Language and Gender

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  • Language and Gender
    • Lakoff's Deficit Model - claims that women:
      • hedge (using phrases like "sort of" and "it seems like"), use super polite forms (like "Would you mind..." and "I'd appreciate it if..."), use indirect commands and requests and speak less frequently as they are uncertain and lack authority
      • Use tag questions like "aren't you" because they want approval from utterances.
      • Special expanded lexicon for trivial things like colours. This is evidence women have been allowed control over unimportant things.
      • Not relevant in modern society
      • Holmes suggests tag questions may also function as a way to maintain discussion or be polite
    • Zimmerman and West's Dominance Model
      • In mixed-sex conversations men are more likely to interrupt than women, and interruptions are intentional for power and dominance, making the interrupted person feel unimportant. Men also shift topics more, showing they're in  charge, and talk more frequently and for longer.
        • O'Barr and Atkins argued it was power over gender that lead to dominance.
    • Beattie - "you might simply have one very chatty man in the study which has a disproportionate effect on the total"
      • He suggested interruptions can arise from interest and involvement.
    • Pamela Fishman (1983): coversation between the sexes sometimes fails not  because of the way women talk, but because of how men respond or don't respond.
      • Women use tag questions and hedge to try to get a response from men. Women used over 2x the number of questions of men and attempted to introduce more topics.Men used over 2x as many statements as women.
      • R Webb suggested men often let women dominate because they think their contribution will bore the woman.
    • Deborah Tannen's difference model - represents male and female language use as a series of six contrasts:    Status vs support            independence vs intimacy       advice vs understanding  information  vs feelings     orders vs proposals     conflict vs compromise
      • Rapport Talk (Women) Report Talk (Men) Private speaking Speak in public Establishes relationships More air time Overlaps and interruptions Avoid failure Concentrate more on similarities Individual/different  
      • Ignores context e.g. courting
    • Trudgill - women were more likely to use overt prestige to appear above their observed social class and men were more likely to use covert prestige to appear "masculine"  (so non standard forms and local dialect.)
    • Jennifer Coates - all-woman conversation can fall into one of these categories: house talk (exchange of info and resources connected to the female role as an occupation, e.g. mother), scandal (judging the behaviour of others, often domestic morality), *****ing (overt expression of a woman's anger over restricted role, although not for change - just to be understood), and chatting (gossiping, a mutual self-disclosure, using the skills they have learned through nurturing others).
    • Cameron - women have been instructed in the proper ways of talking, just like they have been with dressing - "verbal hygiene". This is how we construct gender roles for ourselves.
      • Considers influence of society
    • Marked terms - e.g. "lady doctor" - portrays this as deviating from the norm.    Address terms - "Mr, Ms, Miss" - assumes a woman's martial status is important information.   Diminuitive suffixes, like "actrESS". Generic terms such as "he" and "mankind" exclude women. Certain semantic fields are used to belittle women, like those of food and animals ("honey" and "*****"). Semantic derogation (language change) has lead to some previously equal terms receiving negative connotations, like Mr and "mistress" associated with prostitution.
    • Janet Holmes - women use more positively orientated politeness than men because of their perceptions of this politeness - women see compliments as a positive thing so pay and receive more, whereas men often see compliments as face threatening or ambiguous in intentions.
      • She broke down tag questions into 3 types - referential, affective and softening. She found men use more referential tag questions and women use more affective.
    • Spender says men have had more power over the years which has lead to language being biased against women.


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