With the latest update iOS 15, on iPhone keyboards comes the ability to type b, it schwa. A symbol and a sound that allow you to replace the “genre” vowels in Italian, helping to be more inclusive when speaking and writing.
iOS 15 brings schwa to iPhones for the first time
Android users have known this symbol for a long time and those who use a PC or Mac can find it among the symbols of the various writing programs (even if the procedure can be cumbersome). But from today even those with an iPhone can hold down the “e” on the keyboard and find the symbol b, it schwa.
What is schwa? A phonetic symbol that does not correspond to any sound in Italian. But whoever has studied English knows well. It’s that sound neutral, devoid of accent and tone besides it has little sonority, which often combines two consonants in English. When you say the word “but” without opening your mouth and turning it into an “a”, or into the “e” of “Elizabeth”, you find a schwa.
Why can this British sound be useful when speaking and writing Italian? In Italian it is complicated write without specifying the genre than what you write about. The writer can be a “writer” or a “writer”, there is no neutral. In the United States they have solved this problem by using the plural but in Italy plurals also have gender.
For this reason, some online activists have proposed using a naturally neutral sound that is more inclusive. Writing “writer“, I pay attention not to make explicit the genre. To make the plural, a 3 is usually used: writer3. This allows you to stay gender neutral e inclusive as you write.
Although these measures have not yet officially become part of the Italian language and it is possible that the linguists of tomorrow will find different (and perhaps better) methods to communicate without distinguishing into two categorical genres, adding schwa in iOS 15 gives one more chance.
A little software change for Apple, a little tweak for us. But that maybe can help us write more inclusive messages, for any reader.