On November 28, 2022, The Italian Studies Program at The American University of Rome hosted sociolinguist and researcher Vera Gheno for a presentation on the topic of gender in the Italian language.
Presenting to a full house in AUR’s auditorium, Gheno discussed her pioneering work on the 'schwa' phenomenon in Italy, the use of the vowel sound denoted by the IPA symbol (ə) as a neutral, gender-free form of address in the Italian language. Her research has focused on issues surrounding the lack of inclusivity within the Italian language, which is a grammatically gender-based language, and therefore the need for developing forms in Italian to address those in today’s society who do not identify as either masculine or feminine.
Advocating for gender-inclusive and fluid language reform in Italian has inspired Gheno to propose the use of 'schwa' as a way to address inequity gaps in the sector of communication. While Gheno is not the inventor of the 'schwa,' she is often credited as the pioneer scholar for its implementation in written academic works. She hopes to see more scholarly discussions on the many ways in which language should be made more gender inclusive despite the structural limitations of the language.
Gheno teaches at the University of Florence, manages the Twitter profile of the Accademia della Crusca, and collaborates with Zanichelli for language and education issues in the new media. She is the author of numerous volumes on the social evolution of the Italian language, such as Guida pratica all'italiano scritto (senza diventare grammarnazi) (A practical guide to written Italian (without becoming a grammar nazi)) and Social-linguistica. Italiano e italiani dei social network (Social-linguistics. Italian and Italian social networks).
For more information, Gheno has created an amazing playlist on Youtube that collates her many interviews and TEDX appearances - access it here.
The faculty and students of AUR extend their thanks to Vera Gheno for a fascinating and informative guest lecture.