Linguistic reflections on the generic feminine
Keywords:generic feminine / inclusive feminine / universal feminine, generic masculine, linguistic sexism, gender-inclusive language / non-sexist language, gender in Spanish
The aim of this paper is to examine, from a strictly linguistic perspective, a phenomenon that has been gaining ground in recent years, especially in the field of politics and social activism: the use in Spanish of feminine forms with an extensive value (referring to beings of both sexes) as a strategy to make women more visible, and as a stylistic alternative to the simultaneous use of both the masculine and feminine form.
After comparing the underlying assumptions of the feminists’ position with some linguistic principles, we analyze the conditions under which the generic interpretations of feminine forms take place in ordinary language. We then present the problems that the generalization of the phenomenon can give rise to: limitation of «displacement» capacity (Hockett, 1960), poor processing effort / cognitive effect ratio, and difficulty in accomplishing the communicative function of language. This brings us to the point that the generic feminine is most unlikely to become established in general uses of Spanish; it also seem not to be feasible to achieve a free alternation of masculine and feminine forms as a means of expressing gender neutralization. However, the occasional use of the feminine with extensive value could be made habitual —considering the social function of language— in political discourse, where it would function as a badge that shows membership of (or solidarity with) a social group.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2017 Javier San Julián Solana
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors are confirming that they are the authors of the submitting article, which will be published (print and online) in journal Verba Hispanica by Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani (University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts, Aškerčeva 2, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia). Author’s name will be evident in the article in journal. All decisions regarding layout and distribution of the work are in hands of the publisher.
- Authors guarantee that the work is their own original creation and does not infringe any statutory or common-law copyright or any proprietary right of any third party. In case of claims by third parties, authors commit their self to defend the interests of the publisher, and shall cover any potential costs.
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work.