Gender In Conversation

AS AQA Language and Gender theorists

  • Created by: Laurel
  • Created on: 25-03-11 10:32

What women talk about

Robin Lakoff (1975): Women's vocab includes trivial words because they are relegated to decisions about such trivial things

Mira Komarovsky (1962): 58 working class USA couples, women spoke about family, personal matters. Men spoke about money, business, sport, work, local politics.

Jennifer Coates (1996): Men prefer topics that allow participants to take turns at being the expert. Women are more personal.

Deborah Tannen (1992): Men usually assume role of information giver or fixer because this reinforces strength and status.

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Tag Questions

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.

Janet Holmes (1984):

  • Modal Tags - seek information
  • Affective Tags - softening/concern
  • Facilitative Tags - drawing listener in
  • 61% modal tags used by men, 75% facilitative tags used by women

 Cameron & Coates (1988): Monitor whether others are in agreement. Respect the face needs of others when discussing sensitive issues

Jennifer Coates (1996): Men use questions to seek information from each other

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Intensifiers, Qualifiers & Competition


Robin Lakoff (1975): Avoiding strong statements or committing to an opinion. Uncertainty.


Dale Spender (1980): Show uncertainty when used by women but certainty and authority when used by men.


Cameron & Coates (1988): The adversarial style of conversation where speakers vie for turns and where participants are more likely to contradict each other than build on each other's contributions

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Hedges + Imperatives


Robin Lakoff (1975): Punctuate speech with uncertainty

Fishman (1980): Women use 'you know' 5 times more than men. NOT uncertainty but again doing conversational work.

Cameron & Coates (1988): Help statements to become negotiable and even retractable, depending on the rest of the group's comments.

Jennifer Coates (1996): Men hedge less


Deborah Tannen (1992): Men use more. Use them to their sons more than daughters. Women used cloaked imperatives... "Let's"

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Hypercorrect Grammar + Co-operation

Hypercorrect Grammar

Robin Lakoff (1975): Women more likely to comply to grammatical rules

Peter Trudgill (1970): Norwich study showed women using correct pronunciation

Jenny Cheshire (1970s): Reading Study -  Even at an early age females are using more standard forms


Cameron & Coates (1988): Refers to a particular type of conversation, where speakers work together to produce shared meanings

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Silences + Minimal Responses


Zimmerman & West (1975):

  • Single sex conversation - 1.35 secs
  • Mixed sex conversation - 3.21 secs
  • Women kept being interrupted so spoke less

Deborah Tannen (1992): Women see listening and supporting as essential to group bonding. They assume a turn will be granted

Minimal Responses

Coates (1988): Women make well-placed minimal responses but the men make them too late. This indicated a lack of interest and support, which led to women falling silent.

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Great help! Thank you!

Paul Dutton


A helpful revision guide on gender in conversation.  Plenty of information, clearly presented.



great help!!!



Can you clear something up here because the first slide is confusing asf. Like what do u mean when the heading states 'what women talk about' and how that correlates with the theories listed?

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