According to the Language Council of Norway, a new gender-neutral pronoun will be added to the country’s official Norwegian language and the pronoun is likely to enter the Norwegian dictionaries within a year. The council confirmed that the new word “Hen” will be added as an alternative to the current singular third-person pronouns, the feminine “hun” and the masculine “han”. Several languages have already included gender-neutral pronouns for hundreds of years.


Daniel Ims, a representative of the council told the Norwegian media, gender-neutral-pronouns have already been discussed in Norway’s linguistic and grammar community previously, the arguments for their use were not mirrored by Norwegian speech patterns. “Over time, we have seen that the actual use of hen has increased and stabilized,” he said.

Back in 2019 in the US, the Merriam-Webster(oldest dictionary publisher in the United States) dictionary included a gender-neutral definition of the pronoun “they.” “They” entered in the English language in its plural form via Old Norse. After, the English singular use of the pronoun has caught on many people using the Norwegian equivalent “de” in the same way.

Norway to add gender-neutral-pronoun to Norwegian language and it's likely to enter the dictionaries
Carl-Oscar Vik, who is non-binary, has been experimenting with pronouns over the past year, but prefers ‘de’ to ‘hen’. Photograph: Carl-Oscar Vik


“A hundred years ago it was normal to use singular de to address people of a higher rank,” said Carl-Oscar Vik from Skien in south-east Norway. Vik, who is non-binary, has been experimenting with pronouns over the past year. Although they do not mind using hen, they feel most at home with de, which they feel sounds more natural in Norwegian. “Ultimately it’s just a question of preference,” they said(let’s use gender-neutral-pronoun here).


“I think that a normal person on the street doesn’t know anyone who identifies as non-binary. But I hope that by getting hen into the dictionary we can get the idea out there because there are many people who don’t feel at home in certain pronouns but don’t have the words to describe it,” they said.

Vik believes that the recognition of gender-neutral pronouns like “they” and Norwegian “hen” could be the first step to the legal recognition of a third gender. Daniel Ims said that the new pronoun “Hen” could enter the Norwegian dictionaries in early spring or early autumn.


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