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Legislative drafting and gender: some linguistic insights into English and Italian


Languages vary widely in terms of gender systems showing differences in the number of classes, underlying assignment rules and how and where gender is marked. The legislative drafting policy conventionally known as the ‘masculine rule’, whereby ‘he includes she’, raised opposition in the 1970s (under the pressure of feminist movements in the United States and Europe), and the adoption of plain English style forced legislative drafters to basically avoid sentences of undue length, superfluous definitions, repeated words and gender specificity with the aim of achieving clarity, minimising ambiguity, and enhance gender-neutrality. Given the prevalence of English as lingua franca, an increasing number of international organisations (i.e. the European Union) and non-English-speaking jurisdictions (i.e. the Italian jurisdiction) have recently shown some instances of a drafting style much more inclined to gender equality. Anything that causes drafters to challenge fixed old habits (i.e. formulaic expressions, grammar rules and social norms, repetitive use of form-meaning associations, common patterns of thought) might be seen as an opportunity for innovation and improvement (unusual collocations, unpredictable compounds). That must be welcome in the environment of English-speaking legislative drafting techniques where considerable reliance on precedent is inevitable and often desirable, a factor which certainly introduces a resistance to change in legislative language and makes it inclined to archaism. In light of the above, the aim of this research is to analyse the lexico-grammatical specificities of the selected languages (English and Italian), and the lexico-grammatical strategies proposed by the EU institutions to implement the EU normative acts into the Italian legislation aiming at gender fair and symmetric representation of men and women.