GENDER IN LANGUAGE PROJECT



With some exceptions, gender-inclusive Spanish is characterized by the use of inclusive linguistic genders in place of masculine and feminine linguistic genders where people are referenced in the language. These inclusive genders have their own canonical personal pronouns (e.g. ellx(s) for the -x gender, elle(s) for the -e gender) which are used by many Spanish-speakers who self-identify as nonbinary or gender non-conforming. While some Spanish-speakers believe that inclusive language should be used to refer to specifically nonbinary people only, more recommend the use of inclusive language to refer to mixed groups of people, where one's gender is unknown, and in general or unspecific personal reference, in addition.

MASCULINE

Él es bombero.

FEMININE

Ella es bombera.

INCLUSIVE (-x gender)

Ellx es bomberx.

INCLUSIVE (-e gender)

Elle es bombere.

In Spanish, linguistic gender is mostly realized through gender morphemes (minimal meaning-bearing units of language), which are at the ends of nouns, unless the noun is plural. For most cases in which the noun has both a canonically masculine (e.g. médico) and a canonically feminine form (e.g. médica), these nouns can be made inclusive by replacing the masculine or feminine gender morpheme with an inclusive morpheme. The noun's dependent elements (e.g. pronouns, articles, adjectives) will also change based on the new gender of the noun.

Él es un médico estimado. → Ellx es unx médicx estimadx.

Some nouns with different masculine and feminine forms do not differ by gender morpheme but rather by the presence or absence of a gender morpheme. In these cases, inclusive language similarly works to neutralize the distinction between these forms:

MASCULINE

un director famoso

FEMININE

una directora famosa

INCLUSIVE (-x gender)

unx directorx famosx

INCLUSIVE (-e gender)

une directore famose

When people are not referenced, inclusive language is not normally used, as these are not instances of linguistic gender aligning with the (social) gender of who is being referred to. There is still not yet a consensus on whether or not to transform words that are only one gender prescriptively but which refer to people (e.g. la persona, el grupo, la familia) and similarly, there is no consensus on whether or not to transform nouns that may be masculine or feminine prescriptively, but whose forms do not change (e.g. el/la artista, el/la cantante).

Certain vocalic inclusive genders will require slight orthographic changes in order to preserve the original sound of the noun in writing, as in the case of the -e gender:

MASCULINE

el médico

el amigo

el mozo

FEMININE

la médica

la amiga

la moza

INCLUSIVE (-e gender)

le médique

le amigue

le moce

Finally, certain distinctions based on the gender of who is being referred to are less able to be dealt with systematically, as in the case of nouns with lexical gender, or those nouns that do not differ only by gender morpheme, but instead or in addition some other feature:

el padre

la madre

el hombre

la mujer

el yerno

la nuera

Inclusive forms have been attested for some of these nouns (e.g. xadre), but not all. More details about the realization of inclusive gender in Spanish are available in our grammar.



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APA 7

Papadopoulos, B. (2021). How is gender-inclusive Spanish used? Gender in Language Project. www.genderinlanguage.com/spanish/how