A French dictionary added a neutral pronoun. Opponents say it’s too “awake”.
The decision of a major French dictionary to add “iel”, a non-sexist pronoun which has become popular in the non-binary community in recent years, to its lexicon has drawn strong criticism from political leaders in France, a decision which once again highlights the controversy surrounding efforts to make the Romance language more representative of an inclusive society.
Le Robert, an authoritative reference work on the French language, created an entry for “iel” after its researchers noted “an increasing use” of the third person pronoun in “a large number of texts from various sources. “Director Charles Bimbenet explained in a statement Wednesday. He added that the post received positive feedback from âthe majorityâ of its users.
The dictionary defines “iel”, which combines the words “he” and “she”, as a third person singular pronoun that can refer to a person of any gender. The word is described as “rare” because its use remains relatively low despite an increase in recent months, Bimbenet said. (“Iels” is the plural form of the non-binary pronoun. The variations “Ielle” and ielles “are also included in Le Robert’s entry.)
“The mission of [dictionary] is to observe the evolution of a French language in full mutation. â¦ Defining the words that describe the world helps us understand it better, âadded Bimbenet in defense of the editorial decision, which was taken in October.
But this week, several French politicians voiced strong opposition to the formal adoption of non-binary pronouns, bringing to the fore a long-standing battle over whether the French language, rigidly structured according to male-female grammar rules, should be modified to better represent women and gender. – non-compliant individuals.
French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer tweeted on Wednesday that school-aged children should not use Le Robert’s entry as a valid reference, adding that “inclusive writing is not the future of the French language”.
FranÃ§ois Jolivet, member of the French parliament from the ruling centrist party, also rejected non-binary pronouns, calling the acceptance of âielâ and its variants to push an âawakenedâ ideology.
In a letter to the AcadÃ©mie FranÃ§aise, an almost 400-year-old institution created to be the guardian of the French language, Jolivet asked its members to weigh in on the debate. Le Robert’s âlonely campaign is an obvious ideological intrusion that undermines our common language and its influence,â reads the lawmaker’s letter.
The AcadÃ©mie FranÃ§aise could not be reached immediately for comment early Thursday.
The historical organization publishes advice on French grammar and vocabulary, but many in the French-speaking world consider its non-binding advice to be sacrosanct.
In 2017, the prestigious language body issued a fiery warning, declaring that efforts to make French more inclusive could result in “a disunited language, disparate in its expression, which creates confusion bordering on illegibility.”
For many years, feminist activists have campaigned against the predominance of the masculine form in French, which some say diminishes the position of women in professional circles.
As early as the 1990s, women occupying positions of responsibility in the French administration, including ministerial positions, tried to call their position “Madam Minister”, swapping the masculine “the” for its feminine form.
But the usage is far from being widely accepted, even to this day, as those who oppose the inclusive form of French hold firmly to the tradition. The then French Prime Minister, Eduard Philippe, banned the use of neutral French in all official government documents in 2017.
Authorities in other parts of the French-speaking world may be more open to changing languages. But so far, none have adopted “iel” and its many variations in official government functions.
Canada, where French is one of the official languages, encourages its legislators to use non-sexist language when drafting English versions of their bills, arguing that pronouns like “they” are useful in a legislative context. to “eliminate gender language and cumbersome or clumsy repetition of names.”