The gender-neutral pronoun ‘hen’ will officially enter dictionaries in Norway after rising popularity in the use of the new word.
The Language Council of Norway confirmed that the term, which is an alternative to the feminine pronoun ‘hun’ and the masculine pronoun ‘han’, would likely enter official Norwegian language within a year.
Daniel Ims, a representative for the council, said the use of hen had increased in the country and had been discussed in the country’s linguistic and grammar community for some time before a decision was made by the council.
He told the Norwegian broadcaster NRK: ‘It will be part of the spelling, both in Bokmål and in Nynorsk.
The Language Council of Norway said the gender-neutral pronoun ‘hen’ will officially enter dictionaries in Norway within the year
‘Over the years, we have seen that it has become increasingly used.
‘In the beginning, there was a proposal that it should be used, but in recent years it has been increasingly used in newspaper texts and in academic use.’
In 2017, Norway’s parliament initially rejected a proposal put forward by the country’s Labour Party to use the gender-neutral personal pronoun ‘hen’.
The proposal was rejected by the Conservative Party, the Progress Party, the Christian Democrats and the Centre Party.
Following the decision, Jan Elisabeth Lindvik, leader of the Association for Transgender People, told the Swedish newspaper Dagen: ‘Only a few years ago, no one would have said we’d would have been able to determine our own legal sex either.
‘That was also a maturation process, which took on rocket speed with the aid of Amnesty.’
The latest move by Norway comes nearly three years after ‘they’ as a pronoun for non-binary people was added to other definitions of the word to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in the US.
Daniel Ims, a representative for the Language Council of Norway, said the use of hen had increased in the country
Merriam-Webster added the new definition of ‘they’ to its dictionary in September 2019 to reflect the non-binary gender identity.
Speaking at the time, Nick Adams, director of transgender representation for the LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD, said the move was a positive step but there was still ‘a long road ahead’.
‘There is a long road ahead before language, policy and culture are completely affirming and inclusive,’ Adams said.
Later that year, the American Psychological Association (APA) endorsed ‘they’ as a singular third-person pronoun in its latest style guide for scholarly writing.
‘We believe writers should try to use a person’s self-identified pronoun whenever feasible,’ said Jasper Simons, chief publishing officer for the APA.
‘The singular ”they” is a way for writers to avoid making assumptions about gender when it is not known.’