Gender Theory

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Gender in Conversation
Feature Research Comment
Robin Lakoff (1975) Women's vocab includes trivial words because
Women's Work they are relegated to decisions about such
Words unimportant subjects.
Mira Komarovsky (1962) 58 working class USA couples, women spoke
(Topics talked about family, personal matters. Men spoke
about) about money, business, sport, work, local
Jennifer Coates (1996) Men prefer topics that allow participants to
take turns at being the expert. Women is more
Deborah Tannen (1992) Men usually assume role of information giver
or fixer because this reinforces strength and
Robin Lakoff (1975) Women use `oh dear' instead of shit.
Weak Expletives Cheris Kramer (1974) Looked at cartoons in The New Yorker found
male characters swore more than female.
Jennifer Coates (1996)
Robin Lakoff (1975) Adds uncertainty to a statement so a speaker
doesn't impose her point of view.
Pamela Fishman (1980) Women use 3 times more tags. NOT because of
uncertainty but because they were trying to
keep the conversation going.
Tag Questions Janet Holmes (1984) Modal Tags ­ seek information
(Isn't it? wasn't Affective Tags ­ softening/concern
it? Don't you?) Facilitative Tags ­ drawing listener in
61% modal tags used by men, 75% facilitative
tags used by women.
Cameron and Coates Monitor whether others are in agreement.
(1988) Respect the face needs of others when
discussing sensitive issues.
Jennifer Coates (1996) Men use questions to seek information from
each other.
Robin Lakoff (1975) Avoiding strong statements or committing to an
Intensifiers opinion. Uncertainty.
(so, such)
Qualifiers Dale Spender (1980) Show uncertainty when used by women but
(Perhaps, maybe) certainty and authority when used by men.
"Perhaps you've misinterpreted me, Maybe you
should do it again."
Robin Lakoff (1975) Punctuate speech with uncertainty.
Fishman (1980)

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Women use `you know' 5 times more than men.
NOT uncertainty but again doing
Cameron and Coates conversational work.
Help statements to become negotiable and eve
Jennifer Coates (1996) retractable, depending on the rest of the
group's comments.
Men hedge less.
Hypercorrect Robin Lakoff (1975) Women more likely to comply to grammatical
Grammar rules.…read more

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There is a danger of the language becoming vague and insipid if we are
to content ourselves with women's expressions"
Lakoff - believed women used the features because they were uncertain,
non-committal and didn't want to impose their view on anyone.
Lakoff concludes,
"The ultimate effect of theses discrepancies is that women are
systematically denied access to power, on the grounds that they are not
capable of holding it as demonstrated by their linguistic behaviour along
with other aspects of their behaviour.…read more

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Boys used more sound effects and
direct requests.
Goodwin (1990) Philadelphia ­ boys used explicit commands
Girls used mitigated directives and modal
Jenny Cheshire ­ boys use more non-standard forms. (Reading Study)
Dominance, Difference and Deficit Approaches
Deficit Model ­ Women's language is assumed to be weak in relation to a male
norm. (Women don't swear) Jespersen (1922)
Lakoff (1970) combined elements of the dominance and deficit approaches.…read more


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