SSi Forum

Gender-neutral language in Welsh?


Going back to the topic in hand, there are of course the suggested alternative gender-neutral pronouns in English, but I don’t think they’re really catching on (see, although of course ‘Mx’ has now been accepted in some quarters as an honorific.

But should we be trying to go down a similar route, do you think, in Welsh - coming up with some suggestions for new pronouns (to replace fe/fo/hi, for example)?

It doesn’t just stop there, though, of course, because gender pervades Welsh to a much deeper level than it does in English - the difference between, say, ‘ei hateb (hi)’ and ‘ei ateb (e)’ or ‘ei gar / ei char’. I know that Lucy Irigaray wrote about the same issue in French (I think in ‘An Ethics of Sexual Difference’). I don’t think I’ve read that one of hers, but she might have had some suggestions of how it could be addressed.


Ww, gosh, yes. I can’t even begin to imagine how to get around that.

It’s just occurred to me that maybe using a name would be a good solution in a lot of circumstances… and there are languages (like Thai) which use the name very often instead of ‘you’ or ‘I’, which sounds odd to a European ear, but is very easy to adapt to…


A lot of Russian people consider it rather rude, for example, to use the pronoun instead of the name if the person in question is present in the room:) It’s also a good way to get around the gender-specific pronouns, if it’s an issue.


My mother must be naturally Russian in outlook - I can’t remember how many times I heard ‘Who’s ‘she’, the cat’s mother?!’ when I was growing up…:wink:


She probably is:) I thought it’s a peculiar Russian thing, as well as addressing the older person using a patronymic: “As Anna Pavlovna has just pointed out, the tea is cold”


Not just Aran’s mother - maybe it’s a Mother thing. :slight_smile:

I think there is a tendency in English to use the name (rather than “he” or “she”) out of politeness if the person is present, but it’s not exactly all that well defined … just a “feeling” for what feels right at the time.

Edited to add:


My big butch east-Southwalian relations called everyone ‘lovely’. I did too, especially the Alsatian. Then I found that, on seeing, say, someone’s new dress and crying , “Oh, that’s lovely!”, our dog came rushing to me!!
p.s. It was my gran who kept mentioning the cat’s mother! Nobody seemed to mind ‘he’!!!


I for one like the gender-specific words (e.g. teacher/teacheress although I don’t recall hearing that particular one in real life) and am a little bit saddened when the feminine form gets dropped in favour of the masculine. I am enjoying the distinction in Welsh even if it makes for more to learn.


Forgot to mention, in Welsh, you don’t always have to use the personal pronoun. To come back to your earlier example: Dyma Alex. Mae’n siarad Cymraeg.


But what if neither masculine nor feminine is appropriate? That’s what we’re trying to wrestle with… In English, ‘teacher’ doesn’t have an gender connotations - there is no ‘feminine’ version of the word, so the word in itself isn’t inherently ‘masculine’. So that is much easier for an agender person to deal with.


Oh I’m not interested in that. I’m sure my input on the subject would be totally inappropriate anyway. Those people can find out for themselves what they want to do and the rest of us will probably pick it up eventually. I was just providing an alternative POV to someone who might find the separate masculine and feminine forms troubling.


It would be impossible to be gender neutral in Greek, I think. Everything is gendered. When you use a person’s name, you have to use grammar markers in the correct gender, whether it is a vocative suffix or a nominative article. Participles, adjectives, absolutely everything is gendered. I really don’t know what people would do if they wished to avoid it. And you can’t just use the neuter gender: it is dehumanising to do so in Greek, and is the height of rudeness. (unless you are using a noun that is grammatically neuter, but obviously that won’t always be natural when talking about a person, or saying ‘you’).


“Singular they is word of the year” (and been in use for over 650 years)


Wow! I’ve just discovered this topic, I’m obviously the product of a very liberal Welsh education! I have always used ‘they’ to refer to someone whose gender is unknown. I may have cheekily asked the teacher in primary school that you can’t call someone a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’ if you don’t know which they are and may have been told ‘they’! This seems perfectly natural to me, I am middle aged! Often we talk of animals as ‘they’ even if they are one, unless the sentence is specifically about gender, eg ‘She’s in calf’ for pregnant cows.
Already, in my head I have been using ‘nhw’ for unknown people, I was kind of waiting to find the answer. I had a quick look and found ‘dynol’ suggested, which just means ‘person’?


Could be.

“Dynol” can also mean “human”, as in “bod dynol”, “human being”. " natur ddynol", “human nature” (see also “dyndod”).


My problem was always the other way, i.e. Having a pregnant dog, having been told I mustn’t under any circumstances use a very rude word which, in English, is the rude word ‘bitch’!


Bitch is, I think, a bad word in the USA, but here no one would bat an eyelid at it. It refers to a female dog and when used as such, that’s it.

On the TV recently there was someone whom wanted Retard to never be uttered, yet it’s a mechanical term I use all the time - not that they’d ever accept it. It’s all about context and factuality.

I remember some learners getting rather hot under the collar about feminine words used in Saesneg, yet quite happy to use them yn Gymraeg - it confuses me to this day.


I was on a Gloywi Iaith course last week, and interestingly we were given a construction a bit like “Mae rhywun wedi torri’r peth gyda’u cyllell” (not 'i gyllell or 'i chyllell) when we didn’t know what gender the ‘rhywun’ was. It was an aside at the time (we were discussing possessive pronouns and their mutations) so I didn’t pursue it further. But I thought it was quite interesting. I don’t know if it’s a more recent development or if it’s long been used in this way. (We need that corpus of the Welsh language!)


There is an addition of #fi on S4C at the moment called #fi joe a christian that is about ‘gender identity’ that focuses on two people and a centre for youth to go to . Its available internatianally on for the next 8 days . It may reveal how people use the language in that age group.


Very happy to find this thread a few years later (actually came up in a google search for ‘non-binary welsh pronouns’!). I’ve just got to Challenge 11 where we use gender pronouns for the first time. I’m non-binary and I know a lot of non-binary people, so working out this aspect of the language is very important to me.

I’m very happy with they/them in English which is a discussion that has been well covered above. Obviously I’m very early on in my Welsh language journey so I have to defer to others’ knowledge. Bob pointed out that Welsh already has some crossover between singular and plural second person pronouns (‘chi’ being polite singular as well as plural), and Y_Ddraig_Las confirmed that ‘nhw’ is used for the unknown third person singular, so it seems to me that that’s a perfectly good solution for non-binary pronouns as in English.

It’s been pointed at that gender pervades Welsh at a much deeper level than in English, which does present a challenge for people who want to go without gendered language altogether. On the other hand, I should point out that ‘non-binary’ is a broad heading under which a number of identities fall, including people who do identify partly with one gender, or more with one than the other, just not strictly or wholly. In my case, I would be happy with people referring to me as ‘nhw’ in the third person, but falling back on gendered language some of the rest of the time.

I’m just writing here to register my interest in the subject, and keep an eye on any further discussion this might provoke as I progress on my journey in Cymraeg. I’m encouraged the original post was received well. Also, apart from introductions, this is my first post in the forums!