Santiago Kalinowski: "Prohibiting The 'e' Is Persecuted …

He says that inclusive language is a discursive milestone that is going to be associated with this era of humanity. But also that no minority group, however powerful, can change the grammar of a community. Then, he clarifies, "it is not a phenomenon of linguistic change but it is a rhetorical phenomenon" that is "the discursive configuration of a political struggle." “The objective of the inclusive is not to change the grammar, it does not matter. There are people who can say yes but in reality it is an intervention that what they are looking for is to end up with murdered women, women who charge less for the same job, women who cannot walk down the quiet street. So there is a huge advantage there, ”says linguist and lexicographer Santiago Kalinowski, getting into the debate about inclusive language with scientific arguments and political gaze.

In this interview he talks about the ideas contained in the book The language in dispute (Editions Godot), the result of a debate that took place last year in the framework of the eighth Fair of Editors between him and Beatriz Sarlo. Since 2014, Kalinowski directs the Department of Linguistic and Philological Research of the Argentine Academy of Letters. “What a researcher is interested in is what the speakers do, it does not take care of what the speakers should do. The department has an idiomatic consultation service and at the end of 2017 the phone did not stop ringing. At the beginning of 2018, an interview with a girl named Natalia Mira came out in TN. That interview angered a large number of people and was held by a large number of people and placed the issue of inclusive language on the public agenda. It really exploded, ”he says.

–She talked to the "e" …


–Yes, and he does it in a very consistent way. You have to be very aware of what the formants are in a word because you have to know where you are going and where you are not. It is a linguistic practice that implies great knowledge about the language, you have to know more and not less about the language. Because there is talk of "ignorance", "those brutes" … and to use the inclusive properly you have to have greater capacity for reflection and information.

–And what kind of inquiries were they?

– Speakers are most anxious about the idea that there is a minority group that has the power to change the grammar of an entire community. That idea had spread during the twentieth century, for example, when they intervened against our voseo. There were in big names like Menéndez Pidal the idea that what the school did linearly resulted in a linguistic change in society. The school as an arm of intellectuals who thought where the language should go. That was the idea of ​​what had happened in Chile with the voseo and it was thought that the same thing would happen in Argentina. Then, there is the idea that a small group can change the language.

The reality is that it is not so. No minority group, no matter how powerful, can change the grammar of a community. This is Monday's newspaper, let's say. The intervention against voseo was made from the political, business power of publishers who published manuals.

– At what time?

–All the twentieth century. I went to elementary school, I didn't wear it at my school. The verbal paradigm taught in school was "I, you, he" was not taught "me, you, him." That is an intervention against our dialect.

– Sure, something artificial.

– In the classroom you had to remember to talk about “you” because the teacher had received the directive from the Ministry of Education that this had to be removed from the linguistic community. I didn't have to be in the classroom, at work, in conjugation, not even at recess. If you go to the opinions of the Argentine Academy of Letters raised to the education authority in the thirties and sixties, they say all these things.

– The argument which was?

– The argument is also false: that the true language is with “you”. There is no true language, "you" is a dialectic feature as well, majority but also dialectal feature at last. The "you" is also a dialectical, minority trait. We are not going to intervene in Spain to stop using "you" because all of America and part of Spain use something else. So, in an intervention against voseo, the argument is that it is a feature of the degraded language. And Menéndez Pidal calls it this: "degrading and degrading voseo". So that spread the idea that we Argentines speak badly. Inevitably if top-level institutions, the Ministry of Education, the novel, the Argentine cinema of the golden age, the radio, the manuals, all that sent us the message that there was no need to talk about "you", inevitably the conclusion which the speaker comes to is that we speak badly. They are very destructive ideas because for everything that symbolically and culturally drags the language, if one is convinced that the language I use every day is bad, degraded, contaminated, that reflects what I think of myself.

– In the book he wondered about the link between reality and language. Going back to inclusive, how does it impact reality?

– My position is that it is a rhetorical phenomenon, which is not a language phenomenon. The language changes without us deciding anything. This however is a conscious, thought, designed, product of a reflection of decades, so that separates it completely. So it is not a phenomenon of linguistic change but it is a rhetorical phenomenon. As a rhetorical phenomenon it is a range of a discursive configuration.

–Before it continues, how do you define inclusive? Is it just the use of the "e"?

– Inclusive language had several chapters. It began with the unfolding, which is grammatical. There is nothing to prevent writers and writers, they and they, is grammatical. When that became heavy to sustain, spelling interventions were sought. The @.

–The x …

– The x came later because some questioned that the @ was binary. That is the other side. There are people who prefer the asterisk, I don't know what benefit it has. And when they saw the reality that this could not be pronounced, they took a vowel of Spanish that does not identify with the feminine or the masculine – even though there are words with “a” that are masculine such as “ the poet ”,“ the journalist ”, but in general the“ a ”is associated with the feminine and the“ o ”with the masculine; the "e" is also sometimes associated with the masculine, as when "readers" are said, but that didn't matter–; and that letter was taken that is the other: the “e” was chosen and where the thing could be pronounced exploded. So people see a young man using the "e" and think it is the language of the future, for example. When in reality what is there many times is a chronolect many times, many of the speech features of young people when they stop being young leave them. And new young people look for different things. There are many such conclusions. Then, the thing in language must be meditated enough because sometimes it is very easy to misdiagnosis. As a discursive configuration, (inclusive) is what surrounds a struggle, that is lifelong, every struggle had its own language features. And this is a very creative one, with potential, but that's it: the discursive configuration of a political struggle. So, if it comes to reality it is because it will have created a consensus, that consensus reached the Chambers, suddenly the politicians because it renders them or because it is a concern on the agenda and that makes them vote and if they vote they have that mandate, and There is a gender identity law. It seems to me that the gender identity law would not have been possible without these cultural consensuses because no politician is going to immolate, he needs to have mass behind. Then there is the aspect of inclusive that has to do with the individual identity of people of non-binary sexuality, which is like the opposite of the vertex. The inclusive was born as a theme of plurals.

–Yes, in fact, first there was talk of non-sexist language, of not discriminating against the female gender, and even for many, the “e” has a problem because it makes women unfeasible …

– Of course, there are many sectors of feminism that say “this is a new disappearance of the a”. It is also an argument. But what I see is that there is a consensus among most feminisms and that they don't want to impose on man the same thing that man imposed on them. They want an overcoming instance. As a political gesture, the “e” has that search, if it is something that is superior, it is better, preferable to the invisibility of the “o”. So it comes to reality, what happens is that you have to interact with the linguistic relativism hypothesis. It has a lot of roots, even among more prepared people, the fact that speaking a different language has a radical effect on the way I perceive and order reality. That is not the case, the differences are tiny.

– That is, we do not see a different world by speaking with the “e”.

–Do not. But that argument has a lot of progress. For example, sometimes you read things like: "Those who speak English distinguish meat from flesh and that expresses a different conception of the world." And they never explain why. Because I say meat, live meat, I said it, in two words, not in one but I said it. The fact that there is a word can be an indicator that there is one more habit, but a different conception of the world? The same with the things that are supposed to be intraducible. With that you have to interact because you get into the debates. People think that saying the "e" will change you. And what will happen is that by saying the “e” I question you, I make you think about a problem, I make you think about the persistence of an injustice and force you to interact with it. That is the effect that has the possibility of reaching the real.

– There have been many manuals for the use of non-sexist language that state that the language is not sexist, it is the use we make of it, what do you think of this?

– The language is made by humans, we were made by humans over hundreds of thousands of years, there is no possibility that it is not crossed by our sexual, religious prejudices, our power dynamics. To some extent the language encodes these ideas at the lexical level. For example, "easy woman." They changed the definition, they put "easy: said of a person". But between "easy man" and "easy woman" the meaning is radically different, the moral condemnation of women's sexuality remains. With the masculine it happened like this, it is the way in which an ancestral social ordering of the species, patriarchal, impacted on grammar. It is not that men agreed and said "we will say so because it gives us a cultural and ideological advantage to have women invisible." It was given because where there was a space there was a man. Where there was a valuable asset, there was a man controlling it. That originally had to do with the greatest physical strength of men, when physical strength was no longer needed, however, everything followed with the same inertia. And that process over hundreds of thousands of years ends up creating a default male. It is the unmarked. It was masculine because society was ordered that way. So if you want to rebel against this social order, it makes perfect sense to bother with the generic masculine. It is not that the language is innocent. And the fight to be given is cultural and that is the struggle that the inclusive gives.

– How are the processes to change the language, how are the times?

– You have to remember the voseo. The language evolves alone but not in isolation, speakers react to many factors: who you talk to, who emigrated, what tensions you have with the neighbor. All these factors are so many and so complex that they are uncontrollable. So the grammar has very long times. The objective of the intervention against voseo was grammatical. And the grammar is uncontrollable, nobody can change it. The objective of the inclusive is not to change the grammar, it does not matter. There are people who can say yes but in reality it is an intervention that what they are looking for is to end up with murdered women, women who charge less for the same job, women who cannot walk down the quiet street. So there it has a huge advantage. Linguistic changes occur at different speeds. Then, the unmarked male gender is the result of hundreds of thousands of years of a patriarchal social order. The opposite of this argument is: if we create an absolutely egalitarian society, capable that in four hundred or a thousand years the generic will no longer be useful to us. And speakers can get to create something different as an impact on the grammar of a different social order. But that is a speculation whose life is this, that of the centuries and millennia.

– Many schools and universities are taking inclusive as valid, but many see it as an imposition. How do you see it?

– What happens is that what is the option? I use the "e" and that is the expression of a political position that I assumed. We are talking in the case of feminisms. In the case of non-binaries it has to do with identity, but in the case of plurals, half of humanity has to do with a political position that I am assuming and I feel I have to star. It is also a subject of the present. So what does it mean to approve this in school? That they are not going to lower his grade because he uses the "e". And it turns out that if you lower the grade for the use of the e you are chasing it not because of what it knows or stops knowing about the subject but because of its political ideas. Then, you cannot impose it, you cannot prohibit the "e" without pursuing it politically. That is incompatible with democratic coexistence. The same in reverse. As the "e" expresses a political idea, you cannot impose it on another person, the person has to arrive on that path for that use.

– At the end of the year the discussion returned as “president”, and continues to generate effervescence.

– This has nothing to do with inclusive language.

– But it has to do with a language that names the feminine, in that sense yes.

–Yes. What does the dictionary say?

– There is "president" a lot of years ago.

–The word "president" was masculinized in the fourteenth century. The first documentaries of “president” are from the fifteenth century, she arrived at the dictionary in the nineteenth century, with considerable delay. First she entered as "the wife of", in the sense with which we know her now it was at the end of the 19th century.

–But is this not inclusive language?

– Bounce but the reality is that the word today is preferable "president", and so says the RAE (Royal Spanish Academy).

– But many people still get angry because someone says "president."

–It continues to get angry about several things. First, because there is also an aberrant idea from the linguistic point of view that Spanish has to respect the rules of a language that died 2000 years ago. I don't know why but since the Enlightenment a great effort was made to link Spanish with classical languages ​​and absorb prestige in that way. Then the idea spread that Spanish had to respect the rules of Latin, which is false. So "president" is a noun and nouns evolve. What is there I guess is supportive of the inclusive because people when they do not like Cristina attacks her by the tongue. One thing to know is that when one attacks someone for linguistic use, it is a way of discriminating against them for other reasons – for their national origin, educational level, social class, race – for the usual reasons. In this case they are political. And there it has to do. And in fact saying "the president" is a case of hypercorrection. It's like almost making the mistake for wanting to talk too well.

– Where does the inclusive take us?

– Many times it is said “the inclusive cannot succeed”, because of course, the grammatical change is being considered. It is true. I find it unlikely to become grammatical. But that is not a problem because its objective is not to become grammar, its objective is women and it is the person who has a non-binary identity. It is half of humanity and the minority minority. That is also the amazing thing about an intervention that can meet the interests of a huge group and the small group of the transsexual community that does not identify itself as a man or as a woman. So it is an additional way in which the inclusive shows its versatility.

– It also has to do with where feminisms are going in recent years, taking claims that are no longer only women.

–Clear. For me it is a discursive milestone that we are going to associate with this era of Humanity.