English AS language

Language and Gender

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  • Created by: Molly
  • Created on: 03-04-12 11:51

Robin Lakoff

Robin Lakoff, in 1975, published an influential account of women's language. This was the book Language and Woman's Place. In a related article, Woman's language, she published a set of basic assumptions about what marks out the language of women. Among these are claims that women:

  • Hedge: using phrases like “sort of”, “kind of”, “it seems like”,and so on.
  • Use (super)polite forms: “Would you mind...”,“I'd appreciate it if...”, “...if you don't mind”.
  • Use tag questions: “You're going to dinner, aren't you?”
  • Speak in italics: intonational emphasis equal to underlining words - so, very, quite.
  • Use empty adjectives: divine, lovely, adorable, and so on
  • Use hypercorrect grammar and pronunciation: English prestige grammar and clear enunciation.
  • Use direct quotation: men paraphrase more often.
  • Have a special lexicon: women use more words for things like colours, men for sports.
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  • Use question intonation in declarative statements: women make declarative statements into questions by raising the pitch of their voice at the end of a statement, expressing uncertainty. For example, “What school do you attend? Eton College?”
  • Use “wh-” imperatives: (such as, “Why don't you open the door?”)
  • Speak less frequently
  • Overuse qualifiers: (for example, “I Think that...”)
  • Apologise more: (for instance, “I'm sorry, but I think that...”)
  • Use modal constructions: (such as can, would, should, ought - “Should we turn up the heat?”)
  • Avoid coarse language or expletives
  • Use indirect commands and requests: (for example, “My, isn't it cold in here?” - really a request to turn the heat on or close a window)
  • Use more intensifiers: especially so and very (for instance, “I am so glad you came!”)
  • Lack a sense of humour: women do not tell jokes well and often don't understand the punch line of jokes.
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Zach hodges


Zach hodges


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