Welcome to the Modern World of Pronouns: Identity-Inclusive Natural Language Processing beyond Gender

Neopronoun examples


The world of pronouns is changing – from a closed word class with few members to an open set of terms to reflect identities. However, Natural Language Processing (NLP) barely reflects this linguistic shift, resulting in the possible exclusion of non-binary users, even though recent work outlined the harms of gender-exclusive language technology. The current modeling of 3rd person pronouns is particularly problematic. It largely ignores various phenomena like neopronouns, i.e., novel pronoun sets that are not (yet) widely established. This omission contributes to the discrimination of marginalized and underrepresented groups, e.g., non-binary individuals. It thus prevents gender equality, one of the UN’s sustainable development goals (goal 5). Further, other identity-expressions beyond gender are ignored by current NLP technology. This paper provides an overview of 3rd person pronoun issues for NLP. Based on our observations and ethical considerations, we define a series of five desiderata for modeling pronouns in language technology, which we validate through a survey. We evaluate existing and novel modeling approaches w.r.t. these desiderata qualitatively and quantify the impact of a more discrimination-free approach on an established benchmark dataset.

Proceedings of the 29th International Conference on Computational Linguistics, Gyeongju, Republic of Korea. International Committee on Computational Linguistics.