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, "gender-inclusiveness" does not necessarily mean eliminating gender, but rather a use of language which they feel is balanced in its treatment of the two genders. For example, they feel that it is insulting to use the masculine gender for a female professional, for example calling a woman le médecin (the [male] doctor). They feel this would imply that women change gender or became somehow more manly when they went to work. The creation of new job titles for women is often less controversial than language modifications proposed by advocates of gender-neutral language for English, as it is often seen simply as a natural evolution as women have entered more professions.
At the same time, the newer feminine forms in most such languages are usually derived from the primary masculine term by adding or changing a suffix (such as the German Ingenieurin from Ingenieur, engineer), so some feminists hold that these words are not equivalent to the masculine words because they are secondary forms. Others object to the perceived clumsiness of such neologisms. Citing German as an example, almost all the names for female professionals end in -in, and because of the suffix none can consist of a single syllable as many masculine job titles do (such as Arzt, doctor).
A further complication is that the creation of distinctly different job titles for men and women means that in writing about hypothetical people of undetermined sex, both words must be mentioned each time, which can become quite cumbersome. In languages where the gender of a noun also affects the formation of other words in a sentence, such as gender-marked adjectives, pronouns, or verbs, this can lead to repetitive or complicated sentences if both terms are used, as the sentence must essentially be repeated twice.
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-Saxon 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 feasible.
In Hebrew, which has a high degree of grammatical gender, virtually every noun (as well as most verbs and pronouns of the second and third person) is either grammatically masculine or feminine. As a result of campaigns by advocates for employment equality or gender neutral language modification, laws have been passed 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.
Note that certain feminine plural verb forms of earlier Hebrew have become archaic in modern Israeli Hebrew, so that the old masculine plural forms are now used for both masculine and feminine.
German has four third-person nominative singular pronouns: er (male), sie (female), es (neuter) and man (impersonal). Man is frequently used in general statements such as Man kann hier nicht parken (One cannot park here). The pronoun man is distinguished from the noun Mann (capitalized and with double "n"), which means "male adult human". However, man cannot easily be used to refer to a specific person of indeterminate sex.
Gender-neutral language-modification advocates feel that the traditional phraseology of the language reflects a domination of the masculine over the feminine, as they feel it does in many other languages. They object to certain set phrases where the masculine form usually comes first, such as "man and woman" (Mann und Frau), and to the differential use of words like Fräulein (although this has dropped out of common use).
Grammatical gender is a primary topic of contention among gender-neutral language advocates. Der Mensch is a grammatically masculine word which means "human being" or "person", and is the traditional Germanic word used to mean this. Alternatives are, however, fairly widespread. Die Person means the same thing, is not considered awkward or overly politically correct, and is grammatically feminine.
Feminine job titles are usually created by adding -in to the masculine word in question. For example, the general masculine term for computer scientist is Informatiker (singular or plural). This yields the feminine form Informatikerin (plural: Informatikerinnen). As in other languages, the use of a suffix to mark the feminine form implies that the unmarked masculine form is the main form of the word.
There is no universally accepted solution to the trade-off between inclusiveness and wordiness. 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 option of repeating all terms in both gender forms is considered clumsy, and in the singular requires adjectives, articles, and pronouns to be stated twice. The use of slashes or parenthesis is commonplace, too, as in Informatiker/in, but this is considered visually ungainly and there is no consensus on how it is read.
A common tactic is to use a phrase such as Kolleginnen und Kollegen in an introductory paragraph, but use only the simpler masculine form in the rest of the document, often with a disclaimer.
Sometimes a form of contraction with capitalization inside the word is used (InformatikerIn; InformatikerInnen). In some circles this is especially used to formulate written openings, such as Liebe KollegInnen (Dear colleagues). One obstacle to this form is that you cannot audibly distinguish between terms (InformatikerIn sounds the same as Informatikerin). Opponents of such modification consider the capitalized I in the middle of a word to be a corruption of the language. It is also not clear which gender declension the -In form is to be used with; sometimes all adjectival endings are likewise capitalized, such as jedeR for "each person" instead of jede (each woman) or jeder (each man). This form also tends to be associated with the political left, as it is often used by left-leaning newspapers, notably Die Tageszeitung and the Swiss weekly Die Wochenzeitung.
"We need an experienced computer scientist" could thus be expressed several ways, among which:
In some cases, neologisms may be formed: some university communities are replacing Student (male college student) and Studentin (female college student) with the participle Studierende(r), meaning "the studying/college-going person", which does not face quite as many problems with declension. Terms like Lehrer (teacher) are increasingly being replaced by collective nouns such as Lehrkraft (teaching force; faculty). Kellner (waiter) and Kellnerin (waitress) are often transformed into Bedienung (service), which can be interpreted as having the effect of dehumanising the referent: "Fragen Sie bitte die Bedienung, falls Sie einen Wunsch haben" ("If you need anything, ask the service/help").
Like other Germanic languages, Swedish used to have three genders, masculine, feminine, and neuter. Today, it only has two, neutrum (neuter), which uses the pronoun det, and another formed from the merger of the masculine with the feminine, known as utrum (common gender), which uses the pronoun den. A few fossilized uses of the original genders linger on. For instance, the clock as an object is a common gender word, but when used to ask or tell the time, it is treated as feminine: "Vad är klockan?" "Hon är sex" ("What time is it?" lit. "She is six o'clock").
Customarily, feminine pronouns are used when referring to both genders or to a person or people of an unknown gender. For example, a correct phrase is: Den tidiga människan och hennes verktyg (Early Man and her tools). The anglicization of Swedish in the late 20th century has made the usage of masculine pronouns to refer to unspecified genders more habitual, but it is still not the rule.
Swedish adjectives are always inflected according to number, and they used to be inflected for gender as well. Gender inflection of adjectives — den sure chefen (m), den sura mamman (f) — , has not yet fallen completely into disuse. Some still use it for occupational and kinship words, but the fact remains that it no longer serves any purpose for any other nouns. This has caused some debate as to which gender inflection should be the standard one for all nouns. The feminine inflection has become the one most widely used over the country, more likely because it is more distinct before nouns that begin with a vowel than due to any wide sense of gender equality.
Until the 1970s, it was rare that women would have professions other than secretary, teacher or nurse. A majorska was the wife of a major, a biskopinna the wife of a bishop. As nearly all Swedish women are in the work force today, this usage is deprecated. The word sekreterare (secretary) now mirrors its English counterpart in usage. A woman in a profession is now usually referred to by the same title as a man, save for lärarinna, which is often still used for a female teacher, and sjuksköterska which means male or female nurse (although it is now supplemented by the neologism sjukskötare). The typical Swedish way of making occupational titles more neutral is by coining euphemisms. What for instance used to be a städare (male janitor) or städerska (female janitor) is now uniformly, at least in formal language, a lokalvårdare (custodian).
None of this changes the fact that many Swedish women still occupy traditional women's jobs - a caretaker at kindergarten, while formally referred to in the collective as daghemspersonal (day care staff), is still in common language a dagisfröken (kindergarten maid/female teacher), regardless of gender, because nearly all of them are women.
Ancient Greek and Classical Latin had generic words for "human"/"humanity in general" or "human being", anthropos and homo respectively, which are the etyma of such modern words as "anthropology" or Homo sapiens. For "male human as opposed to female human", there existed the separate words aner (andros-) and vir (the etyma of English "androgen" and "virile", respectively).
Most modern derivatives of the Latin noun homo, however, such as French homme, Italian uomo, Portuguese homem, and Spanish hombre, have acquired a predominantly male denotation, although they are sometimes still used generically in high registers. For example, French Musée de l'homme for an anthropology museum exhibiting human culture, not specifically "male culture". This semantic shift was parallel to the evolution of the word man in English. These languages therefore lack a third, neutral option aside from the gender-specific words for "man" and "woman". In Romanian, however, the cognate om retains its original meaning of "any human person", as opposed to the gender-specific words for "man" and "woman" (bărbat and femeie, respectively). In Romansh the word um only refers to a male, whereas "human being" is expressed in different ways in the different dialects: carstgaun or uman.
The most common way of feminizing job titles in French is by adding a feminine suffix to the masculine version of the noun, most commonly -e (l'avocat, l'avocate), -eure (le docteur, la docteure), -euse (le travailleur, la travailleuse), -esse (le maire, la mairesse), -trice (le directeur, la directrice). For job titles ending in epicene suffixes such as -iste (le/la dentiste) or -logue (le/la psychologue), the only change is in the article (le/la) and any associate adjectives. Abbreviated professions only change the article as well (le/la prof).
To make words or phrases gender-inclusive, French-speakers use two methods:
Words that formerly referred solely to a dignitary's wife (l'ambassadrice) are now used to refer to a woman holding the same dignitary position. Although marriage titles have mainly dropped out of use, many cite the possible confusion as a reason for continuing to use those such as Madame le Président or Madame l'ambassadeur. For this reason, the traditional use remains the most frequent in France. Nonetheless, in France, the husband of a female ambassador would never be known as Monsieur l'ambassadrice. Instead, he would be called literally "the ambassador's husband", le mari de l'ambassadeur.
Although some long-established positions of high prestige, such Governor General of Canada exist in both masculine and feminine variants, honorary titles remain masculine throughout the Francophonie even when the award or honor is bestowed unto a woman. Examples are titles such as Grand Officier, Commandeur, Officier, Chevalier, Compagnon, Immortel used in the Order of Canada, the National Order of Quebec, France's Legion of Honor and the Académie Française, or Belgium's and Monaco's Order of the Crown.
In Italian, female job titles are easily formed with -a, -essa and other feminine suffixes, but they are often perceived as ridiculous neologisms. A female doctor is a dottoressa, while a female lawyer can be called both avvocato (masculine) or avvocatessa (a feminine neologism, sometimes perceived as ridiculous or even offensive, as it seems to overemphasize the gender). Italian job announcements often use a specific expected gender (segretaria, meccanico) or they address both genders 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 traces of neuter; adjectives are declined, even if many remain the same, and adjective declension is also used in the many verbal tenses involving the past participle. The masculine gender is the default, and most correct form, for isolated adjectives and pronouns, for mixed-gender groups and for generic usage.
In Spanish, similarly, the feminine is usually marked with the suffix -a, and it is generally easy to make a feminine noun from a masculine one by changing the ending -o to -a: cirujano, cirujana (surgeon; m./f.); escribano, escribana (writer; m./f.); maestro, maestra (teacher; m./f.) If the masculine version ends with a consonant, the feminine is typically formed by adding an -a to it as well: el doctor, la doctora. However, not all nouns ending in -o are masculine, and not all nouns ending in -a are feminine:
Invariable words in Spanish are often derived from the Latin agent participles -antis and -entis (accusative case): representante, comerciante, estudiante. But a female cliente is a clienta, and a female jefe is a jefa.
A few problematic cases remain:
Activists against perceived sexism in language are also concerned about words where the feminine form has a different (usually less prestigious) meaning:
As in 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 of them, seen most often in Spain and Mexico, is to use the at-sign (@) or the anarchist circled A (Ⓐ) to replace -o or -a, especially in radical 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: "@" replacing "A" and/or "O".
Some politicians have begun to avoid perceived sexism in their speeches; the Mexican president Vicente Fox Quesada, for example, was famous for repeating gendered nouns in their masculine and feminine versions (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 *felizas and *especialistos in *felices y felizas or *las y los especialistas y especialistos).
Like 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 on je radio (he was working), она је радила ona je radila (she was working). Only the rare aorist (in Serbian the aorist is a tense, not an aspect) makes no distinction between genders. Also, all nouns in Serbian have grammatical gender: masculine, feminine or neuter. Almost all nouns which end with a consonant are masculine, almost all which end with a are feminine and almost all that end with o or e are neuter. Adjectives and verb aspects (but not in all tenses) inflect for gender, too.
Gender-neutral language advocates are also unhappy with Serbian's use of noun gender. Some masculine nouns signify an occupation, while the corresponding feminine nouns refer to objects: the masculine noun говорник govornik means "male speaker", while the cognate feminine noun говорница govornica means "female speaker", but also "podium", or a "speaker's platform"; masculine тренер trener means male coach, while the feminine word тренерка trenerka means "female coach", but also "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 masculine grammatical gender. They feel that the current convention to do otherwise stems from a patriarchal culture which dominated Serbia from the Middle Ages up to the first part of 20th century. Some of the language which they consider sexist includes: министар ministar for (male) minister and министарка ministarka for the wife of a minister, and професорка profesorka for the wife of professor instead of a female professor, etc. For example, they favor using учитељица učiteljica for "female teacher" (учитељ učitelj is "male teacher") and професорка profesorka for "female professor" (професор profesor is "male professor").
But many more traditional linguists, including women, argue that feminine names for occupations are not natural for the Serbian language. They feel that the masculine gender variants should be used, even when the professional in question is female.
Advocates of gender-neutral language find it difficult to avoid specifying gender in Serbian, since 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 referred to as човек čovek ("human"; masculine gender), особа osoba ("person"; feminine gender) or људско биће ljudsko biće ("human being"; neuter gender).
Only plural forms have clear general meaning: професори profesori means both "male professors" and "female and male professors", but професорке profesorke means only "female professors". Many feminists prefer to say професори и професорке profesori i profesorke (male professors and female professors) and to write професори/ке profesori/ke.
Though Russian intrinsically shares many of the same non-gender-neutral characteristics with other European languages — for instance, usage of predominantly masculine words for most high-status occupations — this has not been viewed as a problem by Russian feminists, even in 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.
Certain words are understood to refer to either men or women regardless of their grammatical gender. For example, человек ("human"; grammatically masculine), as opposed to мужчина ("man"; masculine with respect to agreement, but morphologically feminine) and женщина ("woman"; feminine), and are in fact traditionally used in cases where gender-specific terms would be used in English. Several terms that roughly mean "person" are grammatically neuter or feminine, and can similarly be used to refer to either men or women: лицо (neuter, lit. "face"), персона (feminine), личность (feminine). All such terms have a bureaucratic connotation and are seldom used colloquially. Note also that as a general rule Russian does not use neuter terms for people, just as English does not use "it" as gender-neutral pronoun.
Job titles have a masculine and a feminine version in Russian, though in most cases the feminine version is only used in colloquial speech. The masculine form is typically treated as "unmarked", i.e. it does not necessarily imply that the person is male, while the feminine form is "marked" and can only be used when referring to a woman. In some cases, the feminine title is derogatory or connotes a suboptimal performance and is only used as slang, e.g. врачиха (female doctor), директорша or sometimes директриса (female director). In other cases, this is not the case: актриса (actress), поэтесса (poetess). Even in cases where the feminine term is not seen as derogatory, however, there is a growing tendency to use masculine term in more formal contexts that stress the individual's membership in a profession: "В 15 лет она стала учителем фортепиано" ("At age 15 she became a piano teacher", formal register). The feminine form may be used in less formal context to stress a personal description the individual: "Настя стала учительницей" ("Nastia became a teacher", informal register).
For this reason, use of the masculine occupation terms when referring to women, is in fact seen as more politically correct and constitutes a growing trend. The actual gender of the person can still be indicated through the verb: for example, in the phrase врач посоветовала (the doctor/m advised/f), the gender of the verb shows that the doctor was female, even as the masculine (more respectful) occupation term is used. Note, however, that there are also some grammatically feminine terms with positive connotations that are routinely used for both men and women, for example, знаменитость (celebrity).
Russian adjectives are inflected for grammatical gender and so are verbs in the past tense. When a masculine term is used to refer to a woman, the verb usually remains in the feminine, while adjectives and possessive pronouns may take either masculine or feminine form: наш новый врач посоветовала (our/m new/m doctor/m recommended/f) or наша новая врач посоветовала (our/f new/f doctor/m recommended/f). The former usage is more formal, while the latter is more colloquial.
The third-person pronoun typically reflects the actual gender of the person when this is known, врач сказала, что она... (the doctor/m said/f that she...), but typically agrees with the grammatical gender of its antecedent when an abstract person is discussed: Каждый врач должен помнить, что он... (Every/m doctor/m must/m remember that he...)
Esperanto follows the pattern of more natural languages, in assigning the male genders to specific roles (family member, aristocracy, etc.), and further deriving the female term from that. The generic form of nouns is the same as the male form and different from the female form — for example, doktoro(j) means "doctor(s)" (male or unspecified sex), while doktorino(j) means "female doctor". Some words, like patro (father), are intrinsically masculine, but there is no root word to express "a parent".
The prefix ge- may be used for groups of mixed sex, for example, gedoktoroj (male and female doctors). Reformers have used ge- to create explicitly sex-neutral singulars such as gepatro, "a parent". Though not generally adopted, this usage has appeared in some authoritative reference works.
Explicitly marked feminine forms such as doktorino may be used to emphasize the noun's female character, but unmarked forms are also commonly used for females. Reformers have proposed morphologically well-formed but rarely used forms like virdoktoro (literally "man-doctor") and neologisms like -iĉ- (doktoriĉo) to emphasize maleness. The first form is somewhat insufficient because viro tradittionally means "man, male", but does not really show any male lexeme or morpheme, virino meaning "woman". This is discussed about, some people prefer viriĉo for "man, male" as opposed to virino.
Concerning pronouns there is much discussion: ŝi is clearly female, like English she. For male persons li is used and for (not personified) animals as well as for inanimate objects ĝi. It is not clear however what form to use when a person of unknown sex is spoken of. It is officially accepted, though very rarely practiced, to use ĝi in this case. Also li is officially accepted to refer to both sexes, what of course causes some opposition. There are some suggestions for neologisms like ŝli or ri. On the other hand some people consider li to be clearly sex-neutral, what requires a new only-male pronoun, e. g. hi.
Arguments about the character and implications of "gendered" or "sexist" features in Esperanto closely parallel those raised for other, particularly European languages.
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. For example, frato means "brother" in Esperanto, but "sibling" in Ido. Ido nouns for kinds of people are sex-neutral in their ordinary form, but may be made either female- or male-specific by use of the suffixes -ino ("female", used as in Esperanto) and -ulo ("male", not to be confused with the same Esperanto suffix which means "person"). Examples: sekretario, secretary — sekretariulo, man secretary — sekretariino, woman secretary; doktoro, doctor — doktorulo, man doctor — doktorino, woman doctor. Thus, "sister" is fratino (the same as Esperanto), but brother is fratulo. Some communities use three separate words: patro ("father"), matro (mother) and genitoro (parent). Compare this with Esperanto patro, patrino and gepatroj respectively.
It also has an epicene pronoun lu, which, somewhat ambiguously, can refer to beings of any (or no) gender as well as inanimate objects. (The words "man", "woman", "baby", "goat", and "table" are all referred to by lu.)
Interlingua is an auxiliary language that was developed to have a widely international vocabulary and a very simple grammar. In Interlingua, nouns have no gender except to reflect natural sex. For example, the words homine (man) and femina (woman) are masculine and feminine, respectively, but persona (person) has no gender. Adjectives never have to agree in gender with the nouns they modify. The masculine pronoun ille, (he) also serves as the nongender pronoun, but the possessive pronoun su ("his" or "her") is gender-neutral.
Initially, masculine-looking nouns such as professor and conductor denoted both men and women, but forms such as professora conductora have become commonplace over time. Interlingua has largely escaped charges of sexism, perhaps because the language changes easily as social values change. Women have obtained the presidency and other high-ranking positions in the Union Mundial pro Interlingua and in other Interlingua organizations.