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Encyclopedia > Spivak pronouns

The Spivak pronouns are new terms proposed to serve as gender-neutral third-person singular personal pronouns in English (see gender-neutral pronouns). These neologisms are used by some people who feel that there are problems with gender-specific pronouns because they imply sex and/or gender (see non-sexist language). However, they are very rare compared to other solutions and most commentators feel that it is unlikely that they will catch on.

There are two variants of the Spivak pronouns in use, as shown in the table below. See Declension for more information on each of the cases.

Subject Object Possessive Adjective Possessive Pronoun Reflexive
Male He laughed I hit him His face bled I am his He shaves himself
Female She laughed I hit her Her face bled I am hers She shaves herself
Spivak E laughed I hit em Eir face bled I am eirs E shaves emself
Spivak (alternative) Ey laughed I hit Em Eir face bled I am Eirs Ey shaves Eirself

This pronoun set was originated by Michael Spivak, a mathematician-educator who used them in a number of books. It is also the favoured choice of certain people who have written about the subject, such as in Footnotes: Pronouns (http://willow.dyndns.org/footnotes/pronouns.html) and in the Gender-Neutral Pronoun FAQ (http://www.aetherlumina.com/gnp/).

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

In the event that E enters standard English, it will be the fourth word of one letter, the others being I, A, and O.

Publications employing Spivak pronouns

  • The Joy of TeX (Michael Spivak)
  • Comprehensive Introduction to Differential Geometry (Michael Spivak)
  • Calculus on Manifolds (Michael Spivak)
  • The Paradox of Self-Amendment: A Study of Logic, Law, Omnipotence, and Change (Peter Suber)

See also

  Results from FactBites:
Gender-Free Language (753 words)
True perhaps from a logical POV, but the use of "their" as a gender-free pronoun with a singular antecedent goes back a long way in English.
This is from an article in "The Vocabula Review," a publication that definitely leans toward the prescriptive side of things: "Speakers of English, on the other hand, have been using singular they since the days of Middle English.
FWIW, MSTP, our styleguide at work, does allow the use of "their" with a singular antecedent.
  More results at FactBites »



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