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Inclusive Language: The RAE Says Not Now Posted by on Feb 21, 2019 in news

Last month during a conference at the University of Salamanca, the director of the RAE or the Real Academia Española stated that the RAE was not going to impose inclusive language with new terms such as miembras and todes instead of miembros and todos. In this post, we will explore who the RAE is and what they do, and the debates of making Spanish inclusive.

Photo taken by deliam@ found on Flickr.com with license CC BY 2.0

What is the RAE?

The RAE is the Real Academia Española was founded in 1713 in Madrid. It is inspired by the Académie Française who deals with all things related to the French language. For over 300 years, the RAE has been the authority of the Spanish language in regards to changes in spelling, new words, and the publication of the most complete and official Spanish dictionary. Its main objective is velar por que la lengua española, en su continua adaptación a las necesidades de los hablantes, no quiebre su esencial unidad (to ensure that the spanish language, in its continuous adaptation to the needs of the speakers, doesn’t lose its essential unity). Source: RAE website

In addition to the RAE, there is also the Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española whose members are the different language associations of all Spanish speaking countries. This association has a similar objective, but with an emphasis more on the lingüística panhispánica of Latin America.

The following video explains in more detail what the RAE does and the upcoming projects of the Asociacion de Academias de la Lengua Española.

Lenguaje Inclusivo

There has been a push to make Spanish a more inclusive language for everyone. The discussion mainly deals with it being more inclusive towards women, however, the overall idea is to make it less gender-specific so that anyone, regardless of what gender or sex they identify with, can feel part of. For as long as I have memory, I have heard people debate about the use of presidenta (president), arquitecta (architect), ingeniera (engineer), secretario (secretary), etc. Some people feel that you can easily change the e or o to an a to make it feminine (as is the case for presidenta), but others feel that the words should stay as is and be used regardless of gender. One example of this is ingeniero for both male and female. After much debate in these words, particularly words related to careers, the RAE eventually accepted it and put in the dictionary.

The conversation about inclusive language is now dealing with more general terms such as todos/as, chicos/as, miembras/os. The idea is for the RAE to include these words in the dictionary in a political attempt to make the language more gender equal. The RAE, however, disagrees saying that the organization cannot force this change. They can consider making it part of the official language once it “catches on” with Spanish speakers in the same way that presidenta, ingeniera, and arquitecta came to be accepted. The director of the RAE went so far as to point out the mistake of forcing the word todes when the E in some cases is used for masculine (for example, presidente). His explanation is below.

The counter-argument

Many argue that the Spanish language has excluded women for hundreds of years, and more needs to be done to push for equality. Others argue that this has to be done in a smaller scale and eventually the change to the official language will come. The question is do we need someone to come and tell us to be inclusive or do we leave that to time? Has time really helped achieve gender equality?

There is also the issue of just gender in itself. In English, for example, we do not have gender-specific ending to words. This means that the language is, in theory, more inclusive to women as much as it is to people who are transexual, transgender, and those who choose to be gender neutral. How can we deal with this issue in Spanish? Should we stop using la and lo as well?

Below is a debate that took place during a newscast in Argentina.

Do you know of other languages with a similar debate? Do you think the RAE is right in not adding these terms to the dictionary?

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About the Author:Karoly Molina

Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with languages and writing. I speak English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and a little bit of French. I am a writer, reader, language teacher, traveler, and a food lover! I now live in The Netherlands with my husband Riccardo, our cat Mona, and our dog Lisa, and the experience has been phenomenal. The Dutch culture is an exciting sometimes topsy-turvy world that I am happily exploring!


Comments:

  1. Bill Boyd:

    Being much more the descriptivist, the people will vote via their daily usage, in my view. BB

    • Karoly Molina:

      @Bill Boyd Hi Bill, I completely agree! The use will dictate how the language evolves. Thanks for stopping by! -K


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