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 fireman, stewardess, and, arguably, chairman, are gender-specific; the corresponding gender-neutral terms are firefighter, flight attendant and chairperson (or chair). The pronoun he may be replaced with he or she, s/he, or they 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. It has become common in academic and governmental settings to rely on gender-neutral language to convey inclusion of all sexes or genders (gender-inclusive language). Traditionalists consider the use of masculine pronouns in place of generic to be non-sexist and consider terms like "steward" and "stewardess" to be distinct but equal terms.

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."

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

  • Gender neutrality in English
  • Gender-neutrality in languages with grammatical gender
  • Gender-neutrality in genderless languages

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, use of distinctly different grammar and vocabulary is unusual.

Famous quotes containing the word language:

    the communication
    Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.
    —T.S. (Thomas Stearns)