Identity politics in the German language

UltraDolphinRevolution

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The English language has been spared from identity politics due to its grammatical nature (with the exception of "they" to refer to single individuals).

For those who are interested I want to give you a broad chronological overview of the situation in Germany (as there has been an interesting development recently).

Background:
-The German language distinguishes between three grammatical genders: male, female and neutral. Although there are somewhat helpful rules (e.g. the male grammatical gender is overrepresented with regards to simple countable objects, while more abstract things are often female) the gender of individual nouns has to be learned by heart.
-A person who does something has the male ending "-er" (e.g. Sänger = singer); females can be referred to as "-er + in" (singular: Sängerin) or "-er + innen" (plural: Sängerinnen). When there is a mixed group, the group is referred to as grammatically male: "-er" (plural). This is similar to many other languages (e.g. French; Chinese in writing)

Chronology
(disclaimer: from my memory):
It must have been in the 90s when some teachers suddenly referred to students as *male students and female students* ("Schülerinnen und Schüler"). It was, however, mostly limited to speeches. I still remember that I thought this was very akward. After all, even a woman could refer to herself as being e.g. a "Sänger". However, feminists believed it was a marginilization of women that the maskulin forms are perceived as the norm (esp. when using the plural). Therefore, discrimation took place: They from now on discrimated (made a difference / distinguished) between male and female students.

In the late 2000s there were attempts to ease the use of convoluted expressions like "male XYZ and female XYZ" by either avoiding them and instead using participles (e.g. "those who are studying", "those who are teaching") or at least shortening them in writing: e.g. Sänger/innen. The feminists still weren´t happy because they felt that putting a slash in between a word would give the impression that males are "Sänger" but females are only "/innen". Therefore the so called "Binnen-I" was introduced: SängerInnen (capital I; no kidding).

This went on for roughly decade. In writing there was "SängerInnen" (saving paper - did you know the Germans hold the record in paper consumption?) while more and more people adopted the convoluted "Sängerinnen und Sänger".

At the time I pointed out that for some reason frauds, murderers, fascists and other negative words still kept only their masculine gender when talking about groups of people. Well, I was very surprised when I noticed something last year: Mörder (murderers) are now officially "Mörder*Innen". The star signifies those murderers who neither identify as male nor female. In addition (I only noticed it this year) people now pause between the two parts when speaking! It sounds ridiculous, even for me as a non-native.
I am not sure whether the pause is a micro-moment of silence or simply exists to avoid confusion (otherwise it is not clear whether one means "Mörderinnen", i.e. females only).

The latest development? Turn innocent words into Frankenstein creations: Führerschein becomes Führer*innenschein (driver "+ * + female plural" ´s licencse), Staatsbürger*innenschaft (citizen + * + female plural + ship), etc. A decade ago I jokingly predicted this...

In closing, I want to point out that even the words "somebody" (jemand) and "human" (Mensch) are masculine. I predict that there will be even more ridiculous developments as there are people whose jobs depend on coming up with these first world problems. I doubt they will start using "Mensch*Innen" as it could be misunderstood by questioning whether women are humans. However, I could see new forms of "somebody" (which is difficult to spread among the public though). Ironically, this is discrimination by separating what used to be united. When somebody said the plural "Schüler" I never had the image of a male-only-class in my mind (one would have to specifically say "male students"). I am very curious how many people will adopt this way of speaking and writing over time. It is certainly a top-down development.
 
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FAST6191

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I saw a version of this in Russian a while back (various genders as well, probably more complex and memory heavy, and things that historically were one way despite grammatical rules of thumb being another having some want to force them to another).

However now I am playing German songs in my head but with those expressions above substituted in.
Quite amusing.

"The English language has been spared from identity politics due to its grammatical nature (with the exception of "they" to refer to single individuals)."
They to refer to single people has been around for a long long time, though the nature of its usage I suppose has varied (or at least assumption of gender is something someone contemplated).
That said are you sure English has been spared beyond that?
Not seen the fate of mankind, manhole cover, the various job role creations if man was in there (policeman, fireman, postman, actor/actress being a more strict setup, never mind the incredibly silly can't be a post person as person contains son which is male... https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/gender-inclusive-language/ being a nice university domain on the matter), possibly brainstorm (some claimed it as offensive to epileptics, this despite as far as I am aware it not being any kind of reference like we have for thalid/flid or the like, though a search now says some truly old definitions might resemble it), resistance to assumption of gender norms for various traditionally (usually male) roles in abstract form or indeed explicit/stunt choice for another (had several programming books refer to their hypothetical programmers as her, most of my old engineering books will be not unlike the start of this) and so on?
 

UltraDolphinRevolution

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what about just call people what they want to be called :3 should be simple, you'd think :3
He or she is simple, but defying grammar rules is more difficult. I couldn´t make you call me "I", for example. Would you even be willing to refer to me as "thou"?

"They" (Sie) would not work in German, by the way. It is already a polite version of the 2nd person.
 
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Hello.:)

A very interesting Topic,very nice.Thank you.:yay:

As Austrian/German languaged Guy,I really want to contribute something:
it is not good and not really possible here.Such Topics leads everytime to a "De-Rail of the Thread,personal Insults,stubborn One-Way Opinions/Point of Views,Misunderstandings due to poor Translations,not good language Skills......

So,thank you for this really great Topic and I wish this Thread an interesting,cultivated and nice Progress.
and of course,good Luck with it.:)
 
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Spring_Spring

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well.... it seems fairly orwellian to not just let a language develop its natural cause. Something which is called "wrong" now is just a sign of the language developing, as is the case with many phenomena in human culture :3
 

UltraDolphinRevolution

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Grammar needs to have some kind of logic though:

I play games.
He plays games
He and I play games.

It was done by me.
It was done by him.
It was done by him and I. [makes no sense]

I think I know where it comes from. Many people used to say "Me and my friends went outside" and were corrected by their teachers: "My friends and I went outside." They assumed this would always be the correct version, independent of grammar. Well, they are wrong. This virus has spread throughout American society. It even shows up in movies.
Unless somebody can explain to me how it is not illogical...
 
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Spring_Spring

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I don't think there is anything awkward about it, it is at least understandable.... and I don't see what is wrong with it showing up in movies, maybe they intended to depict a character speaking a certain way instead of everyone doing so "perfectly" :3
 
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Grammar needs to have some kind of logic though:
Erm... The thing is that language is always in use,. It is historically grown, and while it has similarities, all languages I've known also have exceptions to their rules. Why is the plural of 'goose' 'geese' but the multiple of 'a moose' is 'mooses'? Nobody knows (but perhaps some linguistic experts) ... It just is.
 
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