French Dictionary Petit Robert gender neutral pronoun ‘iel’ too ‘woke’ for critics
Le Robert, an authoritative reference work on the French language, created an entry for “iel” after its researchers noted “increasing use” of the third person pronoun in “a large number of texts drawn from various sources “. director, Charles Bimbenet, explained in a statement Wednesday. He added that the post had received positive feedback from “the majority” of its users.
The dictionary defines “iel”, which combines the words for “he” and “she”, as a third person singular pronoun that could refer to a person of any gender. The word is labeled “rare” because its use remains relatively low despite an increase in recent months, Bimbenet said. (The plural form of the non-binary pronoun is “iels”. The variations “ielle” and “ielles” are also included in Le Robert’s entry.)
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“The mission of [dictionary] is to observe the evolution of a French language in full mutation. … Defining the words that describe the world helps us understand it better,” Bimbenet added in defense of the editorial decision 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-running battle over whether the French language, rigidly structured according to rules of masculine grammar- feminine, should be modified to better represent women and gender. -non-compliant persons.
Jean-Michel Blanquer, French Minister of National Education tweeted Wednesday that school-age children should not use Le Robert’s entry as a valid reference, adding that “inclusive writing is not the future of the French language.”
Francois Jolivet, a member of the French parliament from the ruling centrist party, also rejected non-binary pronouns, characterizing the acceptance of ‘iel’ and its variations as akin to the promotion of a ‘woke’ ideology.
In a letter to the French Academy, a nearly 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 “solitary campaign is an obvious ideological intrusion that undermines our common language and its influence,” the lawmaker’s letter read.
The French Academy did not respond to a request for comment early Thursday.
The legendary organization publishes advice on French grammar and vocabulary, but many in the French-speaking world regard its non-binding advice as sacrosanct.
In 2017, the prominent language body issued a fiery warning, saying that efforts to make French more gender-inclusive could result in “a disunited language, disparate in its expression, which creates confusion that borders on the illegibility”.
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For many years, feminist activists have campaigned against the predominance of the masculine form in French, which, according to some, reduces the position of women in professional circles.
As early as the 1990s, women in senior positions in the French government, including ministerial positions, attempted to refer to their functions as “madame la minister”, replacing the masculine “le” with its form feminine.
But the usage is far from widely accepted, even to this day, as those who oppose the inclusive form of French hold firmly to tradition. In 2017, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe banned the use of gender-neutral French in all official government documents.
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 variants in official government functions.
Canada, where French is one of the official languages, encourages its lawmakers to use gender-neutral language when drafting English versions of their bills, arguing that pronouns like “they” are useful in a legislative context. to “eliminate gendered language and awkward repetition of names.
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