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German language association wants gender asterisk to be scrapped

  • August 13, 2020

The Association for German Language (GfdS) on Thursday called for the gender asterisk to be scrapped.

German media and public documents in recent years have used the asterisk in attempt to make gender divided nouns, such as “police officer” (“Polizist*in”), “colleague” (“Kolleg*in”) and “retiree” (Rentner*in), seem gender neutral.

Read more: New German dictionary edition stirs debate about language

But the GfdS, Germany’s most prominent state-sponsored language association, said the asterisk “does not conform either to German grammar or to the rules of spelling.” It therefore recommended that the asterisk, and other forms of gender neutralization such as a colon or an underscore, no longer be used.

The GfdS also highlighted that the asterisk does a poor job addressing words in which the spelling changes based on gender. For instance, “doctor” is spelled without an umlaut in its male form (Arzt) and with one in the female form (Ärztin), thus complicating the use of an asterisk. It also said the asterisk and its forms create pronunciation issues.

“Although the GfdS advocates for non-discriminatory language in principle, the so-called gender asterisk is not a suitable means to this end from a linguistic point of view,” the association said in a statement.

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dv/dj (dpa, KNA)

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