[Lingtyp] Typographical means to signal gender inclusiveness

Ricardo Napoleão de Souza ricardofns at gmail.com
Thu Oct 24 13:22:39 UTC 2019

Dear Sebastian,

In Brazilian Portuguese written usage there are currently three ways of
signaling gender inclusiveness (note that all nouns, articles, adjectives
and several numbers code gender). The choice seems to depends on the level
of formality and/or how engaged in gender issues the writer is.

   - Masculine first, feminine in parentheses - the traditional way
      - *Aluno(a)s interessado(a)s no curso*
      - "Male/Female students interested in the course"

   - Substituting letters with @ or x - in gender-conscious circles
      - *Alun at s interessad at s no curso OR Alunxs interssadxs no curso*

   - Substituting both <a> and <o> with <e> - commonly seen in social media
   usage, very informal
      - *Alunes interessades no curso*

I find the third usage the most linguistically interesting, since words
ending in <e> can be masculine (*o Ocidente* - the West), feminine (*a
parede* - 'the wall'), or both (*o paciente* - 'the male patient'; *a
paciente* - 'the female patient').

All best,

Em qui, 24 de out de 2019 às 13:09, Sebastian Nordhoff <
sebastian.nordhoff at glottotopia.de> escreveu:

> 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)
>      'employee'
> 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
> Sebastian
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