Language and Gender Theorists

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Coates (1989)

All-female talk is essentially co-operative in the way that speakers help to negotiate discussion and support each other as speakers.

She argues that as these patterns are not found in mixed talk, they are evidence of different socio-cultural expectations.

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Lakoff - Language and Women's place (1975)

Female language is less assertive (hedges and tag Q's) and more insecure than men's.

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Alternative to Lakoff's findings : HOLMES (1992)

Tag questions, rather than being a sign of uncertainty, may also fiunction as a device to help maintain discussion or be polite. Other features, such as hedges, are used for a variety of functions and it is misleading to suggest that they are simply markers of indecision.

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Alternatives to Lakoff’s findings: Dubois and Crou

Found in their date that men used more tag questions than women, although it was not suggested that they were less confident speakers as a consequence of these findings.

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Alternatives to Lakoff’s findings: O’Barr and Atki

Discovered that many of lakoff’s suggested features did actually occur in women’s speech, although their findings that a number of men from lower-class backgrounds tended to use similar features led them to believe that features of uncertain speech were more dependent on power relations and social status, rather than gender.

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Miller and Swift- Non- parallel treatment

  • Describing women by appearance and men by achievement
  • Describing women by their relationship to men, but not describing men by their relationship to women
  • Using the male reference first ‘husband and wife’
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Morgan (1986)

Notes a number of qualities which are typically associated with men and women in western society: men are seen as logical, rational, aggressive, exploitive, strategic, independent and competitive. Women are thought to be intuitive, emotional, submissive, empathetic, spontaneous, nurturing and co-operative. Morgan summarises these as implying that man is a ‘leader and decision-maker’ while women are ‘logical supporters and followers’.

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Pilkington (1992)

Women in same sex talk are more collaborative than men in all-male talk. Whereas women aimed for more positive politeness strategies in conversation with other women, men tend to be less complementary and supportive in all-male talk.

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Kuiper (1991)

In all-male 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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Trudgill (1974), supported by Cheshire (1982)

Men tend to use more non-standard forms – covert prestige

Covert prestige- It the prestige that derives from behaviour that goes against the norms and conventions of ‘respectable’ society

Overt prestige- Is the prestige that attaches to respectable, socially desirable behaviour

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Zimmerman and West (1975)

96% of all interruptions in mixed- sex conversations were made by men. They saw this as a sign that women have restricted linguistic freedom, and that men seek to impose their dominant status through their conventional behaviour. 

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