Today Dennis Baron
talks about his new book What's Your Pronoun?: Beyond He & She
(Liveright, 2020). Baron is professor emeritus in English at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and has written many books about language and its connection to culture. What’s Your Pronoun
addresses an important cultural question about women’s rights and the rights and identities of non-binary people, and reveals how we got from he and she to zie, hir, and singular they. Pronouns have sparked a national (and international) debate, prompting new policies about what pronouns to use in schools, workplaces and even prisons. Baron describes the historical context of singular they, how the use of generic he was both used to assert women’s suffrage and to deny it, and the use of neo-pronouns throughout the centuries. What’s Your Pronoun?
chronicles the role that pronouns play in establishing our rights and identities. Indeed, the relevance of the question “what’s your pronoun” throughout English’s history may surprise you.
Carrie Gillon is a linguist, editor and writing coach, working in the academic and healthcare sectors. She’s the author of
The Semantics of Determiners (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2103) and the co-author of
Nominal Contact in Michif (Oxford University Press, 2018). She is also the co-host of the podcast The Vocal Fries, a biweekly podcast about linguistic discrimination (or why judging language is not OK).