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Efforts to loosen the gender-linked linguistic rules for French are doing more harm than good, according to Académie Française, France's highest authority on the language.
Referred to in France as “inclusive writing,” it involves breaking down the gendered nature of certain words by altering their spellings. For instance, the accepted way of writing a mixed group of candidates (“les candidats”) would become “les candidat(e)s” in order to account for a female presence, The Washington Post's James McAuley explained.
About these proposed changes, however, the four-century-old academy issued a stern warning published on Thursday.
“The multiplication of the orthographic and syntactic marks that [inclusive writing] induces leads to a disunited language, disparate in its expression, creating a confusion which borders on illegibility," it stated, adding:
More than any other institution, the French Academy is sensitive to developments and innovations in the language, since its mission is to codify them. On this occasion, it is less a guardian of the norm than a guarantor of the future that it raises a cry of alarm: in front of this “inclusive” aberration, the French language is now in deadly danger, which our nation is now accountable to future generations.
In response, French feminist and former Socialist party member Caroline De Haas told The Telegraph, “The Académie Francaise is supposed to reflect the evolution of language and new developments as its role is to codify them. This time, it is trying to go against progress, and it is insulting to women.”
In order to adapt to the new spellings — which require an uncommon punctuation point — some computer companies are reportedly working toward selling updated keyboards.