I caught this snippet
at France Inter (about 8 minutes long) about the official incorporation into the Petit Robert of the neutral pronoun iel
. It's not major news here because I've seen it mentioned on this forum before. It has also been in the press quite a bit.
I've heard it used in podcasts and sometimes on news items, but as the linguist in the piece says it's a word mostly used by people under-30 and that a lot are sceptical because it is seen as interfering in an already fixed and known system of language structure which everyone learns young (grammar, orthography etc). Though the official education doesn't trump the growth and use of language outside those confines, which is how many of these words arise at all.
It was interesting that she indicated that Larousse and Petit Robert follow divergent paths; Larousse now tending towards language conservation and Petit Robert recording language currents. I'm in the middle. I don't know that just taking up current buzzwords is always such a great idea, because although a dictionary should be, as she says a 'mirror' of actual language use, it also has some influence on word usage. I have several examples of dictionaries of 'obsolete' words that have fallen out of the dictionary and quite often it is because the use of an interpolated foreign word was promoted and maintained. Whereas trendy words often themselves disappeared within a generation, but are now eagerly recorded by trendy lexicographers.
Not that I think iel
is a worthless or merely trendy word. Though I see uncertainty in how it is used. Quite a lot of people aren't sure about how to form associated grammar after employing it. You see/hear 'iel' then distinctly masculin/feminin grammatical structures, rather than neutral, and unlike in English where the associated elements in a sentence aren't gendered, this is problem for gendered languages. You can see that discussion in this article from 2021
L’Office québécois de la langue française seemingly advises not to simply default to iel
. To quote:
Il encourage plutôt l’emploi de la rédaction épicène.
So with an example:
- Je vous présente Camille Beaudoin, scientifique de renom
qui se consacre à la recherche sur le cancer. (Camille est une personne non binaire.)
- Je vous présente madame Camille Beaudoin, une scientifique renommée
qui se consacre à la recherche sur le cancer. (Camille est une femme.)
- Je vous présente monsieur Camille Beaudoin, un scientifique renommé
qui se consacre à la recherche sur le cancer. (Camille est un homme.)
This is something which will stretch well into this century.