Gender Theorists

  • Created by: Kim_Hurn
  • Created on: 04-11-17 18:21

ROBIN LAKOFF

In her book 'Language and Woman's place', she detailed some ideas that she had about how woman's language differed from men's.

She did not do any research to test her ideas or back them up; it was based purely on her own observations.

Among these claim that women: 

have a lack of sense of humour, use hedges, polite forms, tag questions, empty adjectives, hypercorrect grammar and pronunciation, direct quotations, question intonation, declarative statements, 'wh-' imperatives, intensifiers, indirect commands and requests, overuse qualifiers, modal constructions, apologise more and speak less frequently. 

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WILLIAM O' BARR AND BOWMAN ATKINS

They fundamentally challenged Lakoff's ideas and used her list of  'women's language features' in 1980 to examine the language of courtroom cases and witnesses' speech.

Their findings showed that the language features that Lakoff said were 'female' are actually language features characteristic of those who lack power within a social situation - those being cross-examined would demonstrate these 'powerless' language features. 

Their findings suggesting that power, not gender, is the most important contextual.

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DON ZIMMERMAN AND CANDACE WEST

. Dominance Theorists - believed gendered language differences arise out of male dominance of women. 

They completed a very small scale research project at the University of California in 1975 and wanted to find out who, in mixed-sex conversation, would interrupt more. 

They produced in evidence 31 segments of 11 conversations and reported that in 11 conversations between men and women, men used 46 interruptions but women only 2.

They believed that this provided evidence that men are dominant in conversation, feeling quite comfortable and confident to interrupt both women and other men. 

However, they interpreted women's lack of interruptions as a sign of conversational insecurity. Concluding "men deny equal status to women as conversational partners".

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DEBORAH CAMERON

. Difference Theorist - believed that gendered language arises out of differences between men and women. 

She observed that wherever and whenever the matter has been investigated, men and women face normative expectations about the appropriate mode of speech for their gender.

Woman's verbal conduct is viewed as important in many cultures; women have always been instructed in the proper ways of talking, which she described in her book a "verbal hygiene". 

She does not condemn verbal hygiene as misguided and claims it is a way of making sense of language as it represents a symbolic attempt to impose order on the social world.

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PAM FISHERMAN

. Dominance Theorist

In her publication "Work Women Do" (1983) she argued that conversation between the sexes sometimes fails, not because of anything inherent in the way women talk, but because of how men respond or don't respond, so she put the spotlight on the quality, or lack of, male response.

In 1983. she conducted a detailed study of 52 hours worth of tape-recorded conversation in the homes of 3 heterosexual couples.

She found that women asked two and a half times more questions than men, while men produced twice as many statements.

Women are, in her words, doing the "interactional shitwork"; actually enabling communication to happen. 

In 'Conversational Insecurity" (1990) she questions Lakoff's theory and looked at them as an attribute to interactions, meaning women ask questions because of the power they have to instigate conversation.

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DEBORAH TANNEN

. Difference Theorist

She believed men and women speak differently because they are trying to achieve different things. 

Men structure their interactions with others mostly as a framework to achieve independence and strength, they see the alternative as weakness and dependence. 

Women structure interactions as a framework for affiliations; to achieve interdependence and maintain the strength of the community or group.

In her book "You Just Don't Understand", she summarises her viewpoint into 6 main contrasts in the way men and women use language differently. 

1) Status vs Support                   4) Information vs Feelings

2) Independence vs Intimacy      5) Orders vs Proposals

3) Advice vs Understanding        6) Conflict vs Compromise

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JENNY COATES

. Difference Theorist

In her book "The Chattering Sexes", she argued that women talk is a great skill. She rejects the negative image of female talk as empty and suggests instead a feature of female co-operation and solidarity, as opposed to male competitiveness - rebranding Lakoff's features of conversation. She labelled these rebranded features women's cooperative discourse; 

1) Topic and topic development - women tend to talk about people and feelings and are then developed slowly building on others contributions 

2) Minimal response - active listenership and support are signalled subtly rather than overtly

3) Hedges - encourages discussions and to avoid appearing challenges or threatening

4) Questions - interrogative forms are used to encourage participation rather than seek information

5) Turn-Talking - overlapping conversation aids cooperation and topic development

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