Gendered 2nd Person Pronouns

by @edent | # # # | 1 comment | Read ~123 times.

English is a stupid, irregular language. But at least it doesn't needlessly ascribe gender to inanimate objects. However, I think this is a weakness when using 2nd Person pronouns - especially in fiction.

Most literature is written in the 1st person ("I opened the door") or the 3rd person ("She picked up a fork"). But very occasionally, mostly in interactive fiction, authors use the 2nd person ("You break open the crate").

And herein lies the problem. When you are reading a book, you is you. You isn't a character with different attributes. You are necessarily your own gender, race, age, and so on. Unless it is made explicit in the text ("You run a hand through your greying beard" or a character says "Where are you going, girl?") then the protagonist is assumed to be like you in every way.

Imagine, just for a moment, that English had a gendered "You". For example "Mou" and "Fou" (yes, I know gender is more complicated than that). When experiencing 2nd person text, Fou automatically know what gender Fou are.

Some languages do have this feature. Traditional Chinese used to have 你 and 妳 to differentiate between gendered You - although both were pronounced the same. Nowadays only 你 is used.

Mou open a book, inside are strange letters. As mou read each word, mour eyes light up. As you read, mou realise that mou're not who mou thought mou were. Mou've always known mou were the protagonist, and now mou'd better stop reading and help mourself to more cake.

This is, perhaps, a silly idea.

One thought on “Gendered 2nd Person Pronouns

  1. GF says:

    Hi, your paragraph about Chinese is the wrong way around. In Classical Chinese only 你 existed. Then due to the attempt to modernise written Chinese in the early 20th century, 妳 was invented. Although it’s fallen out of fashion it is still a valid character.https://chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/33265/when-did-%E5%A6%B3-become-the-second-person-singular-feminine-pronoun

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