Gender neutral language in Portuguese

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Gender neutral language

The vast majority of Portuguese words have one of two grammatical genders: the feminine or the masculine. The creation and implementation of gender neutral terms in the Portuguese language aims to make non-binary people feel included. It is important to note that, in Portuguese, there’s a distinction between gender neutral language and inclusive language. Though the two overlap in some aspects, the latter makes use of already existing binary terms and its main goal is to include both men and women in conversations.[1] It comes as a response to the way Portuguese uses the masculine to encompass the feminine. This can be seen, for example, when groups are referred to with the masculine and plural form of a noun even when they’re not made-up exclusively of men.

How the sentence "good night, everyone!" is traditionally said and what each category of language suggests as an alternative:
Common language Gender neutral language Inclusive language
Boa noite a todos! Boa noite a todes! Boa noite a todos e todas!

This article will focus on gender neutral Portuguese language. While, in Portuguese, non-living things are also attributed a gender, that is not meant to change with the use of neutral language. The sentence "my chair is purple" would still be said like "a minha cadeira é roxa," in which cadeira is still a feminine noun and the article a, the possessive pronoun minha and the adjective roxa are also feminine. Moreover, words like pessoa ("person"), which are gendered but used to refer to anyone regardless of gender, remain the same and gender agreement is still expected in sentences that use them.[2]

Language sets[edit | edit source]

There are two established ways of representing language sets in the Portuguese language. The first one, ela/dela follows the same format as the English "she/her," however, it is very incomplete. In Portuguese, word endings indicate gender, so the format ela/dela/-a was suggested as an alternative. Though this format is more complete than the previous one, it has been criticized. Some of the criticisms are that it doesn't take the particularities of the Portuguese language into account; that the other elements in the language that indicate gender, like articles and demonstrative pronouns, should also be declared and that article and word ending choice are unrelated to pronoun choice. For these reasons, the recommended representation is a/ela/a, which follows the format article/pronoun/word ending.[3] An even more complete version of this format would be a/uma/da/ela/dela/minha/essa/a.[4] Note that, because pronouns aren't the only language elements that indicate gender in Portuguese, some people suggest calling these sets language sets instead of pronoun sets.

Articles[edit | edit source]

In Portuguese, there are two types of articles: definite articles - a, o, as, os (equivalent to the English "the") - and indefinite articles - uma, um, umas, uns (equivalent to the English "a" and "an") - all of which are gendered.[5]

The definite articles a and o compared to neutral alternatives:[6]
a/o ae el fi i u ê
a/o estudante ae estudante el estudante fi estudante i estudante u estudante ê estudante

There are many other alternatives, though ê is, by far, the most used one. As for indefinite articles, these depend on the word ending that was chosen.

Articles affected by word ending:[6]
Word ending a ae e eo o
um + word ending uma(s) umae(s) ume(s) umeo(s) umo(s)

Pronouns[edit | edit source]

In Portuguese, there are two standard personal pronouns for the third person singular and two for the third person plural. Ela is equivalent to the English "she" and ele is equivalent to the English "he," while elas and eles are both equivalent to the English plural "they." Portuguese-speaking non-binary people who don't feel comfortable with these have had to come up with neopronouns.

Ela and ele compared to some Portuguese neopronouns:[7][8][9]
ela/e(s) ael(s) el(s) el@(s)* elu(s) elx(s)* ile(s) ilu(s)
dela/e(s) dael(s) del(s) del@(s) delu(s) delx(s) dile(s) dilu(s)
nela/e(s) nael(s) nel(s) nel@(s) nelu(s) nelx(s) nile(s) nilu(s)
aquela/e(s) aquael(s) aquel(s) aquel@(s) aquelu(s) aquelx(s) aquile(s) aquilu(s)
daquela/e(s) daquael(s) daquel(s) daquel@(s) daquelu(s) daquelx(s) daquile(s) daquilu(s)
naquela/e(s) naquael(s) naquel(s) naquel@(s) naquelu(s) naquelx(s) naquile(s) naquilu(s)
àquela/e(s) àquael(s) àquel(s) àquel@(s) àquelu(s) àquelx(s) àquile(s) àquilu(s)

*The use of these sets has been increasingly discouraged for the following reasons: they aren't convenient for people who use screen readers; they can be hard to read for people with dyslexia and they aren't orally pronounceable.[10]

The most well known and most used Portuguese neopronoun is elu. Its use is encouraged, mainly because it fits in with the pronouns ela ("she") and ele ("he") and it is easily pronounceable. Some people pronounce it as "élu," while others pronounce it as "êlu."

Some pronouns can depend on the word ending chosen by the user. While each pronoun, typically, has a word ending tied to it, using concordant language is not mandatory. Someone may use the word ending eo while using the pronoun ile, for example.

Pronouns that can be affected by word ending:[6]
Word ending a ae e eo o
est + word ending esta(s) estae(s) este(s) esteo(s) esto(s)
ess + word ending essa(s) essae(s) esse(s) esseo(s) esso(s)
mi or minh + word ending minha(s) minhae(s) minhe(s) minheo(s) minho(s)
tu + word ending tua(s) tuae(s) tue(s) tueo(s) tuo(s)
su or su + word ending sua(s) suae(s) sue(s) sueo(s) suo(s)

The pronouns esta and essa can follow one of two paths when being converted to neutral forms. Est/ess + word ending or letters of personal pronoun before consonant + st/ss + letters of personal pronoun after consonant. The latter only works if the personal pronoun has a consonant in the middle, so it'd work for ilu but not for ael, for example.

Word endings[edit | edit source]

In the Portuguese language, the ending of a word typically indicates gender. For this reason, the vast majority of words have two forms: the masculine and the feminine. Feminine words end in a, while masculine words end in o.[11] The word "friend," a noun, can translate to amiga or amigo. The same rule applies to adjectives, however, so "tall" can translate to either alta or alto. Moreover, adjectives and nouns are expected to agree in gender. Some non-binary people use more than one word ending and may not mind that non-concordant language is used when referring to them, like in the sentence ae meu amiga é bonito. New word endings were created to accomodate people who don't feel comfortable with either of the standard word endings.

Word endings a and o compared to neutral alternatives:[6]
a/o ae e eo ie u y
menina/o meninae menine menineo meninie meninu meniny

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Folter, Regiane (9 March 2021). "Linguagem inclusiva e linguagem neutra: entenda a diferença!" [Inclusive language and neutral language: understand the difference!]. politize! (in Portuguese). Retrieved 20 June 2021.
  2. Valente, Pedro (13 April 2020). "Sistema Elu, Linguagem Neutra em Género" [Elu System, Language Neutral in Gender]. dezanove (in Portuguese). Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  3. "Motivos para não usar "pronome/d[pronome]" como indicação de conjuntos de linguagem" [Reasons not to use "pronoun/d[pronoun]" as an indication of language sets]. Amplifi.casa (in Portuguese). 20 September 2019. Retrieved 21 June 2021.
  4. "expansão do sistema artigo/pronome/final de palavra?" [expansion of the article/pronoun/word ending system?]. Fórum Orientando (in Portuguese). 23 May 2018. Retrieved 21 June 2021.
  5. "Definite and Indefinite Articles". Practice Portuguese. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 "Testador de conjuntos: Modo avançado" [Set tester: Advanced mode]. Orientando (Language set tester, containing a number of neutral language elements) (in Portuguese). Retrieved 28 June 2021.
  7. Lobo, Cari; Gaigaia, V. "Linguagem não-binária ou neutra" [Non-binary or neutral language]. wikia (in Portuguese). Revised by Kumiho Lim. Retrieved 20 June 2021.
  8. "Pronome neutro de terceira pessoa" [Neutral third person pronoun]. Wikipedia (in Portuguese). Retrieved 21 June 2021.
  9. "Elementos de conjuntos de linguagem" [Elements of sets of language]. orientando (in Portuguese). Retrieved 21 June 2021.
  10. "NEUTRALIDADE DE GÉNERO NA LÍNGUA PORTUGUESA" [GENDER NEUTRALITY IN THE PORTUGUESE LANGUAGE]. ORGULHO GAY (in Portuguese). 17 October 2019. Retrieved 21 June 2021.
  11. "The Gender of Portuguese Words". Practice Portuguese. Retrieved 7 July 2021.

External links[edit | edit source]