[Ads-l] Latinx

dave at WILTON.NET dave at WILTON.NET
Sun Aug 23 18:58:37 EDT 2020

First, I want to say that as a white male in my 50s, I am not going to opine on whether or not Latinx is a valid term. It's not my place.

But I am disappointed with the attitude of some on this list, using words like "silliness." Those on this list should have a solid understanding of how language develops. Latinx will succeed or fail as a term based on whether and how the majority of people, especially Latinos and Latinas, use it. Whether or not it conforms to traditions of English or Romance orthography or pronunciation is irrelevant--if it succeeds, any confusion over pronunciation or spelling will evaporate. (And seriously, given the state of English spelling, any argument that it doesn't conform to tradition or creates confusion is absurd.) Not to mention that whether or not Romance languages have grammatical gender (much less the pronouncements of the Spanish Academy) is utterly irrelevant to a question about English usage. And what any official language academy dictates is especially irrelevant. Such academies have a notably poor record of controlling the use of language. The use of Latinx seems to be growing, but whether it will continue to do so is anyone's guess.

And the use of gender-neutral terms is not pointless or silly. It has been amply demonstrated that gendered language does have an effect, however subtle, on people's attitudes regarding equality between the sexes. I agree that "bigotry" is too strong a word to describe it, but it isn't exactly wrong. 

Anyone can, of course, express an aesthetic opinion about the word, and such an opinion is valid. But it is also just a personal opinion. We all have our personal opinions and pet peeves about particular usages, and we on this list should know that such peeves are irrelevant to how language changes over time. If people want to express such opinions, I would hope they frame them as personal opinions, and not as prescriptions for how the language should be.

I really just expected a better level of discussion on this list.

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> On Behalf Of Michael Everson
Sent: Sunday, August 23, 2020 9:12 AM
Subject: Re: [ADS-L] Latinx

> On 17 Aug 2020, at 20:50, Chris Waigl <chris at LASCRIBE.NET> wrote:
> The Latinx terminology is an effort to deal with a tiny aspect of how 
> bigotry creeps into language.

Nonsense. Romance languages have grammatical gender. This is not bigotry. 
Should actual speakers of such languages find a need to distinguish a third form for such nouns, -x will absolutely not be their choice.

Spanish: latino /laˈtino/, latina /laˈtina/, latinx /laˈtinx/ (that is “lateenkh” with a voiceless velar fricative) which violates the rules of phonology). latine /laˈtine/ is of course available.

(Brazilian) Portuguese: latino /laˈtʃinu/, latina /laˈtʃinɐ/, latinx /laˈtinʃ/ or /laˈtinks/ which violate the rules of phonology. latine /laˈtʃine/ is of course available.

But it’s not. It’s most likely monoglot English speakers saying “we need a substitute for “a” and “o” and why don’t we use the algebraic “x” because we remember it from high school maths” and so we get this silliness. Yes, silliness. Because I don’t know if it’s /laˈtineks/ or /laˈtiŋks/ and I don’t live anywhere where I can ask anyone and if it’s meant to be the former than it’s a _poor_ orthographic choice. If they want people to say /laˈtineks/ then they should write “latinex” because that form will elicit the pronunciation desired.

But I doubt that speakers of Spanish or Portuguese have much interest in that. It’s not an endonym for them. It’s an exonym from the United States. 
The Wikipedia has an article on “Latinx”. From it:

Reactions to the term have been mixed. Supporters say it engenders greater acceptance among non-binary Latinos by being gender-neutral and thus inclusive of all genders. Critics say the term does not follow traditional grammar, is difficult to pronounce, and is disrespectful toward conventional Spanish. Both supporters and detractors point to linguistic imperialism as a reason for respectively supporting or opposing the use of the term. A 2019 poll found that use of Latinx has grown to 2% nationwide in the United States (with a 5% margin of error). A 2020 Pew Research Center survey found that 23% of respondents had heard of the term, while 76% had not.[4] Of the respondents that had heard of "Latinx"; 3% used the term, while 12% "expressed disagreement or dislike of the term". The Royal Spanish Academy style guide does not recognize the suffix -x.

Pronunciations of Latinx documented in dictionaries include /ləˈtiːnɛks, læ-, lɑː-, -nəks, ˈlætɪnɛks/ lə-TEE-neks, la(h)-, -⁠nəks, LAT-in-eks. Other variants respelled ad hoc as "Latins", "La-tinks", or "Latin-equis" have also been reported. Editors at Merriam-Webster surmised that "more than likely, there was little consideration for how it was supposed to be pronounced when it was created".

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