Language and Gender Theorists

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Sara Mills - 1995

  • Male terms suggest positive meanings, but the female terms suggest negative meanings. some female marked forms have therfore undergone semantic derogation.
  • Female terms often are suggestive of promiscuity.
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Jennifer Coates

  • Working class are associated with roughness and toughness which are supposedly characteristics of working class life.
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Deborah Tannen

  • Men issue commands, women make proposals or offer ideas
  • Women often suggest that people do things in indirect ways such as 'lets', 'why don't we'. Men may use and prefer to to hear a direct imperative.
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  • Suggested that women use tag questions more than men do.
  • Found that both sexes use tag questions to check facts (the meeting is at 3pm, right?).
  • Found that women use tag questions after expressing an opinion to seek confirmation/approval of that opinion (it's lovely sherry, isn't it?).
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Pamela Fisherman

  • In studies of heterosexual couples, women ask more questions, not just tag questions.
  • They are used as opening moves in a conversation, 'how was your day?'.
  • Women use them to find a topic the man wants to talk about.
  • Men are not unwilling to talk once they get a topic they like, then they will do more of the talking.
  • Women do the work of facilitating talk.
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Janet Holmes

  • Tag questions generally used by men to check facts.
  • When women use tag questions it was not because they sought rassurance or confirmation. They were simply allowing the person being addressed the opportunity to speak.
  • This is called 'facilitative' use of tag questions.
  • She concluded that women prefer a co-operative style of interaction in which everyone is actively encouraged to contribute.
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Kathy O'Leary

  • The speaker's role in the conversation is a better predictor of tag question use than gender is.
  • Teachers, vets, police officers and lawyers use tag questions frequently their job is to get people to talk and respond.
  • This does not support Holmes' theory that women use facilitative tag questions to make converstaion interactive. Women who were not playing facilitative roles did not use facilitative tags frequently.
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  • Found that across social classes men use non-standard forms of English more than women.
  • Men use non-standard forms to gain covert prestige.
  • Women tend to use standard forms and hypercorrect language.
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