Who We Are

Dr. Kiki Kosnick and Professor Vickie R. Phipps are faculty at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois (USA).

Dr. Kosnick, holds a Ph.D. in French and Gender and Women’s Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Kiki’s work involves queer approaches to teaching language, literature, and culture, with a current focus on non-binary inclusivity in French. Ki’s article “The Everyday Poetics of Gender-Inclusive French: Strategies for Navigating the Linguistic Landscape” was published in the journal Modern & Contemporary France (2019). To contact Dr Kosnick, please email.

Professor Phipps is an artist, educator, and freelance designer who holds an MFA from the University of Tennessee. V has two decades of experience in television. Most recently Vickie has taught design on location in Ghana, Morocco, Senegal, Japan and The Netherlands. To contact Vickie Phipps, please email.

Our History

The concept of Proper Pronouns was created by Kiki Kosnick and Vickie R. Phipps in the summer of 2018. Our first public presentation on the topic occurred in April 2019 at Queer Modernisms III in Oxford England. The abstract follows:

On the question of (im)proper pronouns: a provocation for queering linguistic networks 

In recent years, familiarity with gender-neutral and non-binary pronouns has continued to increase as speakers of English are identifying themselves as “they,” “xe,” and “per” with greater frequency at the same time as many educators and activists are mindful to avoid gender-coded language. Although it is now common in some educational and community settings for folks to share their pronouns as part of routine introductions, at best, one notes a chasm between everyday linguistic practices and the grammatical standards of editorial and scholarly bodies that overwhelmingly reinscribe traditional forms despite their limitations. In the everyday, resistance to non-binary pronouns manifests in statements like “I’m willing to call people what they want to be called, but I won’t be ungrammatical.” Meanwhile, in the case of formal writing, academic style guides favor restructuring the sentence to avoid non-binary pronouns –which is to say, to render the non-binary invisible.

Our provocation intervenes in these ongoing debates by providing an alternate framework that   leverages sensibilities already embedded in English grammar (e.g., proper nouns and proper adjectives) while making room for the articulation of queer experience. Whereas third-person singular pronouns have always been improper because they govern access to linguistic agency by relegating subjects to a binary, we propose an eighth class of pronouns: proper pronouns. Our presentation both defines and details the usage of proper pronouns in common language and formal writing.

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