chapter
4 Pages

sexism in language

Questions related to gender discrimination and stereotyping through language play a lesser role in Italy than they do in English-speaking countries. In Italy, such debates generally tend to address more philosophical and ideological aspects, and focus less on specific points of usage. There are two main reasons for this. The first concerns the nature of the language itself: grammatical gender affects not only all Italian nouns, but also their pattern of agreement with articles, adjectives, pronouns and participles (see also Italian morphology; Italian syntax); if Italian were to leave unspecified the sex of the person, saying for example, ‘I have gone’ (in Italian inevitably either sono andato or sono andata), then it would become a completely different language. The second reason concerns language usage: Italian has suffered a long tradition of prescriptivism based on purist, and in this century also fascistic, grounds (see also Italian language); hence, any official attempt to tamper with spontaneous use and enforce a language policy meets with scepticism, if not downright resistance.