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Theories of Gender and Speech

Theories of Gender and Speech

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Published by Alice Mia Merdy
Gender Influence on communication and the gender differences in expression/verbal communication
Gender Influence on communication and the gender differences in expression/verbal communication

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Categories:Types, School Work
Published by: Alice Mia Merdy on Jun 27, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Theories about Gender and Spoken LanguageThe forms and functions of talk 
In studying language you must study speech - but in studying language and gender youcan apply what you have learned about speech but with gender as a variable - do men andwomen show any broad differences in the way they use spoken language?Before going any further you should know that the consensus view (the view agreed bythe leading authorities at the moment) is that gender does make a difference. You shouldalso know that this difference is not universal - so there will be men who exhibit“feminine” conversational qualities - or women who use the conversational stylesassociated with men. Computer-mediated conversation (Internet chat, for example) isinteresting because here people choose or assume their gender - and this may not be thesame as their biological sex.In
 Living Language
(p. 222), George Keith and John Shuttleworth record suggestionsthat:
women - talk more than men, talk too much, are more polite, areindecisive/hesitant, complain and nag, ask more questions, support each other, aremore co-operative, whereas
men - swear more, don't talk about emotions, talk about sport more, talk aboutwomen and machines in the same way, insult each other frequently, arecompetitive in conversation, dominate conversation, speak with more authority,give more commands, interrupt more. Note that some of these are objective descriptions which can be verified (ask questions,give commands) while others express unscientific, popular ideas about language andintroduce non-linguistic value judgements (nag, speak with more authority).
Otto Jespersen,
 Language: Its Nature, Development and Origin
Otto Jespersen published a set of ideas about women’s language:
women talk a lot
women use half-finished sentences because they speak before they havethought about what they will say
women link sentences with ‘and’ because they are emotional rather than‘grammatical’
women use adjectives such as ‘pretty’ and ‘nice’ too much. They are also fondof saying ‘
pretty’ and ‘
women use adverbs too much and tend towards hyperbole
women have a smaller vocabulary than men – the words they use are the‘indispensable small change of a language’
women know their smaller vocabulary so well that they are more fluent inspeaking and less hesitant than men, who are searching for the precise word intheir large vocabularies
novels written by ladies are much easier to read and use fewer difficult words
women often gain spoken mastery of foreign languages more easily than men, but when put to the test in translating a difficult text, men prove superior 
women, by virtue of their sex, "shrank from coarse and gross expressions"
women had a "preference for veiled and indirect expressions" which precludethem from being as effective as men.
women had a debilitating effect upon the language and it was reasonable for men "certainly with great justice [to] object that there is a danger of thelanguage becoming languid and insipid if we are to content ourselves withwomen's expressions."
men are responsible for introducing new words into the language
Robin Lakoff,
 Language and Woman’s Place
In this book and a related article,
Women's Language
, Lakoff published claims that women:
Speak less frequently
Show they are listening by using minimal responses
Speak more quietly than men and tend to use the higher pitch range of their voices
Use hyper-correct grammar and pronunciation: Standard English and clear enunciation
Use a greater range of intonation and ‘speak in italics’:
 so, very, quite
Use question intonation in declarative statements: women make declarative statements intoquestions by raising the pitch of their voice at the end of a statement, expressing uncertainty.
Overuse qualifiers: (for example, “I
Hedge: using phrases like “sort of”, “kind of”, “it seems like”.
Use super-polite forms: “Would you mind...”,“I'd appreciate it if...”, “...if you don't mind”.
Apologise more: (for instance, “I'm sorry, but I think that...”)
Use tag questions: “You're going to dinner, aren't you?”
Have a special lexicon: e.g. women use more words for colours, men for sports
Use empty adjectives:
divine, lovely, adorable
, and make more emotional evaluations rather thanintellectual evaluations, e.g.
Use more intensifiers: especially
(e.g. “I am
glad you came!”)
Use more adjectives to describe approximate amounts,
Use euphemisms more than men
Use diminutives more than men.
Use more reduplicated forms e.g. ‘itsy bitsy’ ‘teeny weeny’
Use direct quotation: men paraphrase more often.
Use wh- imperatives: (such as, “Why don't you open the door?”)
Use modal constructions: (such as
can, would, should, ought 
- “Should we turn up the heat?”“Would you like to just pass me that cup?”)
Use indirect commands and requests: (e.g. “My, isn't it cold in here?” -request to close a window)
Avoid slang and avoid coarse language or expletives: ‘Oh dear’ rather than ‘Shit’
Avoid making threats, using aggressive language and insults

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