26 Mag 2020 14:00

VeReWebLing - Political dimensions of "Ă©criture inclusive" in Parisian universities


Venice Research Webinar in Linguistics 


May 26, 2020 h. 14:00-15:30

Heather Burnett & Céline Pozniak (LLF, CNRS-Université de Paris)

Political dimensions of "écriture inclusive" in Parisian universities


Gender inclusive writing (écriture inclusive (EI)) has long been the topic of public debates in France. Examples of EI for the word "students" are shown in (1):


(1)   a. étudiant t·e·s (point médian)

b. étudiant.e.s (period)
c. étudiants et étudiantes (repetition)

d. étudiant(e)s (parentheses)
e. étudiant-e-s (dash) 

f. étudiantEs (capital)
g. étudiant/e/s (slash) 

h. étudiant--e--s (double dash)


These debates have amplified since the government prohibited the use of the point médian (1a) in official documents in 2017 (Abbou et al. 2018). EI is also controversial among feminists: it has many variants (1), and feminists of different political orientations often disagree on which variant should be used (Abbou 2011, Abbou 2017). Despite a wealth of verbal hygiene (Cameron 2012) on the topic, there have been almost no descriptive studies documenting variation in EI. A notable exception is Abbou (2011, 2017), who looked at EI in anarchist pamphlets from the 1990s/2000s. She shows that these activists ascribed different social meanings to variants, with parentheses (1d) indexing an institutionally oriented or even rightwing stance, and the capital (1f) indexing a differentialist stance. On the other hand, the point médian (1a) and period (1b) were considered politically neutral. Our study investigates whether the political distinctions identified by Abbou translate to a different political context (higher education) and to a different time period (post 2017), through a quantitative study of EI in pamphlets outlining undergraduate programs in Paris. 

Heather Burnett is a research scientist studying linguistics at the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). Originally from Canada, she obtained her PhD in 2012 at UCLA, under the supervision of Ed Keenan and Dominique Sportiche, with a thesis on the formal semantics of gradable adjectives and comparative constructions. She then held postdoctoral positions in Canada (Université de Montréal, University of Toronto) and France (Université de Toulouse - Jaurès) on projects related to formal semantics and dialectology, before being hired at the CNRS, in the Laboratoire de Linguistique Formelle (CNRS-Université de Paris), in 2016. Her most recent research focuses on the integration of formal semantics, sociolinguistics and dialectology by means of the construction of a formal theory of social meaning and identity construction through language. She received an ERC Starting Grant (2020-2025) to further this research programme.


Dipartimento di Studi Linguistici e Culturali Comparati, Prof.ssa Giuliana Giusti


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