jaderabbit (jaderabbit ) wrote in linguaphiles ,

Gender-neutral Spanish pronouns?

I'm working on a speculative fiction story that needs gender-neutral Spanish pronouns. My Spanish is rusty (and was never very sophisticated to start with), so I could use some help. I found an article that states near the end that "ello" is a gender-neutral pronoun...is that assertion correct? If so, is it archaic or just little-used? And what would the related pronouns be?

My story is set in The Future!, so if there are any cutting-edge gender-neutral Spanish pronouns, I'd like to know what they are. Otherwise, I may have to use "ello" or make some up.

EDIT: Thanks for the responses so far. I'm looking for something like "zie/zir" in Spanish. "Ello" sounds like a poor fit. If nothing exists, I will make something up.
Tags: gender, spanish
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  • 16 comments

helenadax

February 19 2014, 20:48:08 UTC 4 months ago

"Ello" is gender-neutral, yes, but it would be like using "it" to talk about a person.

muckefuck

February 19 2014, 21:00:36 UTC 4 months ago

I wouldn't call it "gender-neutral"; I'd call it "neuter gender", which isn't the same thing at all. It's even weirder than using "it" for a person because ello is only used for abstracts. For instance:
Si no hay fondos suficientes para los jubilados, ello seguramente se debe a que el dinero se gasta en otros rubros.
"If there are not sufficient funds for the retirees, it surely is due to spending the money on other line items."
Ello (corresponding to "it" in the translation) refers back to the entire first clause, i.e. the fact of there being insufficient pension funds. Think about how bizarre it would be to take a pronoun with that kind of usage and use it to stand for a person.

paulistano

February 19 2014, 22:06:03 UTC 4 months ago

Is it a synonym for eso then?

I ask because in Portuguese, isso could ostensibly be used there.

archaicos

February 19 2014, 22:15:40 UTC 4 months ago

Esto, eso, aquello can all be used to refer to things like statements, facts and ideas.

paulistano

February 19 2014, 22:17:37 UTC 4 months ago

Right. So could ello and eso (or esto) be used interchangeably in the sentence muckefuck provided?

archaicos

February 20 2014, 00:29:02 UTC 4 months ago

I'd think so. But as it's been noted, these pronouns aren't to be used to refer to living things.

kathakali

February 19 2014, 22:28:31 UTC 4 months ago Edited:  February 19 2014, 22:33:16 UTC

Have you read this? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender-neutrality_in_Spanish_and_Portuguese

There doesn't seem to be any proposed gender-neutral pronoun for the 3rd person singular, but if you can work around that you could use plural forms like ell@s, ellⒶs or ellæs which look rather futuristic in my opinion (:

(That is, the at-sign looks "futuristic" or at least contemporary. The ligature on the other hand has a mediæval - ha! - connotation :D)

muckefuck

February 19 2014, 22:55:09 UTC 4 months ago

Yes there is: Under "Pronouns", it says "Other Spanish-speaking people, though, advocate for the use of elle/elles."

kathakali

February 19 2014, 23:03:38 UTC 4 months ago

Wer lesen kann, ist klar im Vorteil...

Sorry, I must have missed that. Never heard/read of that one, though.

muckefuck

February 19 2014, 23:10:29 UTC 4 months ago

Me neither, and none of the Hispanohablantes I asked about this were familiar with it either. But at least to my L2 ears, it sounds better than "ello".

jaderabbit

February 20 2014, 00:16:35 UTC 4 months ago

*Much* better than "ello." I read that article, but somehow missed this. Thank you!

karen_td_sheim

March 19 2014, 23:41:19 UTC 3 months ago

Feminist activists proposed to introduce the pronouns elle/elles in Spanish in order to avoid the masculine/femenine gender dichotomy, but they aren't actually used in the spoken language and written media here in Spain. I can't tell you how common they are on other Spanish-speaking countries.

As someone noted before, ello is used for abstract ideas, and it can be quite formal too.

You can use the neutral demonstratives esto/eso/aquello - or you can mention the thing you are talking about in a general way or using hyperonims. In Spanish you don't need to always mention the subject of your sentence like in English, so in my opinion the latter is easier.

Be careful when using adjectives, since they need to have the same gender of the noun they refer to. Although if you are picky enough with word choice, you can find a way around adjectives - and maybe around neutral demonstratives too.

switchercat

February 19 2014, 23:46:06 UTC 4 months ago

If I remember right, my friend, who lived in Chile for a bit and hung out with some nonbinary people there, says that the most common is "elle," with "-e" endings rather than "-o" or "-a." It's difficult for me to Google this to see how common it is.

I'm not sure what the equivalent for "el" and "la" would be, but I'd guess "le," so you'd have some constructions like "le maestre."

This page offers some other words that I haven't personally heard: http://nonbinary.org/wiki/Gender_neutral_language

jaderabbit

February 20 2014, 00:15:58 UTC 4 months ago

This is wonderful! I thought I'd fished out Wikipedia, but this is exactly what I need. The fact that you've actually heard it is a major plus. Thank you!

archaicos

February 20 2014, 00:31:29 UTC 4 months ago

But one should not forget about or confuse such uses of le(s) with leismo.

agatharuncible

February 22 2014, 08:04:58 UTC 4 months ago

In addition to what's been mentioned before, like @ or -e, you could also use -x if you could find a convenient way to pronounce it, or if your characters communicate in writing very often.