UCL Hebrew & Jewish Studies


Call for Papers: Challenging the Binary: Non-Binary, Genderqueer, and Gender-Neutral Language

25 January 2023

Call for papers for a two-day conference (14-15 June 2023) to explore non-binary, gender-inclusive, and gender-non-conforming language cross-linguistically.

The conference will be held both in person at University College London and online 14 & 15 June 2023.

Growing recognition and understanding of gender-non-conforming, non-binary, queer, and other gender identities have led to shifts in language use and structures.

One of the most obvious examples is the increased popularity of declaring one’s gender using gender-neutral and neo-pronouns in languages that traditionally lack such forms of expression, e.g. the English they/them/their and ze/zer/zeir. Expressing non-binary identities in languages with grammatical gender can be challenging and has led to the emergence of new noun and adjective forms, such as the gender-neutral Spanish chique/chiques ‘child/children’ from the older binary forms chico/chicos ‘boy/boys’ and chica/chicas ‘girl/girls’. Similarly, in some languages (e.g. Hebrew, Arabic, Welsh, and French), even verb forms or prepositions can be gendered, which means that the introduction of new gender-neutral forms is starting to change the verbal structures of the languages in question.

Likewise, growing numbers of languages are introducing innovative gender-neutral orthographic symbols; for example, in Spanish the letter x has come to be used as an inclusive replacement for masculine and feminine noun and adjective endings in writing. Conversely, speakers of languages without grammatical gender, such as Finnish, have seen other linguistic developments in response to gender diversity, such as the use of English pronouns, gender-neutral names, and new vocabulary to describe the range of gender identities. Another aspect of these societal changes is the spread of new practical ways to enable and support the expression of gender identities in the language classroom (for both teachers and students).

The purpose of this two-day conference is to explore non-binary, gender-inclusive, and gender-non-conforming language cross-linguistically. We welcome contributions on all languages, but are especially interested in minority, endangered, and Indigenous languages.

Submission guidelines

Abstracts should be 300 words in length excluding references and should be submitted via EasyChair by 1 April 2023. Notifications of acceptance by 1 May 2023. 

For queries, please contact the organisers l.kahn@ucl.ac.uk and r.valijarvi@ucl.ac.uk.

Submit your abstract