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Hebrew on the brink of chaos | Tal Janner-Klausner


Hebrew is a gendered, binary language. Nearly any language construct in Hebrew requires some reference to gender, and it has no gender-neutral pronouns. Hebrew grammar is androcentric, meaning its linguistic hierarchy favors the masculine form. This linguistic reality goes against an ideal egalitarian and inclusive language. What can we do with a language that does not suit our needs?

We have three options: Reject that language, reject our needs, or creatively engage with it in a way that recognizes and appreciates both the language itself and its speakers’ needs.

In reviewing the linguistic-historical-social background of Hebrew’s gender issues, I hope to provide tools that may help us opt for the third choice.

Language in time and space

Even though language is a historical entity that evolves over time and in relation to the space in which it exists, prescriptive grammar portrays it as superhistorical, with fixed rules for proper use. This approach claims to honor and preserve language, but for the most part, what it actually preserves is the cultural capital of people who are able to and comfortable expressing themselves using formal register. Prescriptive grammar remains prevalent, even as the study of linguistics has largely moved on to descriptive grammar, an approach that seeks to understand real-life use of language across a variety of registers, and how it changes over time and according to social context (Hinkel, 2018).

To understand what language as a historical entity means, I review debates in historical linguistics and propose chaos theory as a framework for systematic examination of language.

Chaos theory, also known as complexity theory, evolved from quantum physics and sees the universe and many phenomena within it not as a collection of individual components, but rather as a complex, dynamic and non-linear system, with all its many components affecting one another and changing over time in unexpected ways. Therefore, a holistic approach that pays attention to processes over time and to relations between and within systems is necessary if we are to understand complex systems, instead of focusing on specific parts of them, seeing them as isolated and static (Larson-Freeman, 1997). This can be applied to linguistics, too, and so linguistic variations are not irregularities or flaws that need fixing, but rather a necessity. Researcher Nasrin Hadidi Tamjid stresses the continuity of processes of change and reorganization: “Any time a language is used, it changes” (Tamjid, 2007). In what ways do languages change? According to chaos theory, languages — just like any dynamic system — move between order and chaos, reorganizing themselves between these two polarities without ever staying on either end: On one hand, constant change prevents definitive order, and on the other hand, the need for mutual intelligibility stops language from dissolving into complete chaos. Between order and chaos, there is an area of creativity and evolution, which exists while maintaining the ability to communicate; the closer we are to chaos, the greater creativity becomes. These processes occur within a social context, and therefore language is both like a mirror, reflecting certain societal norms, and like a lens, affecting our perception (Deutscher, 2010).

There is a wide spectrum of approaches to understanding the nature of that interplay between linguistic evolution and social reality. On one end of it, “strong” linguistic relativity, represented in the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, which claims that language shapes native speakers’ consciousness and dictates conceptual boundaries. The Sapir–Whorf hypothesis has affected the linguistic transformation in philosophy and culture theory from the 1960s to this day. However, from the ‘80s onwards, many in the study of linguistics have moved away from it, discrediting the validity of the examples Whorf and Sapir used (specifically in their arguments concerning Native American languages) and their illogical conclusions, which relied on the exotification of non-Western cultures. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the nativist approach, which has received wide acceptance by researchers in linguistics and psychology. According to this approach, all spoken languages stem from a universal grammar and reflect a supercultural truth, meaning we all share roughly the same thought processes. A third approach is “weak” linguistic relativity, which states that language doesn’t actually dictate the limits of our thought, seeing as we are capable of grasping concepts and terms that may not exist in our mother tongue (Deutscher, 2010). Having said that, language characteristics do wield some influence: “Speech habits, imprinted from an early age, can create habits of mind that have far-reaching consequences” (Deutscher, 2010). The options that language offers and the information it requires us to provide make us regularly consider certain types of information, affecting our thinking habits, but not dictating or creating them. This difference between influence and dictation is a fine — but very important — line. The same goes for the areas where that influence is felt. A culture’s language reflects its norms and informs everyday thinking processes in “invisible” areas that we usually take for granted: Associative thought, spatial cognition, perception of colors, memory and gender. That is why many linguists1 keep recognizing and exploring the interplay between language, society and thought (Muchnik, 2002). Linguist Malka Muchnik argues that “through language, we may discover its speakers’ cultural habits” (2002) and that language is a socialization tool, as it transmits social norms across generations.

Gender, language and social reality

Gender is one of many fields where social norms are acquired and mediated through language, making it a key arena in the feminist movement’s fight for gender equality in the ‘60s and ‘70s (Pauwels, 2003); an example from English would be the common use of the titles of Mrs. or Miss versus Mr., which requires women only to disclose their marital status (Muchnik, 2015). For feminist researchers and activists, linguistic gender imbalance reflects a patriarchal reality, but can also serve as a tool for changing that same reality (Eisenrich, 2017). In Hebrew, the masculine form is considered generic, while the feminine form is only used to mark feminine grammatical gender, and in most cases derived from the masculine form (Muchnik, 2015). Even languages where gender markers aren’t as common carry and reinforce the notion that the masculine experience is all-encompassing, while the feminine experience is the exception (Pauwels, 2013). In English, “he” was commonly used up until very recently as a generic pronoun in cases when the gender is either unknown or irrelevant. Some professions are seen as masculine, and it is specifically noted when women are engaged in it, like female surgeon (Muchnik, 2015). English also features masculine and feminine gender markers for some professions: actor and actress; steward and stewardess; waiter and waitress, and so on. Looking at semantics, there are plenty of examples for words or expressions that embody sexist notions, like husband – in Hebrew, ba’al, literally “owner” – and wife, or male and female.

In the ‘80s, feminist researchers applied post-structuralism to gender, arriving at the conclusion that not only gender roles, but also gender itself is a social construct, rather than an inherent attribute. According to Judith Butler, a prominent figure at the forefront of this academic trend, gender is something we do or perform on a daily basis, using cultural symbols like clothing, behavior and language (Butler, 1990). So when we refer to ourselves with a certain pronoun, not only is it a spoken representation of our gender, but a way to create it. Essentially, gender isn’t what we are or who we are, but what we do.

Gender in Hebrew

Hebrew is an almost entirely gendered language: Most pronouns, all nouns and adjectives, and most verb conjugations and prepositions require grammatical gender markers, divided into the masculine form and the feminine form, without any neuter form. There is a “natural”2 grammatical gender with semantic meaning (ha-ish ha-hu, “that [masculine] man”), as well as an arbitrary, strictly formal grammatical gender (ha-shulkhan ha-hu, “that [masculine] table”), which effectively serves as a type of noun, regardless of social gender or biological sex.3 In both, the masculine form is the generic form, which would also appear first in dictionaries and textbooks. If a sentence has two subjects, one masculine and one feminine, the agreement would be with the masculine form. The Academy of the Hebrew Language reinforces these traits (Muchnik, 2015), insisting that the masculine form implies all genders, whereas the feminine form is exclusively for women.

While Hebrew has changed and evolved throughout its long history, its gender characteristic remained largely unchanged. However, some things did change. For example, in Mishnaic Hebrew, or Early Rabbinic Hebrew, gender isn’t always fixed; many nouns switched between masculine and feminine (like ruakh, wind), and feminine pronouns and possessives were used to denote masculine (Muchnik, 2015). Muchnik argues (2015) that the stability of grammatical gender in Hebrew syntax throughout its history attests to the inflexibility of the language in that sense, and may even hinder any future changes. She states that changes in language toward gender equality are desirable, but questions their feasibility. In reality, even in the six years that elapsed since her book was published, Hebrew has gone through significant changes and it would be fair to assume that this trend will continue.

Real-life effects

Various studies show the social implications of linguistic gender distinctions. Muchnik, in her book “The Gender Challenge of Hebrew” (2015), describes a study conducted on children who speak Hebrew (extremely gendered language), English (slightly gendered language) and Finnish (non-gendered language). The study found a clear positive correlation between the level of gender distinctions in their mother tongue and the development of awareness to social gender and gender identity at a younger age. Formal grammatical gender also has some social implications: Studies show that the grammatical gender of inanimate objects informs perception and memory in speakers of gendered languages; even as speakers of these languages understand that an object doesn’t have any biological or social gender, they subconsciously attach gender characteristics to it (Deutscher, 2010).

Androcentric grammar has its implications. Studies show that the use of language that prioritizes the masculine form hinders women’s academic achievements. Regev and Kricheli-Katz (2018)4 found that using the masculine form in math tests negatively affected women’s performance, while using the plural imperative form (which is still derived from the masculine form, but seen as neutral in Modern Hebrew) improved women’s performance without affecting men’s performance. Students’ self-perception is also influenced by the choice of pronoun: Asked to fill out questionnaires in Hebrew on the level of academic motivation, women reported lower motivation when the questionnaire used the masculine form (Vainapel, Shamir & Tenenbaum, 2015). These studies, and more in other languages (Sczerny et al., 2016), show that in reality, while the masculine form may be used as generic, it isn’t experienced as neutral.

Another field where Hebrew reflects and shapes social reality is the binarism of grammatical gender. While Hebrew grammatical gender offers only two options, social (and biological) reality is far more complex: Some people identify with a gender that isn’t “man” or “woman,” some people have intersex variations to their biological sex, the animal world is incredibly diverse in terms of biological sex, and inanimate objects have no gender at all. The binary nature of language does not represent reality but the predominant hetero-normative perception of it. Butler (1990) argues that this dichotomous view preserves power relations that privilege men: For gender hierarchy to exist, society has to believe that there are two genders, naturally distinct from one another and mutually exclusive.

Nowadays, thanks to the LGBTQ and feminist movements, more nonbinary people are out of the closet, seeking more honest and accurate ways to talk about ourselves, and in Hebrew, too. Orit Bershtling (2014), who interviewed nonbinary Hebrew speakers, found that the challenge Hebrew poses isn’t all negative: The need to expand the limits of language to create space in it for themselves is an opportunity to establish nonbinary self-expression and challenge linguistic and societal gender norms. An arbitrary use of any single form highlights the gap between choice of pronoun and the experience of gender, while a mix of the feminine and masculine forms undermines binary gender notions.

It should be noted that many nonbinary people lack the confidence or support needed to implement that sort of freedom of expression. Social activist Kul Kolton, in a talk on this subject in Hebrew (2021), described themselves as “someone [masculine] or someone [feminine] for whom the gender structure of language doesn’t fit.” Kolton said that many members of the nonbinary community struggle to create space for gender expression in everyday interactions, and as a result of that, many of them don’t go into higher education. As for themselves, Kolton says that “The Hebrew language obstructs my earning capacity.”

For transgender people with gender identities that fit into the category of “man” or “woman,” the appropriate pronouns exist in Hebrew, but they may face other challenges: In languages without grammatical gender (like Persian) or with grammatical gender only in the second or third person (like English), speakers are not required to identify or define themselves. In languages like Hebrew, we have to choose a pronoun when we speak, which is ostensibly a way to state our gender identity – but this statement, in some spaces. may be uncomfortable or even dangerous. Any Hebrew-speaking trans person has to respond in real time to how their interlocutor refers to them; if it isn’t accurate, we have to decide on the spot whether to correct them – potentially evoking antagonism or embarrassment – or ignore, leaving us with personal discomfort and pain. Gender representation through language may serve as an opportunity for social recognition of our gender identity, but not all trans people are comfortable doing that all the time and in all spaces.

The “weak” linguistic relativity theory provides an explanation for this gender reality: Language cannot be restricting thought entirely, otherwise there would have been no native Hebrew speakers who are nonbinary. The lack of neutral grammatical gender in Hebrew may make it more complicated, but does not prevent the apprehension of nonbinary gender. In languages that demand attention to pronouns, gender’s presence shapes more general thought processes that emphasize gender. Therefore, the hierarchy and binary between two genders in Hebrew influence its speakers’ thinking habits, rendering any efforts to create egalitarian and inclusive language pertinent. Influence, but not dictation: Societies with less binary languages aren’t necessarily less sexist or more inclusive of nonbinary people; societies with gendered and androcentric languages can still reach equality and inclusivity, but getting there will probably be quicker and easier if language adapts, too.

Linguistic activism for gender justice

There is nowadays an abundance of initiatives and practical suggestions seeking to transform the Hebrew language and its speakers’ experiences. They echo the argument that language doesn’t only reflect, but also informs social reality, and that linguistic activism can raise awareness of social inequality as it is reflected in the language.

Linguistic-gender change can trickle down, starting with policy, legislation, linguistic planning and linguistic authorities, like the Academy of the Hebrew Language. Change can also start from the grassroots, with real-life use and representation. It appears linguistic changes are more likely to be immersed into the language if they are adopted by formal institutions,5 but even without formal recognition, far-reaching changes are possible thanks to the efforts of individuals, organizations and social movements.

According to Pauwels (2003), linguistic activism for gender justice can employ several strategies:

1) Linguistic disruption

This form of intentional disruption aims to raise awareness of the issues with the existing language, and includes reclaiming of offensive words or phrases. “Herstory,” for example, underlines women’s absence from conventional history and reflects an aim to write a different history.6 The Slut Walk is an example of reclaiming offensive words, which also attests to the power and complexities of this linguistic strategy.

2) Woman-centered language

The use of the feminine form as generic – instead of the prevailing use of the masculine form in Hebrew – has become common in feminist spaces.7 Last year Knesset member Ibtisam Mara’ana, chair of the Special Committee on Foreign Workers, announced its meetings will be conducted using the feminine form “out of inclusivity and tolerance, and of course all discussions apply to the masculine form, too” (tweet, August 9, 2021).8 This linguistic strategy is meant as affirmative action, countering the marginal position of the feminine form in the prevailing discourse, and as a tool to raise awareness of gender issues. In addition, using the feminine form as generic makes for shorter sentences than the double use of both the masculine and feminine forms.


ברוכות הבאות
Image: Feminist activist replace a sign at the entrance to Jerusalem ahead of Slut Walk 2018. “Welcome” in the masculine form was changed into “welcome” in the feminine form. Credit: Anonymous

3) Equitable language

This set of strategies is the most common and widely accepted nowadays.

In speech:

Speaking to a mixed-gender group or in generic statements, equitable language can be achieved by alternating between the masculine and feminine forms, using the form that agrees with the majority in any given group,9 or using both the feminine and masculine form in gendered expressions. Despite claims that equitable language is inconvenient or grammatically incorrect, it appears to have made it into mainstream Hebrew: Politicians, broadcasters and public figures across political divides use mixed, equitable language.



לכאן נכנסים ונכנסות רק עם מסכות!
Image: ‘Enter (masculine) and enter (feminine) only with masks!’ Credit: Falafel Yosifun, Even Yehuda


קונטקידס
Image: Movement class for boys and girls Credit: Havayot Community Center, Rehovot



In writing:

All options for equitable speech also apply to writing, which has several additional ones. There are also available guides for equitable writing in Hebrew that provide an overview of the different options, alongside their advantages and disadvantages.

a) Using dots or slashes to create mixed forms: haver.a or haver/a (“friend”), haverim.ot or haverim/ot (“friends”).

This has become more common in recent years, in ordinary and formal correspondences, in job ads, adverts, and even official statements from government agencies and national health care providers. Dabru Eleynu (“Talk to Us”), an initiative promoting equitable language in Israel, has a Facebook page featuring many examples in Hebrew.


בוחרים נשיא.ה
Image: ‘Good morning, today we elect a president,’ Kan News report showing presidential candidates Miriam Peretz and Isaac Herzog. “President” is written in a mixed form with a dot to create both the masculine and feminine forms. Credit: Office of the President, Hadas Parush, Miriam Alster/Flash90


say
Image: ‘I have the power to say no! I don’t smoke!’ “Smoke” is written in mixed-gender Hebrew, with a dot separating the masculine and feminine forms.Advertising, content and creative: C – The Branded Content Agency

b) Gender neutralization. In writing (without diacritics, which is extremely common), there are some forms that don’t carry any clear gender markers: Second-person suffixes to nouns and prepositions (like “yours,” שלך, which can be read either as the feminine shelakh or the masculine shelkha), or singular second-person verbs in the past tense (“[You] wrote,” כתבת, which can be read either as katavt or katavta). Some forms carry no gender markers at all: Gerunds, infinitives, neutral collective nouns, singular and plural first-person verbs in the past and future tenses. Some forms are seen as neutral in contemporary Hebrew: The plural imperative, or second- and third-person plural verbs in the future tense.10


חניית אחות חניית רופא
Image: The parking lot at a Clalit health center in Bnei Atarot. The signs read “Reserved for nurse [feminine]” and “Reserved for physician [masculine].” Credit: Maaya Rashman

הנושא טופל
Image: The parking lot at a Clalit health center in Bnei Atarot, after the signs were replaced. They now both read “Reserved for staff.” Credit: Clalit HMO’s Facebook page

c) Multi-Gender Hebrew, a font that has 12 additional letters showing both the masculine and feminine forms in gendered words. This font, which was used for the Hebrew version of this text, can be downloaded from the project’s website.

In this case, too, change is becoming increasingly visible, and the font is now widely used, even in signs at formal institutions like local councils, city halls or schools. It has spread rapidly because it fulfills, even if only partially, the need for equitable language, recognized by many.

שלט הכניסה למועצה אזורית גזר
Image: ‘Welcome’ in Multi-Gender Hebrew at the entrance to the Gezer Regional Council building. Credit: Gezer Regional Council


d) Automated text editing using software like Ivrita and Equal.co.il, which add slashes or dots to create mixed-gender forms, or convert texts into multi-gender fonts. They also automatically convert texts according to a web reader’s preferred pronoun.

Striving for equitable language across so many arenas and in a variety of ways – and in opposition to the Academy of the Hebrew Language – shows how powerful grassroots change can be on all levels. But the opposite trend also exists in spoken Hebrew. Muchnik (2015) shows that in certain aspects, language is being simplified at the expense of feminine forms. Modern Hebrew has let go of the plural feminine form in the future tense, using the masculine form instead as generic, and Hebrew speakers would often opt for masculine plural forms in the second and third person even when referring to a group of women. That is, masculine forms are in effect being used as generic even when the correct form would be feminine. Similar processes happened in some dialects of colloquial Arabic. The social context should be noted here, too: Muchnik suggests many women prefer referring to themselves or to other women in the masculine form, because it is seen as more powerful and prestigious (Muchnik, 2015).

Pauwels referred to linguistic sexism in her work; I propose a fourth category for examination: Nonbinarism.

4) Nonbinary Hebrew

The road to nonbinary or queer Hebrew seems longer than the road to gender-inclusive Hebrew, but some shifts are already underway. Furthermore, the relative success of egalitarian Hebrew holds a promise for the future of a language that is inclusive of nonbinary people.

Queer use of Hebrew isn’t new. Throughout Modern Hebrew’s history, and probably even earlier, queer people have been playing with its gender rules to adapt them to their needs and question gender conventions (see Levon, 2010). One of the clearest examples of this phenomenon is effeminate gay men’s use of the feminine form or mixed-gender language.

Still, there is no easy solution for nonbinary people to properly express themselves in Hebrew. The options that exist nowadays include:

a) Mixed-gender language: This is currently the most evident choice in the community. In writing, some alternate between the feminine and masculine forms, while others may use both forms, separated by dots.

b) Avoiding gendered words as much as possible, while using the first person in the past and future tenses, as well as some passive forms. This strategy, however, has its limitations.

c) Using either the masculine or feminine form but knowing that this choice does not reflect gender identity, but rather linguistic constraints.

d) Using the plural masculine form, inspired by the English singular “they.” The plural in Hebrew, unlike “they” that also marks the singular, is almost exclusively for the plural,11 and still gendered.

e) Several initiatives have sought to create a new gender-neutral grammatical system. The most evolved example to date is the Nonbinary Hebrew Project, which proposes a third grammatical gender, “expansive gender.” This grammatical system is based on the eh vowel sound,12 and detailed grammar tables can be found on the project’s website.

This system isn’t in use by Hebrew speakers, but over the past five years it has spread among Jewish Hebrew students and Jews in the Diaspora, specifically in the United States, and particularly among members of the LGBTQ community, who use it in religious settings (like Torah aliyah ceremonies). The project was created in a moving collaboration between a Hebrew language teacher, Eyal Rivlin, and a student, Lior Gross, who were looking for a way to address the need to allow Lior appropriate self-expression. It is too early to assess whether this system may be used by Hebrew speakers in the future; actual experimentation would be needed to examine the feasibility of it happening, and could also suggest modifications or improvements.

On the brink of chaos

Let me go back to chaos theory. We should use systems thinking to examine factors in different contexts that interact with one another and form a system together. We need systems thinking to bring about a transformation that would lead to a more egalitarian and inclusive language, to implement it in various spaces in our lives, and to understand the changes in the language itself.

As mentioned above, dynamic systems move between order and chaos, and the closer we are to chaos, the greater creativity becomes – and with it the risk that we lose the ability to communicate. Gender nowadays is an area of relative chaos.13 Hebrew’s binary and androcentric grammar evolved from sexist social norms. It has maintained relative order, agreement between linguistic constructs and the prevailing social norms. Society is now changing, and we need language to adapt so that it reflects our values and identities, and hopefully also serve as a catalyst. Hebrew does not suit the needs of many of its speakers, creating instability. Since the Academy of the Hebrew Language is blocking any sort of top-down change, a revamped grammar is growing from the bottom up, influenced by several trends all at once. So we end up with many options to refer to a certain group, alternating between masculine (-im) and feminine (-ot) forms or combining them, and using separators or Multi-Gender Hebrew to create mixed forms. In this example, we look at a selection of ways to say “friends”:

Haverim? Haverot? Haverim ve haverot? Haverot ve haverim? Haverimot? Haverotim? Haverot.im? Havaerim/ot?

Each of these forms has supporters, but also opposition. We are transitioning away from stability (the conventional gender-linguistic system) and onto enhanced complexity, closer to chaos (a variety of propositions for a more egalitarian and inclusive language); relative chaos is needed in order to reach relative order in the future. One or more of these new forms of expression would probably become the norm one day, representing a new gender order in Hebrew. Until then, we have to make a conscious choice befitting space and time.

If this mission appears too chaotic or daunting, keep in mind that even so-called conventional Hebrew has never truly been completely fixed or organized, as nearly all Hebrew students can recall with some level of frustration. “Irregular” plural form (like arim gdolot, for example, “big cities” – arim looks just like the masculine form but in fact denotes feminine grammatical gender) are an integral part of Hebrew, and so are suffixes attached to numeral, which would normally appear “inverted” compared to common grammatical gender. That is to say Hebrew has always had nonbinary-genderqueer-transgender elements to it, words not clearly associated with their proper gender, like “people” – anashim in the masculine form or nashim in the feminine form – which require an effort to understand and describe in an accurate and honest way. This effort allows for true communication.




טל ג'אנר-קלוזנר
צילום: אמילי מקאינס

Tal Janner-Klausner

Explores education, languages, history, and how they connect. Tal studied history, Arabic, history education and teaching Hebrew as a second language, and currently works as pedagogical coordinator of Hebrew courses at This Is Not an Ulpan, an alternative, community-based language school. Tal lives in Jerusalem, occasionally creates Hebrew calligraphy works and enjoys nature.







Notes

1 The entire field of sociolinguistics is in fact based on these connections.

2 This term demonstrates how even the linguistic discourse itself is affected by cis-normative gender conventions, presenting social gender as natural.

3 Some languages have grammatical systems that are completely detached from gender: Japanese verbs and suffixes in Slavic languages mark the difference between living things and inanimate objects; Swahili has 10 grammatical genders; the ancient Sumerian language differentiated between humans and all other nouns. There are also a few languages with grammatical gender isn’t arbitrary; Tamil has the feminine form for women, masculine for men, and a neutral gender for everything else, including animals, objects and children (Deutscher, 2010).

4 Kricheli-Katz and Regev published a version of their paper in English in 2021 on npj Science of Learning. It is available on https://www.nature.com/articles/s41539-021-00087-7.

5 For example, an Argentinian court’s legal recognition of gender-neutral Spanish (2019), and the Swedish Academy’s recognition of a neutral pronoun (2015).

6 See, for example (in Hebrew), https://www.facebook.com/herstorically/.

7 For example, The Readeress’ Hebrew site, https://politicallycorret.co.il/.

8 Media reports said that the Knesset speaker reversed her decision following a request by MK Avi Maoz, but the headlines were misleading. In fact, the Knesset speaker did issue a response, but his letter clarified what should have been clear to begin with: The committee’s chair may use the feminine form, and other members or guests may speak however they see fit (based on a report on “Dabru Eleynu,” https://www.facebook.com/dabru.eleynu/posts/4266847736734643, August 31, 2021).

9 For example, the dean of Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Engineering spoke at the 2021 graduation ceremony using the feminine form, as women were the majority of graduates (https://www.facebook.com/dabru.eleynu/posts/4051717308247688, June 17, 2021).

10 All of these methods can be used together to produce non-gendered texts, as Rozin Rozenblum showed in a Facebook post (November 19, 2018).

11 In the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, it is customary to use the plural as a sign of respect.

12 Similar to a gender-neutral grammatical system being developed for Spanish.

13 I would like to thank my colleague Shay Soffer, who proposed this conceptual link in 2019.




References

Hebrew

Eisenrich, D. (2017) “Talk to Us – Language creates gender reality.”

Muchnik, M. (2002) Introduction: Language as Social Activity. Language, Society and Culture. Open University: Tel Aviv, 1-22, 42.

Regev T., & Kricheli-Katz, T. (2018) Addressing in the Masculine Form or Feminine Form? How Choice of Pronouns Affects Women’s Success in Math Tests, Ben-Gurion University.

English

Bershtling, O., (2014) Speech creates a kind of commitment: Queering Hebrew. Queer Excursions, Oxford Scholarship Online.

Butler, J., (1990) Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity, New York, NY: Routledge.

Deutscher, G., (2010) Through the Language Glass, Metropolitan Books: New York

Hinkel, E., (2018) Descriptive versus prescriptive grammar. The TESOL Encyclopedia of English Language Teaching, 1, 1-6.

Larsen-Freeman, D. (1997). Chaos/complexity science and second language acquisition. Applied linguistics, 18(2), 141-165.

Levon, E. (2010). Language and the politics of sexuality: Lesbians and gays in Israel. Springer.

Muchnik, M. (2015) The Gender Challenge of Hebrew. The Brill Reference Library of Judaism, volume 42. Leiden ; Boston: Brill.

Pauwels, A. (2003) “Linguistic Sexism and Feminist Linguistic Activism.” In The Handbook of Language, Gender, and Sexuality, edited by Susan Ehrlich, Miriam Meyerhoff, and Janet Holmes, Second edition., 550–70. Blackwell Handbooks in Linguistics. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Tamjid, N. H., (2007) Chaos/complexity theory in second language acquisition. Novitas-Royal, 1(1).

Vainapel, S., Shamir, O. Y., Tenenbaum, Y., & Gilam, G. (2015) The dark side of gendered language: The masculine-generic form as a cause for self-report bias. Psychological Assessment, 27(4), 1513–1519.






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