Research Group
in Analytic Philosophy

Some reflections on 'inclusive language'

20 March 2024  |  15:00  |  Seminari de Filosofia UB


According to strong versions of the so called Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, which language one speaks determines to a significant extend what one believes (at least, in some particular domains). Strong versions of the S-W hypothesis seem to lack empirical support. Still, there is one case where people would seem to be assuming a strong version of the S-W hypothesis: that of the so called “inclusive language” or “non-sexist language”. In this talk, I will use as a starting point the instructions  that seek to promote the use of inclusive language that the UB provides to its members.

Several authors and language professionals (most significantly the  linguist Carme Junyent) have forcefully argued against the attempts by our university (and others) to promote the use of inclusive language.  (Junyent 2013, 2021). I think that some of the arguments that Junyent and others have provided are very interesting and worth discussing (for instance, one argument that appeals to Chomskian considerations about the innate nature of the structural features of language). I will identify four main such arguments. I will then suggest that we should carefully distinguish among different ways in which one might understand what adopting an inclusive language amounts to. I will argue that under one, appropriate, understanding of it, it is possible to answer the four main arguments by Junyent and others. Furthermore, we can provide some positive arguments for the usefulness and adequacy of encouraging the use of inclusive language (properly understood).