Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts


Hispanic Studies


Heap, David J.


Gender identity is a rapidly changing concept and so is the language that we use to talk about ourselves or others that may identify outside of the traditional binary system. Spanish typically functions as a masculine generic-dominated language, but there are attempts to make the language more inclusive. One of those attempts appeared in the early 2000s: -x. This marker is unpronounceable as a syllable nucleus. Via an online survey and virtual interviews, this project discovers how Spanish speakers from various countries incorporate gender inclusive language (IL) in writing and speech. Which speakers incorporate IL? Additionally, why do they use IL? The statistically significant variables are gender identity and birth country. Growing faster in popularity than the -x is the morpheme -e, already existent in the Spanish phonological and lexical systems. The interviews reveal that speakers who desire to use IL do not do so infallibly and their motivations are varied.

Summary for Lay Audience

This thesis investigates how Spanish speakers are attempting to use gender inclusive language. Traditionally, the Spanish language has two genders, male and female. Spanish uses the ending –o for men, and –a for women. The traditional two-gender system is being challenged in light of expanding awareness of complex gender identities. Speakers of languages with grammatical gender systems are faced with difficulty in how to express gender identities outside of the current options of man and woman. Prescriptive language institutions are opposed to altering the grammatical system of Spanish, and therefore speakers must create innovations that are not standardized. Different suffixes are used by speakers to express inclusive language in Spanish, and there is no real consensus on which inclusive marker to use. This study finds that the suffix –e has become the most popular option to use in both speech and writing. Additionally, –x is the second most popular option to use in writing while doubled forms (los chicos y las chicas) are the second most popular option for inclusive language in speech. Gender and birth country have significant correlations with many of the tested variables, and they are the only demographic variables that are found to be significant. The motivations for using inclusive language are varied, and the future solution is unclear, but Spanish speakers are highly aware of the difficulty surround the relationship between expanding gender identities and the binary grammatical gender system. This thesis provides a snapshot in time of the current environment surrounding gender inclusive language in Spanish.