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Breaking Down Linguistic Equality in Hebrew

In recent years, there has been a growing trend to express the aspiration for gender equality in the linguistic realm as well, and to emphasize women in Hebrew language intentionally.

The necessary solution is gender-neutral language (לשון סתמית) - forms that are free of grammatical gender, for both males and females alike. However, as is known, the Hebrew language lacks grammatical gender.

At the base of Hebrew, like its sister Semitic languages, is a division into two grammatical genders - masculine and feminine. The grammatical gender is expressed in most verb forms, in adjectives, and in pronouns. Even nouns that lack biological gender can have a grammatical gender (for example, "sky" - masculine, "earth" - feminine). Except for some cases such as forms and pronouns in the first person (I, we, mine, me, our, wrote, wrote, I will write, we will write, and the pronoun that implies many of these or those), Hebrew does not provide us with grammatically gender-neutral forms (or forms with a grammatical gender that is neutral, such as neutrum in Latin).

Another feature of languages with a division into two genders (masculine and feminine) is that one of these two genders also indicates the general rule. Historically, in Hebrew, the rule is indicated in masculine forms, especially in plural forms. Feminine forms were marked and indicated only women. Today, there is an increasing understanding that in some cases, the presence of women in a group is not understood on its own, and linguistic means are needed to emphasize this presence.

In cases where it is appropriate to emphasize the presence of women and it appears that the use of the plural form is not enough, we recommend duplicating the forms, such as "סטודנטים וסטודנטיות" or "רופאות ורופאים". This method is known, for example, from the combination "גבירותיי ורבותיי" that has been used for generations. However, duplicating all the components of speech - verbs, titles, pronouns, etc. - creates a heavy and cumbersome linguistic style. Therefore, we recommend duplicating forms to a reasonable extent, such as duplicating nouns rather than titles, verbs, and pronouns, for example, "young creators and creators are invited to submit their works."

In other cases, such as formulating forms, separate formulations can be used - masculine form, feminine form, and if necessary, also the plural form. Another method that does not necessarily emphasize the presence of women but allows for a gender-neutral presentation is the use of grammatically gender-neutral forms such as 'יש לומר', 'יש לציין'.

The grammatical gender is expressed in most verb forms, in adjectives, and in pronouns.

The feminine forms in Hebrew were originally developed to refer to women only and have served that purpose throughout the language's thousands of years of existence. Their transformation into an ambiguous form may occur gradually and naturally among Hebrew speakers, just as their meaning evolved from the beginning.

Dual forms written as one word, such as "כותבות/ים (male and female)," are in direct contradiction to Hebrew's grammatical structure. The use of parentheses, dots, or other graphical solutions is not recommended. Inserting dots or parentheses within a word is not according to the rules of Hebrew orthography and leads to cumbersome forms that make reading difficult and often create mistaken language forms such as "איש/ת מכירות," which yields the incorrect form of "אִישַׁת מְכִירוֹת" (instead of "אֵשֶׁת־"). Additionally, when the masculine form ends with a final letter (e.g., "יועצ/ת, סכמ.י"), a graphical problem arises.

It is also worth noting that the duplication methods mentioned above can make reading difficult and may affect certain populations, such as visually impaired individuals who use automatic reading. Furthermore, the use of these methods assumes that readers know where to mark the punctuation and which letters to replace, where additions are necessary, and when a word should be abbreviated. This assumption is not valid for all readers and especially for groups that require linguistic accessibility and simplification.

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