Hibbing, Lydia

Project title: Bridging the German Gender Gap

Department: Germanic and Slavic Studies

Faculty supervisor: Dr. Matt Pollard

"German is a traditionally gendered language in which all nouns are assigned a grammatical gender and all nouns referencing persons are gender specific; that is to say there are currently two gender specific terms for all nouns referencing persons, which attribute either male or female gender to the person being identified. For example, the male student is “der Student” and the female student “die Studentin”; both have plural forms, but the masculine plural “die Studenten” is often used as the generic term to refer to a mixed group of persons.  Problems of inclusion arise not only from singular gender specificity within German, but also from the plural gender specificity, by which the masculine form becomes the default norm for discussing all students.

However, linguists and journalists have proposed some recent solutions to the problem. The asterisk (“die Student*innen”), the dash (or “gender gap”: “die Student_innen”) and slash (“die Student/innen”) all appear in varying degrees in print media, although nothing has been formally adopted at this time.

These solutions – some of them prescriptivist -- have come up against resistance and, while some alternatives such as “Studierende” (“those who study”) provide a modicum of reprieve, none seem to solve the issue and all generate their own problems and controversy. I propose to examine the controversies and proposed solutions to the issue of gender inclusivity (or lack thereof) within German and the problems associated with the recommended solutions."