Gender-neutral language

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Not to be confused with genderless language.

Gender-neutral language, gender-inclusive language, inclusive language, or gender neutrality is a form of linguistic prescriptivism that aims to eliminate (or neutralize) reference to gender in terms that describe people.[1][2]

Sign with specific suggestions for gender-neutral language use in Spanish.

For example, the words fireman, stewardess and chairman are gender-specific; the corresponding gender-neutral terms are firefighter, flight attendant and chairperson or chair. 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 may also involve the avoidance of gender-specific pronouns, such as he, when the gender of the person referred to is unknown; they may be replaced with gender-neutral pronouns – possibilities in English include he or she, s/he, or singular they.

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).[3]

Historically the use of masculine pronouns in place of generic was regarded as non-sexist, but 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."[4]

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

Particular issues are discussed in more detail in the following articles:

A distinct issue arises in Japanese: the Japanese language does not have grammatical gender, but the speech of men and women differs, including the grammar and vocabulary used. In this context, gender-neutrality refers to eliminating these differences from the language – for men and women to speak the same way.[original research?]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bryan A. Garner (28 July 2009). "Unisex". Garner's Modern American Usage (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 831. ISBN 978-0-19-987462-0. Retrieved 21 March 2013. 
  2. ^ Bryan A. Garner (31 March 2009). "Nonsexist Language and Credibility". Garner on Language and Writing. American Bar Association. pp. 243–244. ISBN 978-1-61632-679-1. Retrieved 21 March 2013. 
  3. ^ "Tips for Using Inclusive, Gender Neutral Language". Marquette University. Retrieved April 16, 2012. 
  4. ^ Carolyn Jacobson. "Some Notes on Gender-Neutral Language". Retrieved April 16, 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Bojarska, Katarzyna (2012). "Responding to lexical stimuli with gender associations: A Cognitive–Cultural Model". Journal of Language and Social Psychology. doi:10.1177/0261927X12463008.