An antique German dictionary, Source: Pixabay

Bavaria bans gender-inclusive wording in official documents

Bavaria bans gender-inclusive wording in official documents

The German region’s Conservative government says no to asterisks, gaps, and other modern orthographic inventions

As of today, it is officially prohibited to write words, using unconventional orthography, that seek to point to a gender-inclusive language in official documents in the State of Bavaria, as well as in the schools. The stated aim of the authorities is to make the language “clear and understandable” for everyone.

The reason for the governmental intrusion into the linguistic field was a perceived sense that the German language and spelling had become too politicized, by trying to force it to sound less male-dominated. One could argue, of course, that this intervention itself on the part of the authorities is also a politically motivated act in response.

Spelling regulations

Either way, what this means is that the Bavarian state government has explicitly banned the use of trendy orthographic symbols, such as asterisks, underscores or slashes to try and make nouns sound gender-inclusive rather than gender-specific. This goes for official correspondence of public state employees, including teachers. However, interestingly enough, the prohibition will not apply to students in the classroom.

The German language, like many other languages, uses masculine and feminine genders, and this is even applied to many nouns, such as professions or other descriptors of people.

For instance, in German the word “Patient” describes a male patient whereas “Patientin” - a female one. Likewise, a group of male patients would be “Patienten”, and a group of female patients would be “Patientinnen”. However, if the group of patients is mixed or the genders of its members are unknown, the common convention is to use the masculine form.

However, in recent times, it has become increasingly common to refer to mixed groups or such where it is unclear what the genders of the members are by inserting orthographic symbols that are not part of the official German orthography. Going back to the “patients” example, this would mean writing the word in various ways, such as “Patient*in” or “Patient_in”. The modifications have even entered the spoken German where these symbols are expressed with a pause or a glottal stop.

According to DW, the German Teachers' Association (DL) welcomed the Bavarian policy. Its president, Stefan Düll, is of the opinion that official language should be centred around "respectful formulations that are gender-sensitive without marking it as such."



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