Gender neutral language in Polish

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Gender neutral language

Gender neutral language in Polish is more difficult than gender neutral language (also called gender inclusive language) in some languages, because grammatical gender is very pervasive in Polish. See the main article on gender neutral language for general reasons to use neutral language, common problems in using it, and its use for nonbinary people.

Pronouns[edit | edit source]

In Polish there is no standard non-gendered pronoun like English's singular they. "Oni" is the third person plural masculine pronoun (used when a group has at least one male in it, or the genders of the group are unknown), while "one" is the third person plural non-masculine pronoun (used when a group has no male members, or for groups like young children, animals, objects, or intangible concepts).[1] Translations of English singular they into Polish sometimes use "oni" despite it being masculine.[2]

There is a neuter singular pronoun "ono/jego" but that can be considered dehumanizing, similar to "it/its" in English.

Some Polish-speaking nonbinary people just use "he/his" ("on/jego") or "she/her" ("ona/jej") – either the same as their gender assigned at birth or the opposite.[3]

Some neopronoun forms have been proposed, such as[4]:

  • onu/jenu
  • ono/eno
  • vono/vego
  • ne/nego
  • onx/jex
  • ony/jegy
  • ony/ich
  • onø/jenø
  • onæ/jæ

For second-person pronouns, it is possible to use the mixed-gender plural "państwo" in place of masculine "pan" or feminine "pani", but using this in reference to a singular person is not well-established.

The reflexive pronoun "się" (equivalent to "myself", "herself", "himself", "one's self", etc.) does not inflect for gender.[5]

Other words[edit | edit source]

Nouns, verbs, numerals, and adjectives are also gendered in Polish. Some Polish nonbinary people create solutions such as gender-neutral word endings, for example "chciałxm"/"chciałom"/"chciałx" instead of "chciałbym" (masculine) or "chciałabym" (feminine).[6][7] In the 2004 science-fiction novel Perfect Imperfection, author Jacek Dukaj used -um verb endings (e.g. "zobaczyłum" instead of the masculine "zobaczyłem" or feminine "zobaczyłam") for a "post-human" group of beings.[8] These have since become known as Dukaisms.[3]

Another gender-neutral way of speaking or writing Polish is rewording phrases to use a non-gendered conjugation of a verb. For example, instead of saying "I saw" in the masculine form "zobaczyłem" or feminine form "zobaczyłam", one could say "Udało mi się zobaczyć" (I was able to see).[9]

For written Polish, it is possible to combine the masculine and feminine forms of a noun, with a space in between the endings to acknowledge other genders. For example instead of the masculine "aktorzy" or the feminine "aktorki", one could write "aktorki_rzy".[10]

Words can be de-gendered by using an -ę ending such as "autorzę" (instead of masc "autor" or fem "autorka") but this is not ideal because the -ę ending is considered diminutive and thus can be seen as infantilizing nonbinary people.[11]

Gender neutral neologisms[edit | edit source]

This section is an incomplete list of word/phrases that have been created by Polish speakers to render them gender-neutral/gender inclusive. More can be found in the dictionary of

Polish English
dziennikarko journalist[2]
nauczycielko teacher[2]
elektryczko electrician[2]
hydrauliczko plumber[2]
murarzę bricklayer[2]
kucharzę cook[2]
bioetyko bioethicist[2]
ładnu / ładnya / ładnx pretty[12]

See also[edit | edit source]

External resources/Further reading[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Łukasiak, Adam (20 October 2017). "Making Sense of Polish Personal Pronouns". Clozemaster Blog. Retrieved 25 November 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Misiek, Szymon (2020). "Misgendered in Translation?: Genderqueerness in Polish Translations of English-language Television Series". Anglica: An International Journal of English Studies. doi:10.7311/0860-5734.29.2.09.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "An overview of Polish nonbinary pronouns". Retrieved 25 November 2020.
  4. "Skąd potrzeba niebinarnych zaimków?" [Where is the need for nonbinary pronouns?]. (in Polish). Retrieved 25 November 2020.
  6. "hi how to use they them in poland. próbuję ale im failing miserably". Archived from the original on 17 June 2020.
  7. "Czemu ludzie są Twoim zdaniem dyskryminowani przez swoją orientację seksualną?". Archived from the original on 17 June 2020.
  8. "TransGrysy wyjaśniają: co robić, a czego nie robić w kontaktach z osobami transpłciowymi?" [TransGrysy explains: what to do and what not to do when dealing with transgender people?]. (in Polish). Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  9. niski_grabieżca (12 June 2019). "Osoby niebinarne - jakiej są płci?". (in Polish). Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  10. Tłumaczeń, Biuro (11 December 2015). "Gender. Płeć w języku. Feminizm w języku polskim" [Gender. Gender in language. Feminism in Polish language]. Ekspresowe tłumaczenia (in Polish). Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  11. @andrea (22 February 2022). "Neutratywy: czemu nie końcówka -ę?". (in Polish). Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  12. Andrea (2 February 2020). "Genderneutralizacja polszczyzny?" [Gender-neutralization of the Polish language?] (in Polish). Retrieved 25 November 2020.
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