SSi Forum

Gender neutrality


I prefer to use gender neutral terms when talking about people’s professions, so feel uncomfortable with words like actores, athrawes, or any other -es. My tutor says that Welsh tends to use feminization more than English would. Is this true, and if I would prefer to call a female athro or actor, is that acceptable?


I think the point here is that a female actor won’t be offended when you call her “actores” in Welsh like they possibly would be in English’.

Neither will a “newyddiadurwraig” or an “athrawes” or an “ysgrifenyddes”, etc.


Thank you for your reply which is helpful, but what about if a person speaking Welsh wants to choose to avoid “gendered” terms?


Try this thread …


Thank you, the other thread is interesting. I like the idea of using -ydd when possible. It seems that the Welsh language is as much in evolution as English, though perhaps a step behind, seeing as gender specification is still a debatable issue.


Well, in certain instances at least, they’ll have to be stuck with the male terms, won’t they? That’s the beauty of the ‘gendered’ terms :slight_smile:

The ending -ydd is OK for both male and female, but you can’t just use it as you please. So you can say cyfieithydd for translator, which is indeed the word, and which is fine for male or female, but you can’t say actorydd, because there ain’t no such word. :slight_smile:
Having said that, though, some words ending in -ydd do have a female counterpart with -es added - the one I see most often is teipyddes typist.


Crikey. I’ve never seen that. Ysgrifenyddes, however… (can you tell that I sit on a number of boring committees?) :wink:

The other wierd, whacky and wonderful thing with these is that they take different plural endings. -ydd words take -ion and -yddes take -au.
ysgrifennydd -> ysgrifenyddion
ysgrifenyddes -> ysgrifenyddesau


Would it be acceptable then, to choose to say teipydd when referring to a female, or do you absolutely have to add that es?


Well in the Grammar I think I mentioned somewhere that teipydd was often used for both sexes. So I’d better stick with that. :slight_smile:


Thank you Gareth.


Here’s a story from yesterday’s BBC News website, reporting how the same issue is progressing in France. Rather than moving towards gender-neutral job titles, there the movement is towards creating feminine versions of masculine-gendered job titles (which is, of course, most of them). This is with the support of at least some feminists there and the normally sclerotic Académie française.

Feminine job titles get go-ahead in France

And another related story from 2017:
‘Sexist’ inclusive writing row riles France


Yes I saw that too. Interesting alternative perspective from another language with no neuter gender.


I’m finding interesting shifts in this - I haven’t had anyone correcting me the last couple of times I’ve told someone she was an ‘arwr’, for example…


Hi Aran. Arwyr meaning hero, right? I think something does need to ‘give’ in the language, even if it means breaking the rules and inventing new words. I am old enough to recall a lot of harrumphing (there’s a useful made up word) when people were first introduced to the invented ‘Ms’ as an alternative to Mrs or Miss. Now, we don’t think twice about it. The thing is that with English being only next door as it were, Welsh might appear old-fashioned by comparison.


Arwyr is heroes, arwr is hero - otherwise, yes, I firmly agree :slight_smile:


I think if you’re talking about professions in this day & age, it’d understandable that people would prefer a neutral expression when talking about a position or a career. ‘Ydd’ is quite nice for that.

Not sure if I’ve understood you correctly in your last paragraph, but I would not assume that people want gender neutral descriptions of who they are or what they do. You might feel uncomfortable with it, but they may prefer to be called and actress, ect. English is particularly gender neutral, but other languages are not. Saying that a women is an actor in Welsh has a stronger suggestion that she is male than in English, or that you make making a linguistic error. A female may want to be called an actress instead of something neutral.


I would be aware that it’s male but it’s such a minor mistake that I wouldn’t correct you. Arwr does conjure the image of a male hero to me.


Hi Caren
Its really a question of how I want to describe another person rather than governing their choice about how they want to describe themselves. If you choose either gender neutrality or gendered terms, you might be accused of making assumptions, but in English speaking culture at the moment, gender neutrality is the norm, and I want to show respect to others according to the norms of my first language, and because I think that those norms are objectively preferable.


‘and I want to show respect to others according to the norms of my first language’

In that case I think this goes beyond a linguistic issue onto something about culture and political views. Why would you want to stick to the norms of your first language when you are trying to speak another? Surely the point is to speak the way they do? I would be interested in doing this in order to understand their culture. You may be keen to avoid making assumptions, but it doesn’t mean they think like that. Gendered language is common in most languages in Europe. It’s dated and annoying, but I don’t necessarily agree with the preference of using the assumed personal standards or norms of your own language when speaking another (and I say that as a person who quite likes ‘ydd’ just because it’s simpler). It’s not exactly the same, but it’s a bit like English speakers saying a million please and thank yous or smiling in one transaction whilst paying at a till in a shop. Most British people do this, but in some languages politeness is expressed through tone of voice or something else, or expressing an abundance of gratitude or politeness in this situation would be seen as very odd.


I am impressed by the quality of this discussion. Being about language, it clearly does have a place here. I am also impressed that differing points of view are being posted within the respectful and friendly norms of this forum. :smile::+1: