Gender Theorists

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Zimmerman & West - Dominance Approach

The second approach to male and female talk focused on the ways in which men were seen as controlling and dominating in mixed sex conversations/interactions. Zimmerman & West found in their (albeit small) investigation, that 96% of interruptions in mixed sex conversations were made by men. They saw this as a sign that both women had ristricted linguistic freedom and that men saught to impose their dominance through applying explicit constraints in conversational practice.

Much subsequent research into mixed sex talk concluded that women and men do not hold equal conversational rights. Zimmerman and West later carried out a study of the interactions between parents and children, and concluded that parents interrupted and assumed power in those interractions in the same way that men did in mixed sex conversations.

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Pilkington 1992

Pilkington also found that women in some-sex talk were more collaboratve than men were in all-male talk. She concluded that whereas women aimed for more positive politeness strategies in conversations with other women, men tended to be less complimentary and supportive in male talk.

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Kuiper 1991

Found that in all male talk amongst members of a rugby team, men were likely to pay less attention to the need to save face, and instead used insults as a way of expressing solidarity.

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Coates 1981

Suggested that all female talk is essentially cooperative in the way that speakers help to negotiate discussions and support eachothers rights as speakers. She argues that as these patterns are not found in mixed sex talk, they are evidence of cultural expectations and a key insight into differences in sub-catagories.

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Trudgill and Cheshire

Both Cheshire and Trudgill used large samples of data in recorded talk, analysing the differences in male and female language. Trudgill's work involved the study of how male and female speakers pronounce the suffix '-ing' as '-in' in 'walking'. Trudgill discovered that men tended to use more non-standard pronunciation Trudgill concluded that male speakers attached covert prestige with non-standard forms.

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Lakoff 1975

Lakoff's 'language and a women's place' is often viewed as characteristic of the defecit approach to the study of language and gender in which female language is seen as deficient in some way to the established male norm. Lakoff claimed that much of women's language lacked real authority. 

  • 'Empty adjectives' e.g. 'charming' and 'sweet'
  • Tag questions showing uncertainty 'isn't it' and hedges 'sort of'
  • Use of specialist vocabulary centered around domestic chores
  • Precise colour terms 'magenta' 'maulve'
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Holmes 1992

Holmes suggests that tag questions, rather than being simply a sign of uncertainty in a speaker, may also function as a device to help maintain discussion or to be polite. Holmes suggests that rather than being mere signs of weakness, tag q's are multi-functional and gives examples of this:

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Jenny Cheshire

Cheshire is analysing the talk of teenagers in reading, found that nearly all cases boys used non-standard forms more than girls. Cheshire explains that drawing on the type of social networks the boys belonged to boys were members of much denser networks where their language converged towards the vernacular as a shared show of linguistic and social solidarity.

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Very helpful thank you!! :)

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