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The pronoun 他 (ta1) for he/she/it has been used since at least the Ming dynasty and has had a number of variants, such as 牠 for animals and 祂 for deities. In the 20th century the feminine version 她 was introduced to imitate western languages, and is now used to refer to female persons in almost all Chinese publications.

Since 他 was originally gender-neutral and uses the generic "human" radical 人, while 她 is explicitly gendered, this seems somewhat asymmetrical. I'd like to know if there has ever been a character proposed that would represent the pronoun "ta1" only when talking about male persons.

I know that the Chinese language has other 3rd person pronouns, some of which are gendered, but I'm interested in ta1 specifically.

  • It’s just going to be . – user3306356 Mar 20 '18 at 17:43
  • The solution to gender asymmetricality is to get rid of 她 and restore original usage of 他 referring to both genders (which aligns with the original meaning other), not to invent a new character. If the OP can read Chinese fluently, I suggest looking at this Zhihu discussion, which was prompted by someone asking if there should be a character invented for the male gender ("⿰男也"). – droooze Apr 20 '18 at 13:19
  • No simply, only 他 她 它 in daily, 祂 only in holy bibles, 牠 only in dictionaries. – Jacob May 4 '18 at 15:03
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I would suggest that there is no sense of gender in the Chinese languages since the very beginning; nor even today. We all know that the Chinese languages are very isolated and very analytic. The idea of gender, number, and case, in Romance languages may not be brought to the learning and using of the Chinese languages. Though I'm not perfectly confident, in the context of learning and using the Chinese languages, it might be a good practice to abandon the subconscious paradigm of fusing additional information into a word. If necessary, specify specifically.

As another user already mentioned, the invention of "她" was only a very recent activity (around 1900) by intelligentsia from English or Deutsch, and observable objections against it have arose recently (5-10 years) when the proposal of the abolition of gendered pronouns in the anglophone communities became popular.

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Short answer: no.

There are occasional suggestions for a male tā character (for example, ⿰男也, in this online discussion), but none have caught on.

In fact, the desire for an unambiguously gender-neutral character for tā has led some people to write "TA", even when the rest of the text is written in characters. This has been discussed by the linguist Victor Mair on the Language Log:

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Most Chinese don’t know 他includes 她. The new generation use “TA” to show non gender bias, so if you use 他, people might think you mean him/he. “TA” is wildly widely used online.

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You are right that in old times 他 was gender neutral. But when you are reading something written later than 2000 (in this century) and see 他, you can be sure that it is referring to only a male person. However, when you see 他们, you can never tell if any female person is included but you can learn that there are at least one male person in that group. In earlier written Chinese, say, 1950-2000, most 他s are referring to only male persons, but some old people still tended to use 他 as a gender-neutral pronoun in that period.

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