English Language: Gender Theorists

  • Created by: elelpear
  • Created on: 04-07-22 11:26

What is deficit model?

Deficit model is the belief that womens language is infererior to mens, due to biological or social limitations

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Otto Jesperson

Otto authored the book Language: it nature, development and Origin

in this he theorised that:

women spoke in half finished sentences because they didnt think about what they were going to say

women link sentences with 'and' because they are emotional, rather than 'grammatical' speakers

women have a smaller vocabulary than men and shrink from coarse and gross expressions 'by virtue of their sex'

women use the adjective 'pretty' and 'nice' too much

men introduce new words into the language

Criticisms of Jespersons work are that it is incredibly sexist and is based on no empirical evidence

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Robin Lakoff

Lakoff wrote the book Language and Womans Place.

In this she theorises: 

women are disadvantaged by having to adopt forms of language that made them sound unconfident

more tag questions

more euphemisms

were more hesitant

greater range of intonation

Criticisms of Lakoff:

lakoff also didnt use empirical evidence and based her claims solely off of her experiences as a middle class white woman

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What is Dominance Model

Dominance model is the theory that language is inherently patriarchal and men dominate women in language

some key theorists are Dale Spender, Zimmerman and West, O'barr and Atkins and Pamela Fishman

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Dale Spender

Dale Spender wrote the book Man Made Language, in which she theorises that in a patriarchal society men shape language in order to control the perceptions of women using@

sexist collocations (man and wife, mr and mrs, mankind etc)

marked terms such as 'Family Man'

language prioritises the male experience (penetrative sex etc)

one criticism of spenders work is that her theory is only viable if you belive in the Sapir Whorf hypothesis (the theory that the structure of a language defines a persons experiences)

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Zimmerman and West

Zimmerman and west founded the study Sex roles, interruptions and silences in conversation, in which they investigated the interruptions and overlaps in conversation at the Sant Barbara campus of the university of California in 1975, in this they found that:

virtually all interruptions were by male speakers

this study was critiised for its very small sample size, and for not counting interruptions in same sex interactions. the study also was mainly made up of white middle class and under 35's.

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O'barr and Atkins

Obarr and Atkins created the study Womens language or powerless language?

in this they looked at courtrooms and witnesses speech and found that language differences are based on situation-specific authority or power and not gender.

participants of lower social status used more empty adjectives, hedges and tag questions equally between the genders.

a main point of this study was that men are simply more likely to reach positions of power than women are

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Pamela Fishman

Pamela Fishman wrote the book Interaction: the work that women do in 1983

in this she claims that conversation between the genders sometimes fails not because of anything inherit in the way that women speak, but because of how men respond, or fail to respond

Women are expected to do 'conversational shitwork' such as:

asking questions, giving regular feedback and making sure to include others in conversation.

'the work is not seen as what women do, but as a part of what they are'

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What is the Difference Model?

the difference model is the theory that men and women just speak in different 'genderlects' and that there is not anything inferior or superior about eithers speech

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Deborah Tannen

Tannen wrote teh book You just dont understand in 1992, in which she theorised that men and women are socialised from a young age to see themselves as having different roles and positions in life, and that their speech is adapted to this.

men monitor interactions for superiority, women monitor for solidarity etc

men and women can use the exact same words and have completely different meaning for them

Tannens work is criticised for being too heteronormative and reducing language down to a single variable.

it also avoid the question of power.

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Janet Holmes

She conducted a study researching politeness in male/female conversations and found that men and women used question tags differently

men use more modal tags showing uncertainty

powerful people use more affective tags

women use more tags to show support for the speaker or to soften the blow of a face threatening act

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What is the Dynamic Model?

this is the theory that men and womens language is dynamic and changes depending on circumstances

the main theorists for this are Deborah Cameron and Judith Butler

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Deborah Cameron

Cameron published her bestselling book The myth of Venus and Mars in 2007,

she theorises that whilst 'it can be appealing and even laudable to say that womens language is neither inferior or overpowered by men and is merely different' that mens posotion in society as heads of academia, politics and media mean that their speech is more valued than womens.

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Judith Butler

Butler wrote the book Gender Trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity.

in this she theorises that gender is performative, constitutiong what the identity is purported to be.

gender is the repeated stylisation of the body, a set of repeated acts within a regulatory frame which congeal over time to produce the appearance of substance, of a natural state of being.

in short: gender isnt real and we are performing based on how we think our gender should act.

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