Re: Gender Neutral Pronouns

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Fri Mar 30 2001 - 20:55:13 MST

At 10:22 PM 3/30/01 -0500, Eliezer wrote:

>I almost decided to switch... but
>then I started experimentally, writing the sentences with "she". And it
>felt really anthropomorphic - gynomorphic, rather. I couldn't make myself
>visualize the AI as nonfeminine. (Which is ironic, since I can quite
>easily visualize "he" as nonmasculine. Sigh.) So now I'm undecided

It's very difficult. My inclination is to go with `she', `her', etc, both
despite and because of the immense weight of semiotic loading the feminine
pronouns carries in English.

Personally, I dislike V- pronouns, unless they are meant to connote
asexuality in situations where one might expect sexual dimorphism (as in
some of Egan's work). I speak here as someone who's done an entire novel
where an ai (pronounced `I' or `eye', in distinction to `hu', rhymes with
`you') is addressed using the pronouns Sen (Mr and Ms), se (he and she),
ser (his and her), sem (him and her). The book is called THE WHITE ABACUS,
and after it was published in 1997 a linguist at an Australian university
went through it carefully a couple of times and found quite a few places
where, despite my care, I'd fallen into error in applying it--including at
least one spot where my ai was `he'. These are very deeply embedded
usages/prejudices. Anyway, I find the Spanishoid S- invented pronouns less
difficult to grasp and accept than the V- species. But only a little. `She'
might be the default of choice, in the least bad of possible worlds.

Oh, for people who don't know me already, you can find more than anyone
could possibly wish to learn abt me at the url below. :)


 Dr Damien Broderick / Senior Fellow, Department of English and Cultural
           University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, AUSTRALIA
            @: <>
             Australian Business Number (ABN): 98 674 378 153

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:00:36 MDT