[Lingtyp] Typographical means to signal gender inclusiveness

Sebastian Nordhoff sebastian.nordhoff at glottotopia.de
Thu Oct 24 10:09:32 UTC 2019

Dear all,
I am interested in orthographical or typographical means to signal 
gender inclusiveness (in a social sense) in the world's written languages.

In the last years, there has been a growing desire to replace a 
masculine form with Something Else when referring to a) referents of 
unknown gender or b) groups. So, in German, instead of /Dozenten/ 
'lecturers', people now use

(1) a. Dozenten und Dozentinnen (doubling)
     b. Dozierende               (participle)
     c. Dozent/innen             (slash)
     d. DozentInnen              (CamelCase)
     e. Dozent_innen             (underscore)
     f. Dozent*innen             (asterisk)

In Dutch, we have

(2) Medewerk(st)er              (parentheses)

where "-st-" signals the feminine.

For most German or Dutch nouns, the feminine is marked by a suffix as 
opposed to zero marking masculine. When both genders are overtly marked, 
things get more complicated:
In Spanish, people use the fact that the masculine marker "-o" and the 
feminine marker "-a" look like "@" when superposed

(3) L at s viej at s italian at s        (@)
     'The old Italians'

Readers can now choose to focus on the "a-shape" or the "o-shape" when 
encountering a "@".

In French, this strategy is not possible. Instead, one finds periods 
separating formatives, and the reader has to select the correct ones. 
The precise rules for the creation of the dotted forms are unclear to me 
at present.

(4) Cher.ère.s étudiant.e.s     (dotting)
     'Dear students'

In (4), the ".e." can be inserted in to "étudiants" 'students' to yield 
"étudiantes" 'female students'. But "ère" is not inserted to yield 
"Cherères"; instead, it replaces "er" to yield "Chères".

I would like to know more about the following questions:

1. Which of these strategies are used in other languages you know?
2. Are there other orthographical or typographical strategies, different 
from those listed above?
3. What word classes are targetted? Nouns are the obvious choice, as are 
adjectives and articles. Are there instances of interesting minor word 
classes where this phenomenon has been observed? What about head marking 
on verbs?
4. How are stem changes handled, e.g ablaut in German "Arzt/Ärztin" 
'doctor m/f', where the ¨ cannot readily be separated from the A?
5. Is there evidence that complicated gender morphology stifles the 
desire to be more gender inclusive?
6. Are there similar phenomena in languages with non-Latin scripts?
7. Any suggestions about predictors for this (geography, genealogy, 
history, typology, sociology)?
8. Are there forms created in order to include people who do not want to 
identify as either male or female (this is the case for the * in German)?
9. Are you aware of existing literature on this topic?

Best wishes

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