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What Gender-Neutral Legislation Owes to Grammar: The Concept of ‘Gender’ in Legal English and the Italian Guidelines for Use of Gender-Sensitive Language in Legislation


Gender-neutral language, also called non-sexist, genderinclusive, or non-gender-specific language, refers to language that includes words or expressions that cannot be taken to refer to one gender only. As a matter of fact, 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. In everyday speech, the word gender is usually associated with the biological and social differences between men and women (as in the case of Italian), and the view that grammatical gender mirrors natural gender is still evident in the terms masculine, feminine, and neuter that are used to label individual gender distinctions, especially in IndoEuropean languages. Certainly, not all languages function like this, and many languages do not have grammatical gender at all, as in the case of English. Considering the statements above, the aim of this research is to analyze the recent evolution of the EU norms and directions towards ‘gender-equality’, and their effect upon the Italian legislative drafting. In particular, the focus will be on the specificities of the selected languages (i.e., English and Italian), and the lexico-grammatical strategies adopted by Italian legislative drafters to provide a version of the EU normative acts (2008-2020) with a gender fair and symmetric representation of men and women.