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The truth about ‘Latinx’

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In recent years, the term Latinx has become popular in academic settings in English to designate a group of people without reference to gender, which is designated by -o and -a endings in some Romance languages. While academics and Twitter users have begun to use the term, only 2% of the U.S. population actually identifies with this word.  Latinx has become so widely used that Elizabeth Warren has taken to using it on the campaign trail.  This has led to a reflection on its political implications in a recent Ross Douthat piece in the New York Times.  The interesting question is why a term that is thought to help unify a large group of people would fail to gain wider traction. Since Spanish is my mother tongue, I can understand why this term would befuddle Spanish speakers.  From a linguistic perspective, it makes no sense to create a genderless word in a gender-marked language. Yes, the -o and -a endings signal the grammatical gender, such as in the terms niño and niña. But the endings for the adult form are not always straightforward, such as in el hombre and la mujer. In fact, all nouns carry grammatical gender and some of these end in -o/a (i.e. la tierra) and others do not (i.e. el arbol). Finally, even within categories that have similar meanings there can be variation. In Spanish, it’s el puma and la pantera. But in Italian, one would say la tigre. Confused yet? Grammatical gender is confusing, especially with regard to animals. With all this confusion, Spanish speakers lose a connection between sex and gender. No one would be insulted if they are considered part of el pueblo Latino or la gente Latina. Just because someone says I am part of la gente Latina doesn’t make me feel that they are referring only to women. For a speaker of this class of Romance languages, the notion that gender and sex are the same thing makes little sense. Yes, gender originates in sex but it is not the same thing when it comes to non-sexed nouns. The problem arises when we use a. . .

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News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

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