Gendered politics of enmity

language ideologies and social polarisation in Brazil


  • Rodrigo Borba Federal University of Rio de Janeiro



language ideologies, brazilian portuguese, grammatical gender, political polarisation


This paper analyses the role language and gender have played in the construction of animosity among various constituencies during a political crisis in Brazil. To do so, it investigates a language ideological debate about the innovative use of the letter X as a gender morpheme – an inclusive alternative against Portuguese binary grammatical gender system. The data include op-eds, blog posts, news articles and in-depth semi-structured interviews with stakeholders in the debate. The analyses track the emergence of competing metadiscursive and metapragmatic regimes about grammar, gender and politics. On a macro-sociological level, this language ideological work helps shape politics of enmity which characterise the current state of democracy in Brazil and elsewhere. However, it also points to the emergence of situated counterdiscourses of solidarity which help individuals face an otherwise debilitating social context.

Author Biography

  • Rodrigo Borba, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro

    Rodrigo Borba is a professor at the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Applied Linguistics at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. His research interests include a wide range of areas such as queer linguistics, linguistic landscapes, verbal hygiene and discourse analysis with an activist and research focus on the relations between discourse, gender and sexuality.


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How to Cite

Borba, R. (2019). Gendered politics of enmity: language ideologies and social polarisation in Brazil. Gender and Language, 13(4), 423-448.