Gender Inclusive Language in Italy: A Sociolinguistic Overview

Federica Formato, Anna Lisa Somma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The debate on inclusive language in Italy is reaching wider audiences through social media. While scholarly investigations on the use are still at the embryonic stage, experts and scholars are attempting to put forward the reasons why a more inclusive language could benefit (Italian) society. Specifically, in the last few years, the debate has moved from masculine and feminine forms to ways in which a grammatical gender language can become inclusive. This means to
overcome the binary (feminine / masculine) and to propose strategies to include non-binary identities and others in the LGBTQIA+ community. Abbou (2011) argues that the use of gendered language is motivated, mostly from the widely studied perspective of how people are talked about and referred to (see also Formato 2019).
In advocating this position, we discuss how motivation can be used by the LGBTQIA+ community to position themselves. Motivation appears at the crossroads of grammatical patterns and a social gendered imaginary. Based on this, we present the main linguistic strategies that have emerged, the -u, the asterisk *, and the schwa /ə/, all replacing the morphological gendered inflections. In exploring such strategies, we aim to shed light on how language is
employed to widen the understandings of gender and sexuality. In addition to that, we engage in the verbal hygiene debate, started by Cameron in her seminal work (1995), and presenting a political scenario in which opposition to inclusive language and a push for it, co-exists.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-40
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Mediterranean and European Linguistic Anthropology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


  • gender inclusive language
  • inclusivity
  • LGBTQ+ Communities


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