The French dictionary “Robert” added the pronoun “iel” to the online edition, referring to non-binary people, which provoked a heated debate in a country where grammar is sacred, Reuters reported.
It is a mixture of the pronouns il (he) and elle (she). Non-binary are people who do not uniquely identify as men or women.
Robert, one of France’s leading dictionaries, said yesterday that he had added the pronoun to his list of words a few weeks ago after his linguists had noticed its increasing use in recent months.
The French government has spoken out against the idea, and the Ministry of Education has rejected earlier attempts to introduce gender-neutral language in curricula. French MP Francois Jolivet wrote a letter to the French Academy of Sciences to express his outrage at Robert’s decision. Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanche voiced support for Jolive’s actions on Twitter.
In France, “iel” cannot be found in any paper dictionary to date. However, it entered the digital edition of Le Petit Robert “a few weeks ago”. This was confirmed, in a press release on Wednesday, the director of the Le Robert dictionaries, Charles Bimbenet. If he recognizes that the use of this word is “still relatively weak”, he also explains that “for a few months, the librarians of Robert” noted that it was used more and more.
“In addition, the meaning of the word ‘iel’ cannot be understood by reading it alone (…) and it seemed useful to us to specify its meaning for those who meet it, whether they wish to use it or on the contrary … reject it, “he wrote. “Robert’s mission is to observe the evolution of a French language in movement, diverse, and to give an account of it. To define the words which speak about the world, it is to help to better understand it”.