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Robin Lakoff



  • speak less frequently 
  • show they are listening by using minimal responses "mm" "yeah"
  • speak more quiwtly than men and tend to use the higher pitch range of their voices
  • use hyper-correct grammar and pronounciation: Standard English and clear enunciation
  • use super-polite forms: "would you mind..." "I'd appreciate it if..." "...if you don't mind"
  • use tag questions "You're going to dinner, aren't you?"
  • use euphemisms more than men
  • use indirect commands and requests "My, isn't it cold in here?"
  • use modal constructions "would" "should" "could"
  • avoid slang and coarse language or expletives "Oh dear" rather than "****"
  • lack a sense of humour: women don't tell jokes well and don't understand punch line jokes.
  • use more reduplicated forms "itsy bitsy" "teeny weeny"
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Otto Jespersen



  • talk a lot
  • use half-finished sentences because they speak before they have thought about what they will say
  • link sentences with 'and' because they are emotional rather than grammatical
  • use adjectives such as 'pretty' and 'nice' too much. They are also fond on saying "so pretty" "so nice"
  • use adverbs too much and tend towards hyperbole
  • have a smaller vocabulary than men - the words they use are the 'indispensable small change of a langauge'
  • know their smaller vocabulary so well that they are more fluent in speaking & less hesitant than men, who are searching for the percise word in their large vocabularies
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Zimmerman and West

  • In mixed sex conversation men are more likely to interrupt than women.
  • both parents interrupt daughters more than sons
  • fathers interrupt more than mothers
  • men deny equal status to women
  • dominate mixed sexes conversations via interruptions and overlaps, thus disregard womens status, and silencing them. This refelects male dominated society.
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Pamela Fishman

  • conversation between the sexes sometimes fails, not because of anything inherent in the way women talk, but beacuse of how men respond, or don't respond.
  • women ask questions because of the power of these, not because of their personality weaknesses
  • in mixed-sex language interactions, men speak on average for twice for twice as long as women
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Jennifer Coates

  • men will often reject a topic of conversation introduced by women while women will accept the topics introduced by men
  • men discuss 'male' topics e.g. buisness, sport, politics, economics
  • women are more likely to initiate conversation than men, but less likely to make the conversation succeed.
  • women are more personal and men allow 'experts' to take the floor
  • talk is central to women's friendships
  • Womens competitive discourse:
  • topic and topic development - women trypically choose to talk about people and feelings rather than things. Topics are developed slowly, building on others' contributions and arriving at consensus
  • Minimal responses - active listenership and support are signalled subtly rather than overtly
  • Hedges - used to encourage discussion and to avoid appearing challenging or threatening
  • Questions - interrogative forms are used to encourage participation rather than to seek information
  • turn-taking - overlapping conversation aids cooperation and topic development. The evidence suggests that women and men do ursue different interactive styles and that men seek to dominate control; adversely, women tend to offer support via minimal responses
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Deborah Tannen

  • status vs. support
  • independence vs. intimacy
  • advice vs. understanding
  • orders vs. proposals
  • conflict vs. compromise
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Status versus Support

  • men grow up in a world in which conversation is competitive
  • men seek to achieve upper hand or to prevent others from dominating them
  • for women, talking is often a way to gain confirmation and support for their ideas
  • men see the world as a place where people try to gain status and keep it
  • women see the world as a "network of connections seeking support and consensus"
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Independence versus intimacy

  • women often think in terms of closeness and support, and struggle to preserve intimacy
  • men, concerned with status, tend to focus more on independance
  • these traits can lead women and men to starkly different views of the same situation

a woman would check with her husband before inviting a guest to stay - because she likes telling friends that she has to check with him. the man invites a friend without asking his wife first, because to tell the friend he must check amounts to a loss of status. 

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Advice versus understanding

  • to many men a complaint is a challenge to find a solution instead of sympathy
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Interruptions and overlapping - TANNEN

  • interruption is not the same as merely making a sound while another is speaking
  • such a sound can be supportive and affirming - which Tannen calls cooperative overlap, or it can be an attempt to take control of the coversation - an interruption or competitive overlap
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