Hen Pronoun

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Hen: the New Pronoun in the Swedish Language

Sweden is well-known for its effort to create gender equality in the Swedish society, as is shown in the report of the World Economic Forum, where Sweden ranked 4th on gender equality in the areas heath, education, economy and politics. Only Iceland, Norway and Finland are ranked higher. (Global Gender Gap Report 2015 p. 8) However, this does not mean that the Swedes are resting on their laurels and stop working on their progress in gender equality and LGBT rights, which is made clear from the introduction of a new third person singular pronoun. This pronoun, hen, is used as a gender-neutral option for the Swedish equivalents of he and she. This paper is written in order to examine and get a general
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There are two explanations about how the new pronoun was formed. One is that the word is created by combining the h- from han and hon with the -en ending of one of the neuter forms den (comparable to the English ‘it’), but has been said that the more plausible explanation is that hen is borrowed from the Finnish language, where hän is the only third person singular pronoun and used for both genders. (Milles, p. 27) Originally, the male pronoun was used ubiquitously in many documents to refer to both men and women, just like in English (Milles). However, in 1966, the linguist Rolf Dunås mentioned it in the Swedish newspaper Upsala Nya Tidning, which was during the second wave of feminism and around the same time that the generic usage of the male pronoun han became politically incorrect (Bäck, Bas-Wohlert, Milles). Soon after, another linguist named Karl-Hampus Dahlstedt stated that using han in this way was “both impractical and sometimes inappropriate” (Milles, p. 22). This eventually led to a proposal in the 1970’s to avoid the usage of only the male pronoun in legal statutes, considering it was deemed problematic that the law only addressed half of the population, while it was of everyone’s concern (Milles, p. 22). After that, the topic covering the use of pronouns and hen was not heavily discussed for a long time. It only got mentioned again by the linguist Hans Karlgren, who suggested using hen in 1994,…show more content…
While it is not used when documenting laws, it is slowly getting more accepted to use the gender-neutral pronoun in other legal documentations. The Court of Appeals for northern Norrland used the new pronoun in a verdict written in 2012. Senior court councillor Hans Sundberg said it was for practical reasons, not political ones, like in cases where they refer to people in general instead of one specific person. In this case, it was “a style choice made by the official working on that particular case” (The Local, 2012). However, there is also a case of a Swedish headteacher getting reported by someone defining their gender identity as ‘non-binary’. The headteacher refused to used the name of the interviewee during a job interview and insisted on using hon instead of hen (The Local,
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