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.
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). 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). Traditionally the use of masculine pronouns in place of generic was regarded as non-sexist. Spanish and other romantic languages follow similar conventions.
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 languages with grammatical gender
- Gender neutrality in genderless languages
- Gender neutrality in English
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 in terms of the grammar and vocabulary used) – 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 way.
- Spivak pronoun
- Genderless language
- Gender in Bible translation
- Generic antecedent
- Unisex name
- Gender role
- IGALA (International Gender and Language Group)
- 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.
- 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.
- "Tips for Using Inclusive, Gender Neutral Language". Marquette University. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
- Carolyn Jacobson. "Some Notes on Gender-Neutral Language". Retrieved April 16, 2012.