A corpus linguistic investigation of intersubjectivity and gender


  • Federica Formato University of Brighton
  • Vittorio Tantucci Lancaster University




gendered language, grammatical gender, Italian, extended intersubjectivity, masculine as a norm


Generic masculines – masculine forms used for women – are employed in many languages, for example English (Mills 2008), French (Coady 2018), Spanish (Bengoechea 2011) and German (Motschenbacher 2016), providing accounts of how gender is made visible in the language through morphological, lexical and syntactic units. These accounts are also linked with how gender is seen in societies and culture, reproducing an imbalance between women and men. Specifically, language discrimination against women is based on the idea that speakers orient themselves towards androcentric language, recognising ‘men’ as a metonym for the group ‘human being’ (Alvanoudi 2014), causing a linguistic invisibility of women.   Similarly, studies in Italian have also discussed the use of masculine forms to refer to, talk about and describe women (Cavagnoli 2013), or have shown how these are used in specialised (Nardone 2016, 2018) or media corpora (Formato 2014, 2016, 2019). This article investigates the use of a specific (and underexamined) generic masculine in Italian – namely, the indefinite pronoun uno.m.sg (in comparison with una.f.sg) labelled ‘impersonal masculine’ (Formato 2019:69) – in three subcorpora of the Perugia Corpus (TV, Web and Spoken; Spina 2014). Uno.m.sg is seen as constructing ‘extended intersubjectivity’, that is, the awareness of a general third party (3rdP) acting as the social bearer of the utterance (Tantucci 2013, 2016, 2017a). The results show that the masculine impersonal uno.m.sg is widely used in the three subcorpora and in several functions, confirming that grammatically gendered language is still employed within a ‘masculine as a norm’ order.

Author Biographies

Federica Formato, University of Brighton

Federica Formato is a Lecturer in Sociolinguistics at the University of Brighton. Her main research interests are gendered and sexist language, media discourses on the topic of violence against women, as well as constructions/representations of fatherhood and masculinity on social media. Her monograph Gender, discourse and ideology in Italian has recently been published by Palgrave (2019).

Vittorio Tantucci, Lancaster University

Vittorio Tantucci is a Lecturer in Chinese Language and Linguistics in the Department of Linguistics and English Language of Lancaster University. His main publications focus on usage-based and computational intersections between pragmatics, cognition and various functions of epistemicity. These issues are addressed typologically and cross-culturally, both from a synchronic and diachronic perspective.


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How to Cite

Formato, F., & Tantucci, V. (2020). <i>Uno</i>: A corpus linguistic investigation of intersubjectivity and gender. Journal of Language and Discrimination, 4(1), 51–73. https://doi.org/10.1558/jld.40129