Schwa, rejected by the Accademia della Crusca: “Use the masculine plural”

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«Since schwa does not exist in the repertoire of standard Italian, we see no reason to introduce it. Italian has two grammatical genders, the masculine and the feminine, but not the neutral. We must serenely acknowledge this, aware of the fact that biological sex and gender identity are different from grammatical gender“. These are the words that linguist Paolo D’Achille wrote in a long post on the Accademia della Crusca blog, to comment on the use of the phonetic symbol ə, schwa, which is used to indicate a mixed group of people, replacing the “Classical” plural masculine ending, and includes both men and women, and those who do not recognize themselves in one of the two genders.

Asteric is often used for the same purpose. Also in this case, for the Accademia della Crusca, the rejection is final. Because the asterisk is considered an “insult”, a “crippling” of the Italian language. Pass its use in written communications intended for silent reading as an alternative to the slash (“gentlemen / s”), but not “in legal texts, notices or public communications, where it could cause confusion and misunderstanding nor in texts that provide for a reading aloud ». In fact, the asterisk does not correspond to a sound.

The schwa, on the other hand, is a vowel that has a precise sound, which is exactly halfway between the existing vowels (it is the “a” of about, the “u” of survive, and there is also in “o ‘marə »). But the Accademia della Crusca does not compromise: “It is an even less feasible proposal than the asterisk”. Both because the sign used to represent the schwa it is not used as a grapheme not even in languages ​​that, unlike Italian, foresee it in their phonological system, either because of the schwa symbol there is no uppercase.

How, then, can language be rendered adequately gender neutral without displeasing the Accademia della Crusca? The proposal is to use the masculine plural, “as an unmarked grammatical gender, and not as a prevarication of the masculine understood as biological sex”. In short, instead of “signorə” or “signor *”, we should return to the classic “gentlemen”. Keeping that in mind the grammatical gender does not correspond to the sexual gender.

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