Gender-neutral language

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Gender-neutral language (gender-generic, gender-inclusive, non-sexist, or sex-neutral language) is language that attempts to refer neither to males nor females when discussing an abstract or hypothetical person whose sex cannot otherwise be determined. This most commonly means using gender-neutral pronouns instead of gender-specific pronouns. In Indo-European and Afro-Asiatic languages, male pronouns have traditionally been used when referring to both genders or to a person or people of an unknown gender.



One might state, "Tomorrow I will meet my new doctor; I hope he is friendly."; however, unless one is certain that the new doctor is a man, advocates of gender-neutral language generally argue that it would be better to state, "Tomorrow I will meet Dr. Smith, whom I hope is friendly."

Critics argue that this creates an undue burden on the speaker by forcing a change to the structure of the sentence, with the result often being rather awkward. They would cite the above example as a case in point, as it seems rather contrived, since non-defining relative clauses are extremely rare in everyday speech. The person in this example would be talking like a book.

A business might advertise that it is looking for a new chair or chairperson, rather than a new chairman, which gender-neutral language advocates fell would imply that only a man would be acceptable for the position. Some advocates of gender-neutral language would see it as unobjectionable to refer to a man in such a position as a chairman, provided that a woman would be referred to by the equivalent term chairwoman. Others would claim, however, that the sex of the occupant of the chair is irrelevant and thus chairperson or chair are the only acceptable terms.

Likewise, if a woman of unknown sexual orientation states that she is dating someone; a system of gender-neutral language might deem it inappropriate to ask her, "Who is he?"; rather, one should ask, "Whom are you dating?" to allow for the possibility that she might be dating a woman, though this example deals more with assumptions about sexual orientation than the issues typically associated with gender-neutral language. Such language would be an attempt to avoid the perception of heterosexism.

Common positions

Views among advocates of gender-neutral language are spread over a wide range, from passionate argumentation in favour, to consistent use in their own speech and writing, to occasional use. However, most people simply decide for themselves whether or not to use it in their writing.

A great many people have no opinion on gender-neutral language and make no special effort to avoid what advocates may describe as sexist language. However, many terms advocated or proposed by advocates of gender-neutral language, such as firefighter or he or she, have entered the common lexicon (in some cases, before advocacy of gender-neutral language began), and may be used by those who do not have any particular feeling about the subject.

Still others regard gender-neutral language as revisionist, as promoting poor or heavy writing, excessively "politically correct," or simply a cosmetic change that does nothing to actually repel sexism. They may consciously refuse to use forms of speech advocated by promoters of gender-neutral language. See below.


Many of the modern masculine terms in Modern English in use today originated as gender neutral terms in Old English. For example, the word 'man' was originally gender neutral and qualified to specify male or female. While the male qualification died out, the female wíf (which produced woman) survived, leaving 'man' with both its original gender-neutral meaning (people), especially in compounds such as "mankind", and its gender-specific meaning, male.

Both Ancient Greek and Classical Latin show a similar process for anthropos and homo respectively. Both of these words mean "man/humanity in general" or "human being"; as in the modern "anthropology" or "homo sapiens. For "male human as opposed to female human", there exist the separate words aner and vir, from which we get "virile". Most modern descendants of the Latin homo such as French homme, Italian uomo, Spanish hombre are specifically male, while Romanian om has retained its original meaning as any human person.

The word "human" is from Latin humanus, the adjectival form of homo.

During the 19th century, attempts to overlay Latin grammar rules onto English required the use of feminine endings in nouns ending with -or. This produced words like doctress and professress and even lawyeress, all of which have faded from use; though waitress, stewardess and actress persist.

Belief in social effects of language was largely a 20th century phenomenon in the English-speaking world, and has been linked to the development of the principle of linguistic relativity by Benjamin Whorf and others.

Add later history here.

Disputed issues

There are a wide range of disputed issues in the debate over 'non-sexist language'. Are there inherently sexist language forms, and if so, what are they? If they exist, should they be changed? If they should be changed, how should this be achieved?

Are some uses of language inherently sexist?

Some advocates of gender-neutral language, including many feminists, argue that traditional language fails to reflect the presence of women in society adequately. In general, they complain about a number of issues:

Feminist advocates of gender-neutral language believe the following about language which they deem sexist:

  • It marginalizes women and creates the impression of a male-dominated society.
  • It can be patronising, for example treating women only as marriage material
  • It can perpetuate stereotypes about the "correct" way for a man or woman to behave.

A deeper variant of these arguments involves the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, the suggestion that our language shapes our thought processes and that in order to eliminate sexism we would do well to eliminate allegedly "sexist" forms from our language. Some people dismiss the effectiveness of such a suggestion, viewing "non-sexist language" as irrelevant window-dressing which merely hides sexist attitudes rather than changing them.

Most opponents of gender neutral language modification do not accept these arguments as valid.

  • Most argue that traditional use of the English language, and other Indo-European and Afro-Asiatic languages, including using male pronouns when referencing both males and females, is not sexist.
  • Some argue that the use of grammatical gender in these languages dates back to a time when some believe there were primeval matriarchies, so there is no reason to assume that the traditional linguistic gender hierarchies reflects a bias against women. They argue it could actually reflect women being more valued than men. The female grammatical gender, they say, has historically been a more "marked" subset of the more generic set that is the male grammatical gender. They point to examples such as "woman," which is "wo" added on to "man," "female," which is "fe" added on to "male," and the use in many languages of the male gender as a generic gender. In many such linguistic cases, they argue, the subset is actually more valued. One example of this is Cadillacs and automobiles. If there were a parking lot full of Cadillacs, they would usually be called "Cadillacs," whereas if the lot were full of either Cadillacs and non-Cadillacs, or vehicles which were all non-Cadillacs, they would simply be called "automobiles." But this would in no way imply that the Cadillacs were less valued than any of the other cars, and could likely mean that they were more valued. [1] (
  • They feel that rewriting text to eliminate gender-specific pronouns results in an awkward and ugly writing style.
  • Many regard it as "political correctness gone mad".

A very small minority of opponents accepts the validity of the argument that traditional English is sexist, but does not think that this is a bad thing, as they themselves are sexist.

Enforcement, persuasion, or evolution?

Only a tiny minority of advocates for gender-neutral language argue that using allegedly "sexist" language should be illegal. But many advocates do support the enforcement of rules and policies against language they feel is sexist by schools and work places. Hate speech legislation does exist in some countries, but applies to much more clear-cut and widely accepted cases of perceived prejudice. Many editing houses, corporations, and government bodies have official policies in favour of in-house use of gender-neutral language. In some cases, laws exist regarding the use of gender-neutral language in certain situations, such as job advertisements.

The majority of advocates for gender-neutral language generally prefer persuasion rather than enforcement. One tool of this persuasion is creating guidelines (see below) that indicate how they believe language should be used. Another tool they use is simply to make use of 'non-sexist language' themselves, thereby leading by example.

Some opponents of "non-sexist language" modification accept the basic premise that traditional use of gender in English reflects sexism, but argue that a change in language should evolve organically from changing public attitudes towards gender issues, rather than be achieved either by enforcement, or by persuasion.


Some terms, such as firefighter and singular they, are sometimes criticized by opponents of gender neutral language-modification as neologisms. But supporters argue that they have a long history that predates the beginning of the women's liberation movement. At other times new terms have indeed been created, such as Womyn. The issue is sometimes confused by satirists who invent extreme examples of the supposed consequences of "non-sexist language," such as ensepeoplenation.

Some critics accuse advocates of gender-neutral language-modification of "re-gendering" language, replacing masculine in some cases by feminine terms that are equally sexist. Other critics argue that some phrases used in non-sexist language violate the rules of proper grammar and style.

Some critics claim that words like "he or she" are not real English words, for they only exist in print, not in speech. In print it is easy for an editor to employ rules of gender-neutral language, but speech is practically impossible to control. People simply don't use words like "he or she" in their everyday speech; instead they use "they" or "he". Only the most determined reformer would actually use "he or she" in a casual conversation, since it would sound stilted and affected to many people.

Many feminist linguists see words like he or she as a solution to a non-existent problem, arguing that most English speakers happily use the singular they without thinking twice. But many others still insist that it is a grammatical error. The feminist linguists argue that the case for the singular they is quite compelling based on the history of the English language. They argue that it has been in continuous use since the Middle Ages, and cite its use by some of the greatest English authors including Shakespeare and Chaucer. The editors of some style guides have been convinced by these arguments, and some guides now accept the singular they as grammatically correct.

Critics of the "singular they" argue that while it may sound OK in some contexts, in others it would clearly sound absurd. For example, they argue that someone would never say something like: "I'm going to babysit a two-year-old tomorrow. I hope they are well-behaved. I hope they can entertain themselves. I don't want any trouble with them." As a result, they argue, the "singular they" can never fully replace "he," "his," and "him" in cases where the gender is unknown.


Many different authorities have presented guidelines on whether, and if so and where, to use gender-neutral, or "non-sexist" language. Several are listed below:

  • ...

Many dictionaries, stylebooks, and some authoritative guides now counsel the writer to follow gender-neutral guidelines. These guidelines, though accepted by many, often remain controversial. Conflict often arises between the desire of some to modify the English language to avoid what they perceive as sexism, and the desire of others to either continue writing and speaking in a way that feels natural and comfortable to them, and/or to maintain traditional standards of grammatical correctness.

Standards advocated by supporters of the gender-neutral modification in English have been applied differently and to differing degrees among English speakers worldwide. This has reflecting differences in cultures and language structure, for example American English in contrast to British English. They are also impacted upon, depending on whether a person uses English as their first language or as a second language, regional variants or whether their form of English is based on grammatical structures inherited from a no longer widely used other language (for example, Hiberno-English) or owes its linguistic structure to earlier Old English or Elizabethan English. In these cases, language structure from their native tongue or linguistic inheritance may enter into their terminology.

Gender neutral language modification in other languages

The situation of gender neutral language modification is very different in languages that have masculine and feminine grammatical gender, such as French, German, and Spanish, simply because it is impossible to construct a gender-neutral sentence the way it can be done in English. For example, in French, the masculine gender supersedes the feminine; la femme et l'homme (the woman and the man) has the pronoun ils (they-masculine).

Accordingly, language modification advocates have focused much of their attention on issues such as job titles. Due to the presence of grammatical gender, their immediate goal in this case is often the exact opposite of that in English: creating feminine job titles rather than eliminating them. As such, it should be noted that "gender-neutral" does not necessarily mean eliminating gender, but rather it is often used by its advocates to mean a use of gender which they feel is fair and balanced in its treatment of both genders. For example, they feel that it is insulting to use the male gender for a female professional, for example calling a woman le médecin (the (masculine) doctor). They feel this would imply that she changed sex or became somehow more mannish when she went to work. This sort of modification is often less controversial, as it is often seen simply as a natural evolution as women have entered more professions.

But in some languages, for example in Spanish, there have also been campaigns against the traditional use of the masculine gender to refer to mixed gender groups. Advocates of these changes feel that they are necessary in order for the language to not further the subordination of women. These modification efforts have been much more controversial. In addition to the sorts of conflict seen in the English speaking world, some opponents of these changes see them as examples of cultural imperialism, or the exporting of Anglo/American ideas and standards. English had already naturally lost most of its gender well before the beginning of the feminist movement, making a gender-neutral modification of the language much more possible. Speakers of other languages often want to preserve their language as it has been and are wary of Anglo/American influence. Thus they seek to avoid changes which could be perceived as making their languages more similar to English.

What follows is an overview of a number of languages, their gender-neutrality, language modification campaigns, and conflicts:


Basque language is remarkably gender-free. Most nouns have no gender or there are different words for males and females (ama, "mother", aita, "father"). Some words take suffixes according to gender (aktore, "actor"; aktoresa, "actress"), but they are rare, and both purists who avoid Romance influence and the Basque Institute of the Woman recommend against it. While there are no gender pronouns, verbs can mark gender in the singular second person (this provides no information since the listener already knows their gender): hik duk, "you (male) have it"; hik dun, "you (female) have it". Non-sexism supporters propose substituting those forms by the more formal ones: zuk duzu "you have it". In earlier stages, the relation between hik and zuk was like that of you and thou in old English. Some Basque dialects already avoid hik as too disrespectful.

It should be noted that the use of a gender-free language has not made the historical Basque society a non-sexist one.


The Chinese language is remarkably gender-neutral due to its underlying structure, even though China has a long history of male dominance. Critics of gender-neutral language modification in other languages see this as evidence of a lack of a cause and effect relationship between a society's gender relations and the use of grammatical gender in its language. Comprehension in Chinese is wholly dependent on word order as Chinese has no inflection for gender, tense, or case. Devoid of such inflection, a Chinese word is thus inherently gender-neutral unless it contains a word for a man or a woman. For example, the word for doctor is yīshēng (醫生) and can only be made gender-specific by adding the word for male or female in front of it. Thus to specify a male doctor, one would need to say nányīshēng (男醫生). This particular construction would admittedly be rarely used due to the stereotypical perception in Chinese society that doctors tend to be male, but that is not a feature of the language itself. Under normal circumstances both male and female doctors would be simply referred to as yīshēng.

Because of its lack of case, Chinese has only one spoken third-person pronoun, for all situations. can mean he, she, or it in any case. However it is written with three different characters. It is written "他" for he, and it is written "她", which has the female radical "女" instead of the human radical "亻", for she. It is written "它" otherwise. Despite this, there is no "he/she" issue in Chinese, because pronouns are usually implied from context, and replacing "她" with "他" has no grammatical conflict.


In Esperanto, as in Romance Languages, the generic form of nouns is the same as the male form and different from the female form. E.g., doktoro = "doctor (male or unspecified sex)", doktorino = "female doctor"; also doktoroj = "doctors (male or unspecified sex)", gedoktoroj or doktoroj = "doctors (mixed male/female)", doktorinoj = "female doctors". Some words, like patro ("father"), are intrinsically masculine, and there is no single word to express "a parent". Some feminists therefore accuse the language of being inherently sexist. (This use of -in to form the feminine of nouns is reminiscent of German, e.g. Maler, Malerin = "painter".) Likewise for pronouns: as in English, li ("he") may be generic, whereas ŝi ("she") is always female. Esperanto has a prefix ge- meaning "both sexes": gedoktoroj ("male and female doctors"). The use of ge- to remove sex from an intrinsically-sexed word (as in using gepatro ("a parent") instead of patro aŭ patrino, ("father or mother") was not generally accepted at first, but appeared in La Nova Plena Ilustrita Vortaro de Esperanto (The New Complete Illustrated Dictionary of Esperanto) published in 2002.

Advocates of sex-neutral language modification are unhappy with this aspect of the language. They feel that it has the implication that masculinity is some kind of default, and femininity is an exception, which they take to mean that females are seen as less important than males. Critics of such language modification argue that exceptional treatment for the female could mean quite the opposite, that females are seen as more valuable— or have no inherent value judgment at all. [2] (

Defenders of Esperanto also point out that this asymmetric treatment of male and female did not originate with the creation of their language, but rather reflects a general feature of most languages, including those European languages from which Esperanto was formed. In each Romance language, for instance, sex-based grammatical genders are assigned to all nouns— even to unsexed objects, or in opposition to the biological sex (as autorité = "authority" in French, guardia = "policeman" in Italian, and virilidad = "masculinity" in Spanish, which all have feminine gender). They argue further that the assignment of grammatical gender is something more arbitrary, and that Romance and German speakers generally do not make the sexist assumptions claimed by the critics, and that if they are sexist, this has nothing to do with the language they are speaking. Viewed in this broader context, argue the Esperantists, "sexist language" is shown to be a matter of cultural assumptions and interpretations by the speakers, not of the language per se.

Indeed, it has become acceptable in Esperanto to use doktoro to refer to a female doctor, a custom that is compatible with the standard grammar. Thus doktorino may be used if one wishes to emphasize femaleness, but it is not necessary to do so; and some have even proposed the use of virdoktoro (literally "male-doctor") when one wants to emphasize maleness. As for the pronouns ŝi and li, one can use the neutral tiu ("that one") instead. The alternative ŝ/li is occasionally used, but it has the same problems as "s/he" in English, though it is more easily pronounceable. Some users also use neologisms such as ri as an epicene pronoun.

Ido, a constructed language that is heavily based on Esperanto but seeks to avoid what some see as Esperanto's shortcomings, does not have this asymmetric sex-marking system. Instead, nouns in Ido for kinds of people are sex-neutral in their ordinary form, but may be made either female- or male-specific by use of a suffix. Examples: sekretario, secretary --- sekretariulo, man secretary --- sekretariino, woman secretary; doktoro, doctor --- doktorulo, man doctor --- doktorino, woman doctor.


Finnish has only gender-neutral pronouns (it totally lacks grammatical gender). The word "hän" is completely gender-neutral and means both "she" and "he". Suffix "-tar" or "-tär" can be added to some words (mostly professions) to "feminize" the word, for example näyttelijä (actor) - näyttelijätär (actress), but this is fairly uncommon. Also you can always use the basic word for both genders (näyttelijä for male and female actors).

Advocates of gender-neutral language modification have argued that Finland has been a pioneer in women right issues because it has no gender-specific pronouns: for example, it was the first European country to give women the right to vote. However, international studies show that Finns are not any more unprejudiced than users of any other language. Opponents of such language modification also point out that societies where people speak other naturally gender-neutral languages, like Persian and Chinese, do not have a history of gender equality.


See also the French version of this article (

In French, feminine job titles are created by adding -e (l'avocate), -eure (la docteure), -euse (la travailleuse), -esse (la mairesse), -ice (la directrice), or nothing in some cases such as -iste or -logue (la psychologue). More generally, "non-sexist" styles can include the use of brackets or capital letters to insert feminine endings (étudiant(e)s or étudiantEs) or repeat gendered words (toutes et tous, citoyennes et citoyens).

Words that formerly referred to a dignitary's wife (l'ambassadrice) can be used to refer to a woman in that position; this, like other "non-sexist" forms, is much more common in Quebec than in France. Although the marriage titles have mainly dropped out of use, many cite the possible confusion as a reason for continuing to use such as Madame le Président or Madame l'ambassadeur. For this reason, these remain the most frequent, at least in France. (On the other hand, an ambassador's husband would not be Monsieur l'ambassadrice., he is called le mari de l'ambassadeur -- the ambassador's husband.)


In German, creating a feminine job title is usually done by adding -in to the word in question. For example, the general term for computer scientist is Informatiker. The male form is unchanged: Informatiker. The female form, however, is distinguished by adding -in, giving Informatikerin.

As a result of campaigns by advocates of gender-neutral language modification, many job adverts are now formulated so as to explicitly address both sexes (Informatiker oder Informatikerin). The use of slashes is commonplace, too, such as in Informatiker/in. Sometimes a form of contraction with capitalization inside the word is used ("InformatikerIn"). In some circles this is especially used to formulate (written) openings, such as Liebe KollegInnen (Dear colleagues). One obstacle to the gender-neutral modification of German is, that you cannot hear these gender-neutral phrases (sound: InformatikerIn == Informatikerin), they sound like the female form, which is unusual for neutral expressions. Opponents of such modification consider the capitalized I to be a corruption of the language.

German has three third person nominative singular pronouns: er (male), sie (female), and man (either). Man is frequently used in general statements, e.g. Man kann hier nicht parken - "One cannot park here." This pronoun man is distinguished from the noun Mann (capitalized and with two n's), which means "male adult human".

German has distinguished forms of pronouns for her and him. Its use of pronouns is considered acceptable by advocates of gender neutral language modification, since it distinguishes both sexes in a consistent manner rather than marking only the feminine as is done with job titles.

But gender neutral language modification advocates feel that the traditional phraseology of the language reflects a domination of the male over the female, as they feel it does in many other languages. They object to certain fixed phrases where the male form comes first, such as man and woman (Mann und Frau), and to the use of phrases like Fräulein, now somewhat antiquated, which is used to address young women, but lacks a male counterpart.

The Swiss weekly newspaper WOZ - Die Wochenzeitung ( edits all published articles to gender-neutral language.


In Hebrew, which has a high degree of grammatical gender, virtually every noun (as well as pronoun of second and third degree) is attributed as either masculine or feminine. As a result of campaigns by gender neutral languages modification advocates, laws are now constituted in Israel that require job ads to be written in a form which explicitly proclaims that the job is offered for both males and females. The separator "/" is often used, for example "dru'shim/ot", "maz'kir/a."


Hungarian does not have gender-specific pronouns and lacks grammatical gender: referring to a gender needs explicit statement of "the man" (he) or "the woman" (she). "Ő" means "he/she" and "ők" means "they". Hungarian distinguishes persons and things, as you refer to things as "az" (it) or "azok" (those).


In Italian feminine job titles are easily formed (-a, -essa and other suffixes) but often they are perceived as ridiculous neologisms. Italian job announcements often use a specific expected gender ("segretaria", "meccanico") or they address both sexes with a slash ("candidato/a"). Many adjectives have identical feminine and masculine forms, so they are effectively gender-neutral when used without articles as job titles ("dirigente", "responsabile di ...") and in many other contexts; slashes are often applied to articles ("il/la cliente", the customer). There are full sets of masculine and feminine pronouns and articles (with some coincidences) and some vestiges of neuter; adjectives are declined, even if many remain the same, and adjective declination is also used in the many verbal tenses involving the past participle. The masculine gender is the default for isolated adjectives and pronouns, for mixed-gender aggregates and for generic usage.


Japanese has gender specific pronouns, but not grammatical gender. Thus, isha can mean one or many male doctors, one or many female doctors, or many male and female doctors. Pronouns are generally avoided unless the meaning is unclear. On the other hand, when referring to "them" the male plural pronoun (they [masculine]) karera is usually used in preference to the rather awkward sounding kanojo-tachi (they [feminine]). Gender neutral language modification advocates suggest avoiding this by instead using "those people" (ano hito-tachi), which they praise as gender neutral, grammatical and natural-sounding.


Korean, like a few other East Asian languages such as Japanese, does not use pronouns in everyday language, because the meaning is clear in the context. In case of confusion, there are pronouns to clarify the position, but normally the actual subject (person) is used rather than the pronoun. As for job titles, these are not gender-specific. Again, the meaning is normally clear in the context.


In Spanish, it is usually quite easy to change an -o to an -a, or to add an -a to an ending such as -or (el doctor, la doctora). Other endings can be left alone or changed (la estudiante but la alcaldesa). -ista is left alone. (One problem is el policía, "police officer", since la policía means "the police force". The only useful feminine term is la mujer policía). Traditionally, a presidenta was the president's wife, but in modern usage it means mainly a female president. As with other Romance languages, it is traditional to use the masculine form of nouns and pronouns when referring to both males and females. Advocates of gender neutral languages modification consider this to be sexist and favor new ways of writing and speaking. Two methods have begun to come into use. One method, mostly used in Spain is to use the at sign (@ or the anarchist circled A to replace -o or -a, especially in political writing (¡Ciudadan@s!), but use of the slash (/) as in (el/la candidato/a) is more common. Opponents of such language modification feel that they are degrading to the language. Many also raise the question of how these new words are to be pronounced.

(See also Alternative political spellings).

As in French, some politicians seek to avoid perceived sexism in their speeches, so they may repeat the gendered words ("ciudadanos y ciudadanas"). This way of speaking is subject to parodies where new words with the opposite ending are created for the sole purpose of contrasting with the gendered word traditionally used for the common case (like *especialistos and *felizas in "los y las especialistos y especialistas felices y felizas").

Spanish nouns and adjectives have grammatical gender and the endings do not always have something to do with the sex of the person.

Words ending in -o may refer to either a man or a woman: testigo.

Words ending in -a may refer to either a man or a woman as well: dentista, ciclista, especialista.

Some words ending in -a refer only to men: cura (that is, priest, a word which always ends in -a for a profession so far held only by men).

Most nouns have an ending for the feminine and another for the masculine: cirujano, cirujana; escribano, escribana; maestro, maestra.

There are gender-neutral words in Spanish. They often come from the Latin agent participle -ens: representante, comerciante, estudiante. However clienta is a female cliente.

Gender changes meaning

Activists against perceived sexism in language are also concerned about words where the feminine form has a different (usually less prestigious) meaning:

An offensive example is hombre público ("public man", a politician) and mujer pública ("public woman", a whore).

Presidenta used to be "the president's wife", but there have been several women presidents in Latin American republics. Some feel that the word presidente has a common gender ending (-e), but others have extended the meaning of the feminine form.

Modisto ("fashion designer") was created as a counterpart to modista ("a female clothes maker").

A more ambiguous case is "secretary". A secretaria is usually an attendant for her boss or a female typist. With the access of women to positions labelled as "secretary general" or similar, some have chosen to use the masculine gendered la secretario and others have to clarify that secretaria is a decision position, not a subordinate one.

Another is juez ("judge"). Many new judges in Spain are women. Since the ending of juez is uncommon in Spanish, some prefer being called la juez while others have created the neologism jueza.


Tamil has a gender-neutral form for the third-person plural, which is also used for the third-person singular in all formal communication. Most job titles are derived from this form as they are mostly used in a formal context. They are thus gender-free.


Turkish is a gender neutral language, as most other Turkic languages. Nouns are in generic form and for both males and females and this generic form is used. For example: Doktor (doctor), eczacı (pharmacist), mühendis (engineer) etc.

The Turkish equivalent for he, she and it is O. For example:

  • O, gece yürümeyi çok seviyor. (He/she/it likes walking at night)
  • Onu çok seviyorum. (I love him/her/it so much)

There are a few exceptions, where it is mandatory to provide gender (because of the nature of the foreign word origins):

  • İş + Adam + ı = İşadamı (Business + Man = Businessman)
  • İş + Kadın + ı = İşadamı (Business + Woman = Businesswoman)

There are very minor exceptions, which are constructed from native Turkish words after 1900s:

  • Bilim + Adam + ı = Bilimadamı (Science + Man = Scientist)
  • Bilim + Kadın + ı = Bilimadamı (Science + Woman = Scientist)


Though Russian intrinsically shares many of the same non gender-neutral characteristics with English and other languages -- for instance, usage of male-specific words for some occupations -- this has not been viewed as a problem by Russian feminists, even in the recent years. Almost all Russian women do not object to what some would perceive as gender-specific language. Constructs like "he or she", though grammatically correct, are unheard of, and changing the occupation name into a gender-neutral form is virtually impossible (some occupations have the same word for either male or female form, while those that do not (i.e., male секретарь vs. female секретарша secretary) also do not have a grammatically correct gender-neutral form, apart from an awkward construct such as "тот, кто выполняет секретарскую работу" / "the one who is engaged in secretary work").

Russian does have intrinsically gender-neutral words; when these exist, they are always used in place of gender-specific ones (for example, человек / human as opposed to мужчина / man and женщина / woman). Otherwise, a male form is used as an equivalent for gender-neutral form with no practical problems.


Like the most other Slavic languages, Serbian has more obstacles to gender-neutral language modification than English. The Serbian language has different forms for masculine and feminine past tense: он је радио (he was working), она је радила (she was working). Just rare aorist (in Serbian language aorist is tense, not aspect) doesn't make difference between genders. Also, all nouns in Serbian language have grammatical gender: masculine, feminine or neuter. (Almost) all nouns which end with consonant are masculine, (almost) all which end with 'a' are feminine and almost all which end with 'o' and 'e' are neuter (of course, there are some exceptions...). Adjectives and verb aspects (but, not all tenses) determine gender, too.

Gender neutral language modification advocates are also unhappy with Serbian's use of noun gender. Some masculine noun means occupation and corresponding feminine nouns means things: the masculine говорник means speaker as in a man speaking, while feminine word говорница means speaker as in woman speaking, but also means podium, or a speaker's platform; the masculine тренер means male coach, while the feminine word тренерка means female coach, but also means warm-up suit.

Many feminists argue that in the Serbian language it is natural to differentiate the gender of job titles, as opposed to just using the male grammatical gender. For example, they favor using учитељица for female teacher (учитељ is male teacher) and професорка for female professor (професор is male professor). They feel that the current convention to do otherwise stems from a patriarchal culture which dominated Serbia from Middle ages up to the first part of 20th century. Some of the language which they consider sexist includes: министар for (male) minister and министарка for the wife of minister, and професорка for the wife of professor instead of a female professor, etc.

But many more traditional linguists, including women, argue that female names for occupations are not natural for the Serbian language. They feel that the male-gender form should be used, even when the professional in question is female.

Gender neutral languages-modification advocates find it difficult to avoid specifying gender in Serbian, as it is so built into the language. But one area where they have a bit more flexibility is the word "person," in its various forms: a person can be spoken of as "човек" ("human", in the masculine gender), "особа" ("person", in the feminine gender) or "људско биће" ("human being", in the neuter gender).

Only plural forms have clear general meaning: "професори" means both -- male professors as well as female and male professors, but "професорке" means only female professors. However, many feminists like to say "професори и професорке" (male professors and female professors or vice versa) and to write "професори/ке".

See also

External links

fr:Langage sexiste he:שפה נטולת מגדר


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