Exclusion in Spanish Grammar: Perspectives from Spanish-language Students
As our principal means of communication, language has a powerful capacity to shape our perceptions of the world. Due to its pivotal role, discrimination present within a language could be linked to discrimination within society, a link which has recently been questioned with relation to Spanish. Exclusion within Spanish grammar is associated with the masculine generic rule which dictates that masculine words must be used in reference to mixed gender groups, thereby obscuring the presence of women and non-binary people. Various new uses of grammar have been proposed to overcome this, but they have met widespread opposition. However, by ensuring marginalised groups have a voice, this new language could contribute to the wider struggle for gender equality. My research project investigated the perspectives of Spanish Language students at Glasgow University regarding inclusion and exclusion in Spanish grammar. The participants identified the possibility of exclusion and expressed support for the adaptations to grammar since these can highlight the presence of all genders. Despite this support however, most did not employ the modifications in their own application of the language, often due to a desire to maintain correct usage. The results have implications for Spanish language curricula since several participants felt that their understanding of correct usage was closely related to how they had been taught. In turn, the research has a broader significance for future development of the language. Furthermore, due to the connection of language with social structures, avoidance of discrimination within the language may present an important step towards achieving gender equality.
I became interested in the question of inclusive language during my year abroad in Spain. As a native English speaker, learning a gendered language is a new experience for me and, especially when I first started Spanish, I would often refer to myself incorrectly, using masculine instead of feminine words. I also sometimes became confused as to whether I, as a woman, was included in references to a group of people. These experiences led me to explore whether other learners had similar experiences and how our language education might incorporate different solutions. In addition to my studies I am involved in the Effective Altruism movement which focuses on solving some of our most pressing problems such as global poverty, animal welfare and existential risk. Let’s Talk About [X] will be the first time I have presented at a conference and I am looking forward to this opportunity to share my research.