2

In English, there is only one third person plural pronoun to refer to groups of any gender or genders. Multiple "he"s becomes they, multiple "she"s becomes they, multiple "it"s becomes they, and a mix of "he"s and "she"s becomes they. In French, "they" has both a masculine and a feminine form, "ils" and "elles," where the latter refers to multiple "elle"s but the former can refer to multiple "il"s or a mix of "il"s and "elle"s (and of course there is traditionally no neuter in French). There are of course also languages with no gendered pronouns. I assume there are languages in which the masc/fem/neuter of their third person singular pronouns carries over to masc/fem/neuter third person plural pronouns.

This is where I become uncertain. I remember reading or hearing somewhere that there are also languages that have a distinct gender for third person plural pronouns for a group that has parties of mixed genders (as opposed to having a catch-all like English or Swedish do, or defaulting to a masculine like French or Spanish do)(I also just realized this could apply to second person plurals as well, but I can't think of a way to add that in that doesn't sound clunky). However, I am having trouble finding reference to this mixed-gender plural pronoun in my web searches. Is this just because I'm remembering incorrectly, or is it because I'm unable to recall the correct term to refer to it? If there is a term for this, what is it? Do you know of any languages that use a system like this (whether masc/fem/mixed or masc/fem/neuter/mixed)?

1
  • 4
    I’m not aware of any that have a distinct mixed-gender form, but Icelandic at least has a separate mixed-gender form from the purely masculine or feminine plurals: hann ‘he’ becomes þeir ‘they (m)’, hún ‘she’ becomes þær ‘they (f)’ and það ‘it’ becomes þau ‘they (n)’. But a mixture of hann’s and hún’s also becomes þau, so the generic gender in Icelandic is neuter, rather than masculine or feminine. Commented May 2, 2023 at 7:48

0

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.