How is the X prounounced?
September 22, 2022 6:30 PM   Subscribe

"-x" is becoming more common in Spanish as a gender-neutral suffix (e.g. in "Latinx," typically pronounced in Enligsh as "Latin-ecks"), but today I saw it in the book title "Nosotrxs." I was talking about the book with a coworker (one of the item records attached to the bib record was acting oddly) and realized I didn't know how to pronounce it.

My first inclination was to pronounce it "nosotros," but a millisecond of thought made it clear that that approach would just be wrong since it would reinforce the linguistic assumptions which the authors chose to refuse/rebuke.*

I'm guessing it's also not pronounced "nosotras"; otherwise the authors would have written "nosotras." No, with "nosotrxs" the authors are clearly stating that they're not making assumptions about gender.

It has been decades since I spoke Spanish with any regularity, and the "x" in lieu of a presumptive "o" didn't have currency then. So, fluent speakers: how is the "x" pronounced in Spanish when it's treated as a vowel? Is it a schwa? Is it something else? Is it one of the options I thought was wrong?

*(In Spanish, a male group or a mixed-gender group gets male pronouns; only a group of all women gets female pronouns. Four men = ellos; four women = ellas; six million men = ellos; six million women and one three-year-old boy = ellos. People are increasingly not okay with this. Don't @ me. I'm just explaining it in case the background seems puzzling, but I am very explicitly not asking for a debate: this question isn't about the underlying linguistics, whether they are "correct," or whether anyone is or isn't justified in their reactions to them. This question is about pronunciation. Thanks.)
posted by johnofjack to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
English is my first and fluent language, but I live in California. It's my understanding that it's pronounced the same way you pronounce the "e" in spanish.
posted by aniola at 6:33 PM on September 22 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: (Note: yes, it would stand to reason that this construction is also meant to be welcoming to genderfluid, genderqueer, non-binary etc. people--really, anyone outside the gender binary. Again, I'm no longer fluent [if I ever was] and haven't kept up with the many, many discussions which are undoubtedly happening in the community. Not trying to derail my own question, just posting this here to say "sorry I left this out above." Mea culpa.)

As you were--
posted by johnofjack at 6:38 PM on September 22

Best answer: "Latinx" is somewhat controversial because of the pronunciation issue. Some Spanish speakers prefer "Latine". This comic explains a bit more.
posted by ourobouros at 7:04 PM on September 22 [29 favorites]

aniola, are you saying that "Latinx" is pronounced as if it were spelled "Latine"?
posted by madcaptenor at 7:20 PM on September 22

A similar argument is happening in Filipino spaces as well, with an extra layer not only is it unpronounceable in Spanish (which not many speak fluently these days that's true) but sourcelander Filipinos feel it's still too American/anglocentric because indigenous languages to begin with are even more gender-neutral than either colonial languages so in those spaces 'filipinx' is being rejected for 'filipino' (which is closest to the neutral native language anyway).
posted by cendawanita at 7:24 PM on September 22 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I'd like to point out this great answer by Rhaomi to a closely related question last year.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:32 PM on September 22 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Per this article and a couple others I found, the intent is for “x” to be pronounced like an e, so properly it would be pronounced nosotres. (As aniola said).
But given the very common pronunciation of Latinx as “-ecks” I would guess you’d be better understood by your coworker with a colloquial pronunciation of “nosotrix.”
posted by assenav at 7:42 PM on September 22 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Native Spanish speaker, lives in Chile. I've never seen 'Latinx' used in a Spanish context, only English.
I've never heard Nosotrxs spoken out loud, but I'd tend to say "Nosotres".
My very gender-foward, twenty-two year old T.A. who corrects you when you use non-inclusive language, introduces herself with her pronouns, etc., speaks using "e" forms like "les estudiantes", "les niñes", etc.
posted by signal at 7:52 PM on September 22 [34 favorites]

aniola, are you saying that "Latinx" is pronounced as if it were spelled "Latine"?

As I understand it, yes.
posted by aniola at 7:53 PM on September 22

Erm, but I've almost certainly gotten the pronunciation by asking people who were fluent in Spanish how it's pronounced.
posted by aniola at 7:58 PM on September 22

Best answer: The use of x in this context is much more common in the US than it is in the Spanish speaking world in general, as I understand it (though I only have direct experience of Mexico, where I've never heard or seen x used in this way, though Mexicans generally do not refer to themselves as Latino/a/x/e at all). The use of e for this is common in colloquial Spanish in progressive circles (e.g. amigues, todes), but not in formal Spanish (where you'd use amigos y amigas). I would pronounce it like an e if asked to read this.
posted by ssg at 8:04 PM on September 22 [2 favorites]

Keep in mind that "Latino/a/x/e" as an identity is a US thing, not a Latin America or Spain thing.
posted by signal at 8:30 PM on September 22 [5 favorites]

aniola, are you saying that "Latinx" is pronounced as if it were spelled "Latine"?

That is not the typical pronunciation of that word in the US.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:47 PM on September 22 [4 favorites]

La Guarida Escuela Cooperativa in Oaxaca teaches classes on inclusive, queer, and idiomatic Spanish and might be able to weigh in on this if you reach out to them.
posted by cnidaria at 8:49 PM on September 22 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The book in question was Nosotrxs, historias desobedientes: primer encuentro internacional de familiares de genocidas por la memoria, la verdad y la justicia (9789874759108), published in Chile by Ediciones AMP. I'm not sure if there is nevertheless an outsized US influence on the book through its contributors (maybe it's just the usual "background radiation of non-US-life" level of US influence).

That said, most of the books in yesterday's order were extremely academic, so I still wouldn't assume that this substitution of X is in general use.

Thanks, everyone.
posted by johnofjack at 3:46 AM on September 23

I haven't heard Latinx pronounced as Latine. Latine (la-teen-EH) is its own word.

Latinx can be pronounced a bunch of different ways: lah-tin-EX (Latin-X) by a lot of English speakers.
I've also heard Spanish-speaking Americans say la-TEEN-ex, or even la-teen-EX (more like how Latina or Latino would be pronounced but with the stress moved to the last syllable).
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:49 AM on September 23 [5 favorites]

The use of x in this context is much more common in the US than it is in the Spanish speaking world in general

I'd like to point out that this isn't necessarly invalidating (or simply the result of virture signaling whites/"going for promotion points on your workplace DEI committee"). I'm in the Chicago area and my impression is that it's fairly common (though not totally uncontroversial) here--we have a lot of folks who both strongly identify as members of our Mexican and Puerto Rican communities and are native English speakers.
posted by pullayup at 7:11 AM on September 23 [1 favorite]

Most of my non-binary friends use "e" (nosotres, cansade, etc), but I have user "-x" to refer to myself in writing for quite a while. When people ask me how to pronounce it I always tell them pronounce it as a/o/e interchangeably.

When the x is used for grammatical gender it doesn't have a set pronunciation, which is very intentional. The way I have seen it being used in context goes like this:

-a = Feminine
-o = Masculine
-e = None of the above
-x = Any of the above
posted by loup at 11:01 AM on September 23 [5 favorites]

I'd like to point out that this isn't necessarly invalidating (or simply the result of virture signaling whites/"going for promotion points on your workplace DEI committee").

It's a frustrating topic because the norms surrounding inclusive language use are new, evolving, and incredibly dependent on community networks. Part of this is because it is being driven by already-marginalized people; see parallels with arguments about singular they/them versus neopronouns like xie/xer. Some people will insist no genderqueer people actually use xie/xer, but there are actually people and communities that do! Often, members of these communities will switch to something less controversial when in bigger, less safe spaces - furthering the impression that "no one" is using them.

I haven't seen any better data on usage in the US than this PEW survey. Note that overall numbers of respondents using "Latinx" are low, but there is a significant exception: About 14% of young hispanic women ages 18-29 have at least sometimes identified themselves as "Latinx." That percentage increases if you take into account political leaning and education. So, depending on your network, you could actually be encountering a significant number of Hispanic Americans using "Latinx" - or not.

(The wording of the survey is a bit ambiguous; I think this number could some exclude people who identify as "Latina," but would use "Latinx" when referring to a mixed gender group.)

Dudes on Reddit inform me that the only people who use this term is white sjws, that it is anglocentric american imperialism, etc.

It was originally a written convention, with the "x" serving as sort of a variable. (The earliest published citation that people have found is in a Puerto Rican journal, AFAIK.) It could be read as appropriate for the situation. I have seen more Spanish speakers say that they read it the same as "Latine", lately, but I have also seen more people switching to "Latine" in writing as well. I would love to see more recent data on this.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:37 AM on September 23 [3 favorites]

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