A new pronoun “iel” has been added to the online version of Le Robert’s French-language dictionary, which has sparked heated debate in France.
The contraction of the pronouns “he” and “she”, the new word is used to denote non-dual persons, that is, neither masculine nor feminine.
The word is “a personal pronoun, the subject of the third person, singular and plural, used to refer to a person of any gender,” according to the definition adopted in the dictionary.
The addition of the new decremental pronoun in the plural in “iels” and “ielles” is justified by the extent of its use and efforts to include in the French dictionary.
“We found that word was growing and we combined it,” Le Robert’s Dictionary Managing Director Marie Helen Dreyfud attempted to explain, reported by France Inter radio on Wednesday.
The addition of the new pronoun caused a lot of uproar in France, to the point of causing a protest among publishers, but also on a political level.
Presidential Majority Vice-President François Jolevé estimated that the users of these new words were “fighters for a cause that has none of the French”, “wucesme”.
The Vice-Republic of La République en Marche (LREM) said he seized the French Academy to protest Le Robert’s dictionary initiative.
Following in his footsteps, French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said on Twitter that “universal writing is not the future of the French language”.
The author of dictionaries from Larousse also criticized the “hardline approach” of his rival. “The pronoun ‘iel’ is unnecessary and impolite. It is an aberration,” denounced Bernard Cirqueglini in Le Figaro daily.
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