Spivak pronoun

Spivak pronoun

The Spivak pronouns are a proposed set of gender-neutral pronouns in English. They are not in widespread use, but have been employed in gender-neutral language by some people who dislike the more common alternatives "he/she" or singular they.

The (new) Spivak pronouns are formed from the pronoun "they" by dropping the "th".

There are two variants of the Spivak pronouns in use, as shown in the declension table below.


The pronoun set was popularized as neologisms by Michael Spivak, a mathematician-educator who used it in a number of books. Spivak writes: [http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Spivak_pronoun&diff=54436534&oldid=46203957]

Comparison with other gender-neutral pronouns or constructions

The two most common systems have specific disadvantages:
* "he or she", "him or her", "his or her", "his or hers", "himself or herself": These constructions are often perceived as long-winded and awkward.
* "he/she", "him/her", "his/her", "his/hers", "himself/herself": These constructs are often perceived as awkward and hindering pronunciation.
* singular they: This is more pronounceable, but it can be ambiguous. It is also awkward and grammatically incorrect to use plural pronouns and plural verb forms for a singular person.

Compared with other gender-neutral pronouns, Spivak (new) is easier to learn since the system stems directly from the well-known forms of "they". Supporters also feel that this derivation makes them more natural than the sie/ze/zie/xe forms.

Where they are used

Spivak is one of the allowable genders on many MUDs and MOOs. Others might include some selection of: male, female, neuter, either, both, "splat" (asterisk), plural, egotistical, royal, and 2nd. The selected gender determines how the game engine refers to a player.

On at least one MOO, LambdaMOO, they became standard practice for help texts ("The user may choose any description e likes"), referring to people of unknown gender ("Who was that guest yesterday, eir typing was terrible"), referring to people whose gender was known but without disclosing it ("Yes I've met Squiggle. E was nice."), or of course characters declaring themselves to be of gender Spivak. In recent years (2000 onwards), this usage is declining. Fact|date=February 2007

Spivak is also the favoured choice of some people who have written about the subject, such as in [http://willow.dyndns.org/footnotes/pronouns.html Footnotes: Pronouns] and in the [http://www.aetherlumina.com/gnp/ Gender-Neutral Pronoun FAQ] .

Nomic games, especially on the Internet, often use Spivak pronouns in their rulesets, as a way to refer to indefinite players.


The use of Spivak pronouns and other neologisms offered as alternative grammar or spelling is sometimes viewed as a linguistic pretension with political overtones, and its introduction may accordingly be received with the same degree of hostility associated with other such terms. (See also Womyn)

A more academic criticism stems from regarding Spivak pronouns as a prescriptive grammar, and an invention for the purpose of avoiding a proscribed "singular they" form. Supporters of the singular they claim, truly or falsely, that the form has been in use for centuries, and thus it is hypothetically hardly a recent corruption of proper speech.

Publications employing Spivak pronouns

* "Doom Patrols: A Theoretical Fiction About Postmodernism" (Steven Shaviro)
* "The Joy of TeX" (Michael Spivak)
* "The Paradox of Self-Amendment: A Study of Logic, Law, Omnipotence, and Change" (Peter Suber)

ee also

* Generic antecedents


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