Gender-neutral language

Gender-neutral language

Gender-neutral language, gender-inclusive language, inclusive language, or gender neutrality is linguistic prescriptivism that aims to eliminate (or neutralize) reference to gender in terms that describe people. For example, the words chairman, fireman, lesbian, and stewardess are gender-specific; the corresponding gender-neutral terms are chairperson (or chair), firefighter, homosexual, and flight attendant. The pronoun he may be replaced with he or she or s/he when the gender of the person referred to is unknown. Other gender-specific terms, such as actor and actress may be replaced by the originally male term (actor used for either gender). "Gender-neutral language" should not be confused with genderless language, which refers to languages without grammatical gender.

Advocates[who?] of gender-neutral language believe it promotes inclusion of all sexes or genders (gender-inclusive language), and that traditional terms are sexist. Opponents[who?] may consider the traditional terms to be non-sexist (e.g., "steward" and "stewardess" as distinct but equal terms) or may accept the pronoun "he" as a generic for both genders.

Various forms of gender-neutral language became a common feature in written and spoken versions of many languages in the late twentieth century. Feminists argue that previously the practice of assigning masculine gender to generic antecedents stemmed from language reflecting "the prejudices of the society in which it evolved, and English evolved through most of its history in a male-centered, patriarchal society.[1]"

Various languages employ different means to achieve gender neutrality. See the following articles for specific discussions:

A distinct issue arises in Japanese – the Japanese language does not have grammatical gender, but the speech of men and women differ – see gender differences in spoken Japanese. In this context, gender-neutrality refers to eliminating these differences from the language – for men and women to speak the same. This characteristic of Japanese is unusual among major languages – while intonation differs between men and women in many languages,[citation needed] use of distinctly different grammar and vocabulary is unusual.

See also


  1. ^ Some Notes on Gender-Neutral Language.

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Look at other dictionaries:

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