Language and Gender Revision Notes

  • Created by: Maycie132
  • Created on: 09-03-18 10:04

Language and Gender – Revision Notes

Research in the 1970s

·         Portable tape recorders enabled researchers to collect real data for the first time. However, there was a tendency to generalise large results from very small amounts of data collected in specific contexts

·         Research focused primarily on American speakers – often the researcher’s own social circle – or college students

·         Participants tended to be from white middle-class communities. Yet results were used to provide an insight into how all men and women behave linguistically e.g. Thorne and Henley’s research, the findings of this study seemed to prove that men interrupted women more than women interrupted men. In reality, one man in the sample accounted for the majority of the interruptions.

Deficit Model

The male form of speaking is the norm and the female way of speaking is seen as the weaker version

·         In older texts discussing gender and language, this is sometimes argued in terms of education, as men’s education was more academic whereas women studied less academic and more domestic subjects

·         Jesperson: he saw male language forms as the norm and language of others, including women, to be deficient. He referred to: ‘the fondness of women for hyperbole’ due to an overuse of ‘adverbs of intensity’, women’s syntax is more simplistic – stating that women chain their words together with ‘ands’ like a string of pearls, women’s language is fluent because they can select lexical items with ease from their limited vocabulary. On the other hand, men falter in their speech because they struggle to find the right word from their vast vocabularies

·         Lakoff: published a set of basic assumptions about what marks out the language of women, such as – use of tag questions ‘you’re going to dinner, aren’t you?’, use more intensifiers ‘I am so glad you came!’, apologise more ‘I’m sorry, but I think that…’ – Lakoff’s work was theoretical, not empirical. Her claims were met with widespread criticism at the time

Dominance Model

Differences between male and female speech are related to the fact that males have dominance in society

·         Dale Spender: ‘man-made language’ she stated that ‘the talkativeness of women has been gauged in comparison not with men but with silence so any talk in which a woman engages can be too much’ Spender suggested that women were trapped in a world of language that was not of their making, because men had historically controlled the meanings, to the extent that the strongest taboo term, and one avoided by women, referred to a part of their own bodies

·         Fishman: She stated that women do all the ‘conversational shitwork’ in conversation. In other words, women provide backchannel support by asking questions and encouraging others to respond – working hard at keeping conversations going. Fishman claimed that these behaviours supported men’s power and


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