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What convention (or conventions) exist for words that are recited by a group of people, but refer to oneself using gender-specific pronouns? The most common context is probably group worship in a church service (as this is what caused me to think of this tonight), but could also include the recital of pledges, such as in court, or a 4-H meeting, etc.

Let's use a simple, made up example:

Estoy comprometido con la verdad.

  1. What conventions exist for writing such words/lyrics that are expected to be recited by both men and women?

    I could see it being written with both forms (i.e. comprometido/a or similar), but tonight at church, I noticed the feminine version of the word was written on the overhead projection, which seems like the least likely convention to me.

  2. What conventions exist for actually speaking these words aloud?

    Will each person say the same word (either masculine or feminine), or will each person substitute their own gender? At church tonight, I noticed the music leader, who was female, sang the masculine pronoun, despite the feminine pronoun being written.

So whatever conventions do or may exist, my experience tonight seemed to confuse them.

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I think you mean "estar comprometido con la verdad" –  Juanillo Feb 13 '12 at 9:21
    
@Juanillo: Thanks, corrected. –  Flimzy Feb 13 '12 at 19:08
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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

There is no full consensus here, neither in theory nor in practice. In Spanish, traditionally the masculine form is also used "neutrally"... so it's usually accepted in this form, at least for plural cases ("nosotros"). But 1) in the singular case you are refering to (a woman using the first singular person) this is a little more difficult to swallow and 2) there are the understandable ideological feminist trends that see in these uses signs of masculine domination, etc. In my experience (Argentina) both alternatives you mention are found.

One particular case I recall: in the catholic mass, just before the Communion, the people say:

"Yo no soy digno de que entres en mi casa, pero una palabra tuya bastará para sanarme" (from Lc 7).

Most women find natural to use the masculine form here. But the feminine alternative is not unheard of, and it would also be considered acceptable.

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As you observed, the female form written in the projection is, indeed, the least likely convention, and not even the lead singer obeyed to this.

If in a group of people (possibly men and women) some woman is speaking on behalf of the females present, she will say nosotras (and will use the female form of verbs). In a women-only context, they will most likely talk about nosotras.

However, the de facto convention is to use the masculine version whenever there is at least one male amongst the present, provided the group is referring to themselves (nosotros). So, for example, a typical politician's discourse will say "nosotros", "comprometidos con el país", etc., except, for example, when the politician is a woman and she's talking to a group of women (about women's rights, etc.).

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Politicians especially, in these times of political correctness, very often use the adage "nosotros y nosotras", or "ciudadanos y ciudadanas", in order to look aware of gender issues and therefore appeal to a larger audience. Whether or not this makes grammatical sense, I am not judging. –  CesarGon Feb 15 '12 at 12:54
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