Honors Program

Honors in English

Date of Award

5-2014

Thesis Professor(s)

Yousif Elhindi

Thesis Professor Department

Literature and Language

Thesis Reader(s)

Martha Michieka

Abstract

This essay outlines the problems associated with the history and current absence of a gender-neutral third-person singular personal pronoun in the English language. The combination of the social and grammatical consequences of this language gap results in pronoun choices that are either politically incorrect or verbose. Experts’ attempts to fill this language gap have failed to take root on any widespread basis; but, interestingly, middle school children in Baltimore, Maryland created and started using “yo” as their own gender-neutral third-person singular personal pronoun. Stotko and Troyer’s (2007) study on this development sheds some light on exactly how students use “yo” as a third-person pronoun and proposes some theories regarding the origin of this change in language. This spontaneously produced gender-neutral pronoun has gained as much recognition as many gender-neutral third-person singular personal pronouns proposed by linguistic experts, perhaps as a result of children’s unique understanding of and ability to create language. This recent development indicates that common English speakers will likely spontaneously generate a solution to the current pronoun gap, although this will probably take some time to occur.

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Open Access

Copyright

Copyright by the authors.

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