25 September 2021

Welsh language moves with the times

I have not got into the habit of stating my preferred pronouns. Maybe I should, but it can be hard to teach an old dog new tricks. I think it is in general good idea though! If that just becomes the norm then people with preferred pronouns you might not guess don't feel like they stand out too much. Not sure where I should put them; maybe I should start on my university webpage! If and when the start of term frantic scrambling calms down a bit I should sort that. We have students who use 'they' and maybe they feel more welcome if they see there are people who acknowledge there is choice in pronouns. And my main language of communication is English. Unfortunately, I don't think English has found particularly good way of providing pronouns for people who are not keen on either he/him or she/her. I personally think that by using the plural, you lose information. I think there is merit in being able to tell whether someone speaks of one person or several. And it should be possible. I was very chuffed when I found out the Swedes had just come up with a new pronoun. And why not? Swedish is a living language.

With this issue in the background, I was interested when I saw on Facebook that someone was compiling a dictionary of words in Welsh associated with the LGBQT+ community. It seems that some people use words that are outdated and have connotations of denigration. And this person wanted to make sure that everybody who wants to use inclusive terms knows what terms to turn to! I thought that was a great project. I think Welsh is a language that has disproportionate number of learners. All children in Wales learn Welsh in school, but only some 25% of the population considers themselves Welsh speakers. That means there must be a lot of people who speak Welsh to a certain extent, but probably not good enough to know off by heart how to avoid political pitfalls! So I commented on that to say I thought it was a great project. And more people piled in to say similar things.

One person provided an interesting link. It was related to a petition for introducing a new pronoun in the Welsh language. The Welsh Senedd had rejected it; it seems that they had said they cannot legislate that sort of thing. That has to grow organically. And I can see their point. But it did mean that petition might still have value. If enough people hear about it and start using this new pronoun, it might take off. And then we have a pronoun that is not gender specific, but also singular. And I think that would be a great thing!

So what was the proposal? It seems that in general people just use plural in Welsh as well, so 'nhw' in colloquial speech and 'hwy' in rather old-fashioned and formal context. ('Hwy' is pronounced 'hooy'; that sounds about as formal as Sesame Street, but hey ho.) And the proposal was to use ลต (pronounced 'oo'). I think I'll just start using it. That is one speaker in less than a million! If I spread the word a bit I might be able to be small part of a big societal change. And that would be great. And then we've done Welsh; maybe English will follow one day.

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