this craze as come.
Fairly recently, I was pointed to a Tumblr post chain where there was a call for including pronouns in Japanese, with a vast majority of the calls to action being made by native English speakers from the US and Europe, and some calls being made by Spanish and German language speakers. I would link to this, but as with many things on Tumblr, it has either been removed by the user, or delisted. Searching for three hours has proven fruitless, and I do not have the energy to continue sifting through the cruft that Tumblr has.
From what I can tell, pronouns were created for two reasons: to break up monotony within long speech and writing, and to act as general identifiers for unknown subjects or values. They were designed to simplify much more complex sentence structures, which is a noble goal in its own right.
However, gender is now such a moving target, that pronouns are becoming almost their own sublanguage within English. Lists of these simple words are slowly turning into lists of names in their own right, and some people become extremely particular about what they are called.
Personally, I prefer the shi/hir pronouns for intersex, coined and popularized by famous Sci-Fi author Bernard Doove, or the it/its/they pronoun set used for gender neutrality. I honestly do not care, and rarely speak out about being called he/his by people who barely know me, but I am unusual in that regard.
Some people prefer something akin to a title in place of a pronoun, such as toy or mistress. Some jokingly (and non-jokingly) prefer species names, such as dragon or cat.
Then again, another person may see it/its/they as insulting or demeaning, and refuse to call me such due to their own moral boundaries. Some may see referring to another being as a toy to be demeaning. Much like speech patterns, people have their boundaries, whether others agree with them or not. (Expect another journal entry about speech patterns soon.)
Regardless of what your own boundaries are, the use of pronouns is evolving, and I am left with a question. If pronouns are becoming so complex, why are we still using them in English?
The trend in the English language is to simplify concepts as best as possible. With the route pronouns are going, they could soon add a level of unnecessary complexity that would make teaching them―and even learning them―to be excessively difficult at some point.
Should English continue using pronouns? Should they be simplified? What is the answer? I honestly do not know. (I do want Xindaf to cover this subject at some point, though.)
For now, all I can say is that it will be interesting to watch what happens going into the future.