Gender-neutral or gender-inclusive language is any language that is inclusive to all genders and avoids bias toward a specific sex or sexual orientation. Traditionally, a variety of nouns, especially those referring to a profession, have indicated a particular gender. Examples of these nouns, in English, include: policeman, chairman and fireman.
These words are masculine, as they feature the suffix -man. They are indicators that these professions have traditionally been male-oriented jobs. With gender-neutral language, instead of ‘policeman,’ you would say ‘police officer,’ ‘chairperson’ instead of ‘chairman,’ and ‘firefighter’ for ‘fireman.’
Gender and Language
English does not really have a grammatical gender marker that we see in many other languages. Unless you refer to biological sex, such as woman or man, nouns do not have masculine, feminine, or neutral pronouns. English speakers more and more use ‘they’ as a gender-neutral pronoun.
Other languages, however, do have gendered nouns. For example, in German, you would use die for feminine nouns, der for masculine nouns, and das for neutral nouns. The form of words also changes when referring to a specific gender.
How Has Gender-Neutral Language Gained Relevance
Attitudes toward gender roles are and have been changing for some time now. People are becoming more aware of gender stereotypes and the harm they cause, for instance, the old trope that men shouldn’t cry because they are strong, and only women do because they are more emotional, and other such limiting and excluding false beliefs and assumptions. With this growing awareness, people are moving away from gendered terms for more gender-neutral language.
Use of gender-neutral language has increased significantly in LGBTQ+ communities to be inclusive to all genders. For example, the term ‘they’ is often used as a singular pronoun when referring to a nonbinary person.
In a study conducted by the World Bank, language has a significant impact on our political views and perception of gender roles. By moving toward gender-inclusive language, these perceptions can change to promote equality and justice around the world.
While more conservative groups disagree, the younger generations are constantly tearing apart and reassembling words and phrases to make new ones. Some words remain popular, while others are discarded, but the gender-neutral language remains relevant.
As we have mentioned, various languages, such as Spanish and German, apply gender to nouns. Recently, the gender-neutral term ‘Latinx’ has emerged to describe Latin American peoples as a whole with the aim of being inclusive. However, there is controversy surrounding the use of the term Latinx. Some critics point to a dubious origin among U.S. English speakers, or to the fact that it ignores the Spanish language’s gendered form. In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, about one-in-four U.S. Hispanics have heard the term Latinx, but only 3% use it.
Gender-Neutral Language in Translation
Translators must render their source texts as accurately as possible, but how does that relate to gender neutrality? Translators have a responsibility to avoid introducing gender bias in their work if their source is gender-neutral. As the rise of gender-inclusive language contributes to breaking down social barriers to bring about a more equitable society, it is important to remove gender bias and opt for more gender-inclusive terminology when translating between languages that accommodate this linguistic trend. But if you’re unsure of what the options and rules are, then you should seek the services of a professional language translation provider to guarantee linguistic inclusiveness and neutrality in your communication across cultures.
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