29

Is there a language where there are personal pronouns for the first or second person that have gender? Like a feminine "I" or a masculine "you".

2
  • 5
    It's also worth noting that in many languages the personal gender expression is not limited to pronouns. For example, in my native Latvian, the first and secound person pronouns don't have a gender distinction but certain verb tenses do, so in order to say, for example, "I have done it" or "Have you been there?" I still need to assert either a masculine or feminine gender of the person referred to with the pronoun. – Peteris Oct 4 '20 at 13:29
  • 1
    Sometimes people who are full of themselves talk of themselves in the third person, making it gender-aware; Cesar's Bellum Gallicum refers to Cesar only in the third person as a rhetoric device, of which Goscinny famously made fun in Asterix (i1.wp.com/www.pipelinecomics.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/…). – Peter - Reinstate Monica Oct 4 '20 at 18:02
27

In Thai, 1st person singular pronouns differ by gender:

  • Masc.: ผม [pʰǒm]
  • Fem.: ดิฉัน [dìʔt͡ɕʰán]
4
  • 1
    I find it peculiar that they’re so different, like no overlap whatsoever. Thai seems very unique in that regard. – gen-ℤ ready to perish Oct 4 '20 at 17:47
  • 8
    @gen-ℤ, they do overlap, indeed. A high-positioned female officer can use the masculine pronoun /phom/. In addition, there are several "layers" of politeness, e.g. language for addressing members of royal family and Buddhist monks; for TV/press; for colloquial conversation, etc. On the colloquial level, both genders use ฉัน /chan/ for 1st singular pronoun. So it is definitely not that simple. I just decided not to clutter my answer with excessive details. :) – bytebuster Oct 4 '20 at 19:25
  • 4
    That makes it even more fascinating! Please add that to the body of your answer; I’d hate for others to miss that information by forgoing reading comments :) – gen-ℤ ready to perish Oct 4 '20 at 19:33
  • 1
    @gen-ℤ arguably, the question was about the lexical side of the problem, not the socio-cultural one. Politeness is a considerable part of Thai language, it's not just a single phenomenon of pronouns. If you find it interesting, simple search would provide you with several great posts on this matter. – bytebuster Oct 4 '20 at 19:55
23

Coming at this from a different direction, Japanese personal pronouns (*) are an open class, with many variations in meaning and connotation.

So while there's no official "first-person masculine pronoun", 俺 (ore) is primarily used by men, and あたし (atashi) primarily by women. Others, like 私 (watashi), don't have strong gender associations. All of these are generally translated to "I" in English.

(*) Some grammars call these "classifiers" or other terms instead, because of the open-ness. But they're used pretty much like other languages' personal pronouns are, so I just call them personal pronouns.

1
  • 1
    As a side note, Japanese actually does have a set of legitimate but archaic personal pronouns, こなた・そなた・あなた (I/you/they), whose meanings have since shifted (こなた and そなた have fallen from use entirely, and あなた has come to mean "you"). Further to that, あなた as a second-person pronoun is mildly gendered, in that it tends slightly towards being used by women to men. – Williham Totland Oct 5 '20 at 18:32
22

Proto-Afro-Asiatic likely marked gender on second-person pronouns, and many of its descendants do the same.

For example, second-person singular masculine is אַתָּה (ʔattāh) in Hebrew, أَنْتَ‎ (ʔanta) in Arabic, atta in Akkadian, ntk in Egyptian; feminine is Hebrew אַתְּ (ʔattə), Arabic أَنْتِ (ʔanti), Akkadian atti, Egyptian ntṯ.

I don't know of any Afro-Asiatic language that marks gender on first-person pronouns, though Egyptian sometimes does in writing: first-person pronouns are sometimes marked with "seated man" or "seated woman" determinatives (or occasionally "god" or "king" if appropriate). But this is a purely graphical convention; as far as scholars can tell, the pronunciation was exactly the same.

4
  • 2
    The second person singular feminine pronoun in Hebrew is את, whereas אתם is the second person plural masculine :) – Amos Joshua Oct 3 '20 at 20:11
  • @AmosJoshua D'oh, of course. My mistake; fixed now. (Also adjusted the transliterations to be a bit more pedantically accurate.) – Draconis Oct 3 '20 at 20:30
  • Many years ago I was in the best sushi bar in a town that got many Japanese visitors and I used the word Ohima (as i recall -- I think it meant "free time") -- I had a cheap English/Japanese phrasebook. I am a male and the Japanese man next to me laughed and said, You would only used that term if you were gay. I assume that this is a word normally used by females. I am sure in English there must be some words that females tend to use and males don't but I can't think of one. – releseabe Oct 4 '20 at 12:43
  • Classical Hebrew second personal plural pronouns are "atem" (masc.) and "aten" (fem.), although the latter is falling out of use in modern Hebrew. – Phil Freedenberg Oct 4 '20 at 15:41
12

In Spanish that happends for plural:
nosotros (1st person plural masculine)
nosotras (1st person plural femenine)

In Japanese there are several forms for the first form depending on gender or even age!

watashi (I, for boys although it can be used by girls too)
atashi (I, for feminine)

The funny thing is that they are written the same: 私.

For plural, the same applies but just adding tachi (達).

Old people may use washi

Also males may use boku (僕) or ore (俺) which are less formal than watashi...

There are many more variations, there is even one pronoun for I that should be used only by the emperor 朕 (chin)!!!

There is a whole Wikipedia page about all this.

5

In Polish, pronouns are used much less than in English, since their role is largely subsumed by the verbs inflecting for person, and in 1st and 2nd person, past tense has different inflection depending on gender:

  • poszłam do szkoły - "I went to school" (fem.)
  • poszedłem do szkoły - "I went to school" (masc.)
  • poszłyśmy do szkoły - "We went to school" (fem.)
  • poszliśmy do szkoły - "We went to school" (masc. or mixed)
  • poszłaś do szkoły - "You went to school" (fem. sing.)
  • poszedłeś do szkoły - "You went to school" (masc. sing.)
  • poszłyście do szkoły - "You went to school" (fem. pl.)
  • poszliście do szkoły - "You went to school" (masc. or mixed pl.)

Similarly, for adjectives:

  • jestem zmęczona - "I'm tired" (fem. sing.)
  • jestem zmęczony - "I'm tired" (masc. sing.)
  • jesteśmy zmęczone - "We're tired" (fem. pl.)
  • jesteśmy zmęczeni - "We're tired" (masc. or mixed pl.)

Note: in all of the above sentences, the pronoun is implicit and not actually present. If it were, it'd be the same for all grammatical genders, only the verb and/or adjective inflects for gender.

As others mentioned, in Japanese, there aren't grammatically distinct pronouns, but the open class of words used as pronouns varies depending on the gender, both that of the speaker and of the recipient. Ie.

  • 私「あたし」(atashi, "I", heavily feminine)

  • 私「わたし」 (watashi, "I", neutral)

  • 僕「ぼく」 (boku, "I", traditionally masculine and used by younger speakers, but nowadays used by girls too, especially tomboys and especially in anime)

  • 俺「おれ」 (ore, "I", heavily masculine)

  • 我「われ」 (ware, "I", heavily masculine and used by older, conservative speakers of higher status. Very prevalent amongst old tough guys in anime)

  • 貴方「あなた」 (anata, "you", neutral or the speaker is feminine and addressing their spouse)

  • 貴方「あんた」 (anta, "you", speaker is masculine)

  • お前「おまえ」 (omae, "you", speaker is masculine)

  • 君「きみ」 (kimi, "you", speaker or recipient is feminine)

Since the class is open and the gendered usage is based on connotations, rather than strict grammar of the language, the lines can be pretty blurry. On the other hand, character using a pronoun that doesn't match their or recipient's presented gender is frequently used as a plot device in anime (because the character is cross-dressing, or they behave uncharacteristically for their presented gender, or because they are trying to break social norms, etc.). This can over time shift the connotations of a particular word, which is what happened with 僕 (boku). It went from being a stand-out feature of nonconformist female characters to a more-or-less expected usage for even slightly tomboyish characters. (Trivia: historically this also happened to 貴様「きさま」 (kisama, "you"), which is written with characters that roughly mean "esteemed person", and originally it was a very respectful form of address. However, it was used sarcastically so often that its meaning shifted towards being extremely disrespectful. Today it's thrown left and right in anime, especially by tough guys looking to pick a fight, but in real life using it will probably get you clocked in the face).

3

In Chinese, sometimes the female form of you "妳" is used, but it is less common than the normal "你". For the first-person, I'm fairly sure that there are no such distinctions (except for maybe in ancient forms of Chinese).

2
  • 2
    Note that in Mandarin this is a written distinction only, as the two characters are pronounced the same. I recall (but don't have a source) that the written distinction was actually imported as part of the Westernization movement in the late 19th century. On the second point, classical Chinese has an extensive array of first- and second-person pronouns, but generally these are more about relative status than a gender distinction specifically (although referring to people by role or title is common; one could argue addressing someone as 'wife' is gendered). – Tiercelet Oct 5 '20 at 15:53
  • 1
    Chinese also has the, similarly only written, second-person form 祢, which is used specifically when talking (well, writing) to (a) god. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 10 '20 at 21:55
3

Like others have answered, in Hebrew, "You"(singular/plural),"Him/Her/They", (second person?) are genderized, There is a limited "It"/"That"/"Those".
As for first person, there is just singular/plural, gender agnostic(?).
However, the verb that follows is genderized: I want: (m,s) Ani Rotse, (f,s) Ani Rotsa, (m,p, even when 1000 females but also 1 male) Anakhnu/Anu Rotsim, (f,p) Anakhnu/Anu Rotsot.


I, singular: Ani אני
We (I, plural): Anakhnu אנחנו
I + verb(for example: want), male, singular: Ani Rotse אני רוצֶה
I + verb(for example: want), female, singular: Ani Rotsa אני רוצָה
I + verb(for example: want), male, plural(even x females + 1 male): Anakhnu Rotsim אנחנו רוצים
I + verb(for example: want), female, plural: Anakhnu Rotsot אנחנו רוצות

You, male, singular: Ata אתה
You, female, singular: At אָת
You, male, plural(even x females + 1 male): Atem אתם
You, female, plural: Aten אתן

He, (male,) singular: Hu הוא
They, male, plural: Hem הם
She, (female,) singular: Hi היא
They, female, plural: Hen הן
It, male, singular: Ze זה
It, male, plural(even x females + 1 male): Ele אלה
It, female, singular: Zu זו
It, female, plural: Elu אלו

  • Him/Her/It/They: add "the" before - ה, or form of אֶת (different word than אָת)

This is to the best of my ability, simplified, general cases, and limited punctuations (Nikud ניקוד = vowel/sound markings)

1

Tamil language (தமிழ்) has the following:

I, Me (First person, gender-neutral) - நான்

  • eg: I am human -> நான் மனிதன்
  • eg: That is me -> அது நான்தான்

You (Second person, gender-neutral) - நீ, நீங்கள்

  • eg: Where are you? -> நீங்கள் எங்கே இருக்கிறீர்கள்?
  • eg: Where were you born? -> நீ எங்கே பிறந்தாய்?

நீ is considered singular where as நீங்கள் may be used as a honorific when addressing an individual formally (a respectful alternative to நீ) or a collective when addressing a group.

He, His (Third person, masculine) - அவன், அவர்

  • eg: He ate a banana -> அவன் ஒரு வாழைப்பழம் சாப்பிட்டான்
  • eg: He ate a banana -> அவர் ஒரு வாழைப்பழம் சாப்பிட்டார்

The pronouns are used in different contexts. அவன் is generally used when referring to someone of a much younger age by an older person. In formal contexts, it may be considered disrespectful. Some exceptions to this rule exist depending on context. அவர் is used in formal contexts and is respectful. அவர் is also a gender-neutral pronoun.

She, Her (Third person, feminine) - அவள், அவர்

  • eg: She writes well -> அவள் நன்றாக எழுதுகிறாள் (or) அவர் நன்றாக எழுதுகிறார்
  • eg: I met her mother -> நான் அவளுடைய அம்மாவை சந்தித்தேன் eg: She is the Chief Minister of the state -> அவர் மாநில முதல்வர்

It (Third person/Demonstrative 'that', neuter gender) - அது

  • eg: It barked ferociously -> அது மூர்க்கத்தனமாக குரைத்தது
  • eg: It was the best of times and the worst of times -> அது மிகச் சிறந்த நேரமாகவும் மோசமான நேரமாகவும் இருந்தது

This (Demonstrative, neuter gender) - இது

  • eg: This is life -> இதுதான் வாழ்க்கை

and so on.

One thing to note is, Tamil has a classification of pronouns on an axis called உயர்திணை / அஃறிணை. People (including the divine in mythology) are referred using உயர்திணை words. Living things that are not human (eg: animals) as well as non-living things (eg: chair, desk etc.,) are referred to as அஃறிணை. There are other axes of classification as well. These collectively give a rich contextual structure for forming sentences.

4
  • 9
    Welcome to Linguistics.SE! There must be some mistake in your answer. "He/she/it" are third person pronouns, and many languages in the world have gender distinction on them. The question has specifically asked about 1st- and 2nd-person pronouns. Please clarify. – bytebuster Oct 3 '20 at 19:35
  • Tamil does not have grammatical gender (he vs she). This answer is wrong. – fdb Oct 3 '20 at 20:27
  • 1
    @bytebuster - yes, the earlier answer had an error. Corrected it As regards to the other comment here that Tamil doesn't have gender (he / she) - yes, it does. அவன் / அவள். – vvg Oct 3 '20 at 20:33
  • This doesn't answer the question, as it does not exhibit gendered first or second person pronouns. – Dawood ibn Kareem Oct 5 '20 at 20:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.