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CHAPTER II

'Women's Language' or Towerless Language'?


WiLLiAivi M . O'BARR AND BOWMAN K . ATKINS

Introduction
T h e u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f l a n g u a g e a n d sex i n A m e r i c a n c u l t u r e ha;; p n i c . K - . M i l l.n b e y o n d R o b n L a k o f f s i n f l u e n t i a l a n d p r o v o c a t i v e essays o n ' w u n i f i i ' i ; l : i n ) M i ; i | v ' w r i t t e n o n l y a f e w years ago.' T h e r a p i d d e v e l o p m e n t o f knovvlci.l).',c- j n w l i . n h i . | been so s i g n i f i c a n d y a n i g n o r e d a n d o v e r l o o k e d rea owes m u c h l o h o i h il ir . Ii <. I o p m e n t o f sociolinguistic interest i n general a n d to t h e woman's n u i v c n i , m p a r t i c u l a r . B u t as a r e c e n t r e v i e w o f a n t h r o p o l o g i c a l s t u d i e s a b o u t w o i i i c n out, t h i s i n t e r e s t has g r o w n so q u i c k l y a n d s t u d i e s p r o l i f e r a t e d so fasi
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I .

ii.. I

f r e q u e n t l y l i t t l e o r n o c r o s s - r e f e r e n c i n g o f m u t u a l l y s u p p o r t i v e studies a m l i i i n a l l - , l i t t l e a t t e m p t t o r e c o n c i l e c o n f l i c t i n g i n t e r p r e t a o n s o f w o m e n ' s roles. A M I I I I I . U c r i t i q u e o f t h e l i t e r a t u r e o n l a n g u a g e a n d sex w o u l d n o d o u b t reveal i i i a i i y ul Mu same p r o b l e r a s . B u t i n e n e sense, these are n o t p r o b l e m s - t h e y a i c m a i k ; , ni a r a p i d l y d e v e l o p i n g field o f i n q u i r y , o f v i t a l i t y , a n d o f saliency o f t h e l o p i c O u r i n t e r e s t i n l a n g u a g e a n d sex was s h a r p e n e d b y L a k o f f s essays. h n l e c d , I M I w o r k was f o r u s - as i t w a s f o r m a n y o t h e r s - a j u m p i n g o f f p o i n t . B u t l u i l i k e :;<iiii. o t h e r s t u d i e s , o u r s w a s n o t p r i m a r i l y a n a t t e m p t to u n d e r s t a n d l a n g u a g e a m l M - . d i f f e r e n c e s . R a t h e r , t h e m a j o r g o a l o f o u r r e c e n t r e s e a r c h has b e e n t h e s i u d y ni l a n g u a g e v a r i a t i o n i n a s p e c i f i c i n s t i t u t i o n a l aante^^ r o o m - a n d sex-rela^ted d i f f e r e n c e s vyere A m e r i c a n tria! cmii i o f the k i n d s o f v a r i a t i o n wiiieli i m

r e n t s o c i o l i n g u i s t i c issues l e d us t o c o n s i d e r . O u r i n t e r e s t w a s f u r t h e r k i r K l l i i l I > \ t h e d i s c o v e r y t h a t t r i a l p r a c t i c e m a n u a l s ( h o w - t o - d o - i t b o o k s b y successfiil i i lal l a w y e r s a n d l a w professors) o f t e n h a d s p e c i a l s e c t i o n s o n h o w f e m a l e witnessc;;

Source: '"Women's language" or "powerless language"?' by O'Barr, W and Atkins, 1!. K, b e h a v e d i f f e r e n t l y f r o m m a l e s a n d t h u s special k i n d s o f t r e a t m e n t t h e y r e q u ir. in McConnelI-Ginet ec al. (eds) Women and Language in Literature and Society (1980) (Praeger/Greenvvood Publishing Group) pp. 93-UO.
159

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PART II: LANGUAGE, GENDER AND SEXUALITY

'tornen's Language' or 'Powerless

Language'?

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I n this paper, we describe our study of h o w w o m e n (and men) talk i n court. T h e research we report here is par of a 3 0 - m o n t h study of language variation in trial c o u r t r o o m s w h i c h has i n c l u d e d boch ethnographic and experimental components. I t is the thesis of this study that so-called 'women's language' is i n large part a language of powerlessness, a c o n d i t i o n that can apply to m e n as well as w o m e n . T h a t a complex of such features should have been called 'women's language' i n the first place reflects the generally powerless position of many w o m e n i n A m e r i c a n society, a p o i n t recognized b u t n o t developed extensively by L a k o f f . Careful e x a m i n a t i o n i n one i n s t i t u t i o n a l setting of the features w h i c h were identified as c o n s t i t u t i n g 'women's language' has shown clearly that such features are simply n o t patterned along sex unes. Moreover, the features do not^ i n a strict sense, constitute a style or register since there is not perfect co-variation. Briey^ what L a k o f f had proposed was that women's speech vanes f r o m men's i n severa! significant ways. A l t h o u g h she provides no firm listing of the major features of w h a t she terms 'women's language' (hereafter referred to i n this paper as \ V L ) , we noted the foUowing features^ said to occur i n h i g h frequency among w o m e n , and used these as a baseline for our investigation of sex-related speech patterns i n court. 1. Hedges. ('It's sort of hot i n here'; ' I ' d k i n d of like to go'; ' I guess...'; ' I t seems l i k e . . . ' ; and so on.) 2. (Super) pole forms. ( ' I ' d really appreciate it i f . . . ' ; ' W o u l d y o u picase open the door, i f y o u don't m i n d ? ' ; and so on.) 3. Tag questions. ('John is here, isn't he?' instead of 'Is John here?'; and so on.) 4. Speaktngin italics. ( I n t o n a t i o n a l emphasis equivalent to u n d e r l i n i n g words i n w r i t t e n language; emphatic so or very and so on.) 5. Empty adjectives. (Divinej charming; cute; sweet; adorable; lovely; and so on.) 6. Hypercorrect grammar andpronunciation. enunciation.) (Bookish g r a m m a r ; more f o r m a l

What We Found
D u r i n g the summer of 1974, we recorded over 150 hours of triis i n a N o r t h Carolina superior c r i m i n a l court. A l t h o u g h almost all of the lawyers we observed were males, the sex d i s t r i b u t i o n of witnesses was more nearly equal. On l o o k i n g for the speech patterns described by L a k o f f , we quickly discovered some w o m e n who spoke i n the described manner. T h e only major discrepancies between L a k o f f ' s description and our findings were i n features w h i c h the specific context o f the c o u r t r o o m rendered inappropriate, for example, tag questions (because witnesses typically answer rather t h a n ask questions) and joking (because there is a little h u m o r i n a c o u r t r o o m , we d i d not have occasion to observe the specifically female patterns of h u m o r to w h i c h she referred). I n addition to our early finding that some w o m e n approximate the m o d e l described by L a k o f f , we also were quick to note that there was considerable variation i n the degree to w h i c h w o m e n exhibited these characteristics. Since our observations were mited to about ten weeks of triis d u r i n g w h i c h we were able to observe a variety of cases i n terms of offense (ranging f r o m traffic cases, d r u g possession, robbery, mansiaughter, to rape) and l e n g t h ( f r o m a few hours to almost five days), we believe that our observations cover a reasonably good cross-section o f the kinds o f triis, and henee witnesses, handled by this type of court. Yet, ten weeks is not enough to produce a very large n u m b e r of witnesses. Even i n a single case a witness may spend several hours testifying. I n a d d i t i o n , the c o u r t spends m u c h time selecting jurors, hearing s u m m a tion remarks, g i v i n g j u r y instructions, and h a n d l i n g administrative matters. T h u s , w h e n l o o k i n g at patterns of h o w different w o m e n talk i n c o u r t , we are i n a better position to deal w i t h the range of variation we observed t h a n to attempt any precise frequency counts of persons f a l l i n g into various categories. T h u s , we w i l l concntrate our efforts here on describing the range and complement this w i t h some non-statistical impressions regarding frequency. Our observations show a c o n t i n u u m of use of the features described by Lakoff.^ We were i n i t i a l l y at a loss to explain why some w o m e n should speak more-or-less as L a k o f f had described and w h y others should use only a few of these features. We w i l l deal w i t h our interpretation of these findings later, but first let US examine some points along the c o n t i n u u m f r o m h i g h to low. A. M r s . W , ' a witness i n a case involving the death, of her neighbor i n an automobile accident, is an extreme example of a person speaking W l , i n her testimony. She used nearly every feature described by LakolT and certainly all those w h i c h are appropriate i n the c o u r t r o o m context. Her speech contains a h i g h frequency o f intensifiers {'very cise friends', 'quite i l l ' , and so on often w i t h i n t o n a t i o n emphasis); hedges (frequent

7. Lack of a sense of humor. ( W o m e n said to be poor joke tellers and to frequently 'miss the p o i n t ' i n jokes told by men.) 8. Direct quotations. (Use of direct quotations instead o f paraphrases.) 9. Special lexicn. ( I n domains Uke colors where words like magenta, treiise, and so on are typically used only by women.) char-

10. Question intonation in declarative contexts. (For exampie, i n response to the question, ' W h e n w i l l d i n n e r be ready?', an answer like ' A r o u n d 6 o'clock?', as t h o u g h seeking approval and asking whether that time w i l l be okay.)

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PART II: LANGUAGE, GENDER AND


use o f ' y o u k n o w ' , ' s o r t o f like', so o n ) ; empiy adjecnves ( ' t h i s very

SEXUAUTY

'i/Vomen's

Language' or 'Poweress Language'?

163

' m a y b e j u s t a l i t t l e b i t ' , 'let's see', a n d kind policeman'); and other similar

C . T h e s p e e c h o f D r . H , a p a t h o l o g i s t w h o t e s t i f i e s as a n e x p e r t w i t n e s : ; , exhibits fewer features o f W L t h a n either of the other t w o w o m e n . l i r r speech contains the lowest incidence of W L features a m o n g the

f e a t u r e s . T h e first e x a m p l e b e l o w is t y p i c a l o f h e r s p e e c h a n d s h o w s the t y p e s o f i n t e n s i f i e r s a n d h e d g e s she c o m m o n l y uses."* ( T o u n d e r s t a n d w h a t h e r s p e e c h might be h k e w i t h o u t chese f e a t u r e s , e x a m p l e (2) is a r e w r i t t e n versin of her answers w i t h the W L features e l i m i n a t e d . ) (1) L. W. L. W. S t a t e w h e t h e r o r n o t , JVlrs. W . , y o u w e r e a c q u a i n t e d w i t h or k n e w t h e late M r s . E . D . Quite well. W h a t w a s t h e n a t u r e o f y o u r a c q u a i n t a n c e w i t h her? W e l l , w e w e r e , u h , v e r y c i s e f r i e n d s . U h , she w a s e v e n s o r t o f like a m o t h e r to me. (2) L. W. L. W. S t a t e w h e t h e r o r n o t , M r s . W . , - y o u w e r e a c q u a i n t e d w i t h or k n e w t h e late M r s . E . D . Yes, I d i d . W h a t was t h e n a t u r e o f y o u r a c q u a i n t a n c e w i t h her? W e w e r e c i s e f r i e n d s . She w a s l i k e a m o t h e r t o m e .

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w i t n e s s e s w h o s e s p e e c h w e a n a l y s e d . D r . H ' s r a t i o o f W L featiin.-:; l i t t l e h e s i t a n c y , f e w h e d g e s , a n o t i c e a b l e l a c k o f i n t e n s i f i e r s , a n d so (See Table 11.1.) T y p i c a l o f h e r s p e e c h is e x a m p l e ( 5 ) i n w h i c h findings i n a pathological examination. explains some o f her (5) L .

0.18 f o r e a c h a n s w e r . H e r r e s p o n s e s t e n d t o b e s t r a i g h t f o r w a r d , w i i l i

A n d had the heart n o t been f u n c t i o n i n g , i n other wonl;;, the heart been s t o p p e d , there w o u l d have been no have come f r o m that regin?

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W.

I t m a y leak d o w n d e p e n d i n g o n the p o s i t i o n o f the s o m e active r e s p i r a t o r y a c t i o n h a d to take place.

hody

death. B u t the presence of b l o o d i n the alveoli i n d i r ; i i r : ,

W h a t a l l o f t h i s s h o w s is t h e f a c t t h a t s o m e w o m e n s p e a k i i i i In- w n I i l M| i described, e m p l o y i n g m a n y features of W L , while others

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c o n t i n u u m o f p o s s i b l e a n d a p p r o p r i a t e styles f o r t h e COLII'I i I M H I I cussing the reasons w h i c h m a y lie b e h i n d this variacin in by w o m e n i n c o u r t , w e first examine an equally emerged f r o m o u r investigation o f male speech i n c o u r t .

I'.I L M I

T a b l e 11.1 s u m m a r i z e s t h e f r e q u e n c y o f several f e a t u r e s a t t r i b u t e d t o W L b y L a k o f f . C a l c u l a t e d as a r a t i o o f W L f o r m s f o r e a c h a n s w e r , t h i s w i t ness's s p e e c h c o n t a i n s 1.14 - a m o n g t h e h i g h e s t i n c i d e n c e s w e o b s e r v e d . B . T h e s p e e c h o f M r s . N , a w i t n e s s i n a case i n v o l v i n g h e r father's a r r e s t , shows f e w e r W L f e a t u r e s . H e r r a t i o o f f e a t u r e s f o r e a c h a n s w e r d r o p s to 0.84. H e r t e s t i m o n y c o n t a i n s i n s t a n c e s o f b o t h W L a n d a m o r e assertive speech style. F r e q u e n t l y , h e r s p e e c h is p u n c t u a t e d w i t h responses l i k e : ' H e , see, h e t h o u g h t i t was m o r e - o r - l e s s m e r a t h e r t h a n t h e p l i c e o f f i c e r . ' Y e t i t also c o n t a i n s m a n y m o r e s t r a i g h t f o r w a r d a n d assertive passages t h a n are f o u n d i n A's speech. I n e x a m p l e ( 3 ) , f o r i n s t a n c e , M r s . N is a n y t h i n g b u t passive. She t u r n s q u e s t i o n s b a c k o n t h e l a w y e r a n d e v e n i n t e r r u p t s h i m . E x a m p l e (4) i l l u s t r a t e s the a m b i v a l e n c e o f t h i s speaker's style b e t t e r . N o t e h o w she m o v e s q u i c k l y to q u a l i f y - i n W L - a n o t h e r w i s e assertive response. (3) L. W. L. W. L. W. (4) L. W. A l l r i g h t . I ask y o u i f y o u r h u s b a n d h a s n ' t b e a t e n h i m u p i n t h e last week? Yes, a n d d o y o u k n o w w h y ? Well, I . . . A n o t h e r g u n episode. A n o t h e r g u n episode? Yessiree. You've had a controversy going w i t h h i m f o r a long time, haven't you? A s k w h y ~ I m e a n n o t because F m just his d a u g h t e r .

i h c h i n r u i r i u .1 intcreslini', h n i l i n i ' " I n . h ihicc ni:il< 'i. ii

W e a l s o f o u n d m e n w h o e x h i b i r W L c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s i n i l u i r 11 un 11 > i. un testimony. T o illustrate this, we examine the speech o features. D . M r . W exhibits m a n y b u t n o t all o f L a k o f f ' s W L features. w h i c h he does e m p l o y , like intensifiers, f o r e x a m p l e , nesses w h i c h v a r i e s a l o n g a c o n t i n u u m o f h i g h t o l o w i n c i d i - m r i<\ I

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h i g h f r e q u e n c y - a m o n g t h e h i g h e s t o b s e r v e d a m o n g a l l s p c a k o r s , vvl n 11 H I m a l e o r f e m a l e . H i s r a t i o o f W L f e a t u r e s f o r e a c h ansvvei- is 1 . ally h i g h e r t h a n i n d i v i d u a l A . E x a m p l e (6), w h i l e an extreme M r . W ' s use o f W L f e a t u r e s , does i l l u s t r a t e t h e d e g r e e to w l u i h a t t r i b u t e d t o w o m e n are i n f a c t p r e s e n t i n h i g h f r e q u e n c y i n i l u of some m e n . (6) L . W. A n d y o u saw, y o u o b s e r v e d w h a t ? Well, after I heard I can't really, I can't definiU'ly first, but J Man /.,, w h e t h e r t h e brakes or the l i g h t s carne

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head slightly to the r i g h t , a n d l o o k e d d i r e c t l y b e h i i u l M i a n d I saw reflections o f lights, a n d u h , very, very, taneously after that, I h e a r d a very, v e r y l o u d explosin m y s t a n d p o i n t o f view i t w o u l d h a v e been an implosin I n a i n t o a r o o m . A n d , u h , i t was, i t was t e r r i f i c a l l y l o u d .

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e v e r y t h i n g was f o r c e d o u t w a r d , like t h i s , like a g r e n a d c i I n i i v n

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AND

SEXUAUTY

'Women's Language' or 'Powerless Language'?

165

E. M r . N , more toward che low frequency end of the c o n t i n u u m of male speakers, shows some W L features. H i s ratio of features for each answer is 0.64, comparable to i n d i v i d u a l B. Example (7) shows an instance of passages f r o m the testimony o f this speaker i n w h i c h there are few W L features. Example (8), by comparison, shows the same hedging i n a way characteristic of W L . H i s speech falls between the highest and lowest incidences of W L features we observed among males. (7) L . A f t e r you looked back and saw the back of the ambulance, what d i d y o u do? W . A f t e r I realized that m y patient and m y attendant were t h r o w n f r o m the vehicle, u h , w h i c h I assumed, I radioed i n for help to the dispatcher, tell her that we had been i n an accident and, u h , m y patient a n d attendant were t h r o w n f r o m the vehicle and I d i d n ' t know the extent of their i n j u r y at the t i m e , to h u r r y up and send help. (8) L . W. D i d you f o r m any conclusin about what her p r o b l e m was at the time you were there? I felt that she had, u h , m i g h t have had a sort of heart attack.

few W L features) had something i n c o m m o n ~ an unusually high social status. Like D r . H , they were typically well-educated, professional w o m e n of middleclass background. A corresponding pattern was noted among the aberrant men (that is, those h i g h i n W L features). L i k e M r . W, they tended to be men who held either subordinare, lower-status jobs or were unemployed. Housewives were h i g h i n W L features while middle-class males were low i n these features. I n addition to social status i n the society at large, another factor associated w i t h l o w incidence of W L is previous c o u r t r o o m experience. B o t h individuis C and F testify frequently i n c o u r t as expert witnesses, that is, as witnesses w h o testify on the basis of their professional expertise. Howevcr,
Table ll.l Frequency distribution of women's language f e a t u r e s ' n che speech of six witnesses in a tria! c o u r t r o o m Women A Intensifiers'' Hedges' Hesitation forms'' W asks L questions' Gestures' Plice forms s Sir" Quotes' Total (all powerless forms) # of Answers in interview Rado (# powerless forms for each answer)
Notes: a T h e

Men C 0 3 13 0 0 2 6 0 24 136 0.18 D 21 2 26 0 0 2 32 0 85 6! 1.39

6 0 2 20 0 0 0 0 5 27 32 0.84

2 5 27 0 0 0 13 0 47 73 0.64

F 1 0 II 0 0 1 II 0 24 52 0/16

16 19 52 2 2 9 2 1 103 90 1.14

F. Officer G , a m o n g the males lowest i n W L features, v i r t u a l l y lacks all features tabulated i n Table 11.1 except for hesitancy and using sir. H i s ratio o f W L forms for each answer is .46. E x a m p l e (9) shows how this speaker handles the lack of certainty i n a more authoriatative m a n ner t h a n by b e g i n n i n g his answer w i t h ' I guess...'. H i s no-nonsense, s t r a i g h t f o r w a r d m a n n e r is illustrated well by example (10), i n w h i c h a technical answer is given i n a style comparable to that of i n d i v i d u a l C . (9) L . W. A p p r o x i m a t e l y how m a n y times have y o u testified i n court? I t w o u l d only have to be a guess, b u t it's three or four, five, six

h u n d r e d times. Probably more. (10) L . Y o u say that you f o u n d blood of group O? W. T h e blood i n the v i a l , i n the layman's t e r m , is positive, R h positive. Technically referred to as a capital r, sub o, l i t t l e r. Taken together these f n d i n g s suggest that the so-called 'women's l a n guage' is neither characterisdc of all w o m e n or l i m i t e d only to women. A similar c o n t i n u u m of W L features ( h i g h to low) is f o u n d a m o n g speakers of b o t h sexes. These findings suggest that the sex of a speaker is insufficient to explain incidence of W L features, and that we must look elsewhere for an explanation of this variation. Once we had realized that W L features were distributed i n such a manner, we began to examine the data for other factors w h i c h m i g h t be associaied w i t h a high or low incidence of the features i n question. First, we noted that wc were able to find more w o m e n toward the high end of the c o n d n u u m . N e x t , we noted that all the w o m e n who were aberrant (that is, who used relatively

p a r t i c u l a r f e a t u r e s c h o s e n f o r i n c l u s i n in t h i s t a b i e w e r e s e l e c c e d b e c a u s e o f t l n ' i i w h i c h e i t h e r do n o i on d/rect very exafruihiuuiv. dcjinilrly. m titn,

saliency and frequency of o c c u r r e n c e . N o c included h e r e are features of W L o c c u r in c o u r t o r e n e s w h i c h w e h a d d i f f i c u l t y o p e r a c i o n a l i z i n g a n d c o d i n g . Based siiri'.ly, such

only. b F o r m s w h i c h i n c r e a s e o r e m p h a s i z e t h e f o r c o f a s s e r t i o n s u c h as very, definitely, a v o i d i n g r i g i d c o m m i t m e n t s s u c h a s son inron.itioti in r e s p o n s e to fawyer's of, a little, kind

a, a n d s o o n . c F o r m s w h i c h r e d u c e che f o r c o f a s s e r t i o n a l l o w i n g f o r e x c e p t i o n s of, a n d s o o n . d P a u s e f i l l e r s s u c h as uh. in n o r m a l l y

uh, a n d ' m c a n i n g l e s s ' p a r t i c l e s s u c h a s oh, well, let's s e e . now, so, you s e e , a n d s o o n . e U s e o f q u c s c i o n questions, including rislng intonation declarntivu thauk rescrict t o M t i x r s ( f o r e x a m p l e , ' t h i r t y ? , t h i r t y - f t v e ? ' ) a n d q u e . s c i o n s a s k e d by w i c n e s s o f l a w y e r l i k e " W h i c l i w . i y d o y o u g o . . . ?'. f S p o k e n i n d i c a t i o n s o f d i r e c c i n s u c h a s over there, a n d s o o n . g i n c l u d e piease, yiiii, . i i i ' l 'io o n . U s e o f sir c o u n c e d s e p a r a c e l y d u e co ics high f r e q u e n c y . h A s s u m e d co b e a n i n d i c a c i n ni i i M H p l i c e s p e e c h . i N o t t y p i c a l l y a i l o w e d in c o u r t u n d e r r e s c r i c t i o n s o n h e a r s a y w h i c h 1 l i ' ' -.11 i M i i o n s i i i u i e r w h i c h a w i c n e s s m a y t e l l w h a c s o m e o n e e l s e s a i d . 'niMM ' < > r l>in.il d a t a .

166

PART II: LANGUAGE.

GENDER

AND

SEXUAUTY

'Women's Language' or 'Powerless

Language'?

167

it s h o u l d b e n o t e d t h a t n o t a l l p e r s o n s w h o s p e a k w i t h f e w W L f e a t u r e s h a v e had e x t e n s i v e c o u r t r o o m e x p e r i e n c e . T h e p o i n t w e w i s h t o e m p h a s i z e is t h a t a p o w e r f u l p o s i t i o n m a y derive f r o m either social s t a n d i n g i n the larger society and/or status a c c o r d e d b y t h e c o u r t . W e c a r e f u U y o b s e r v e d these p a t t e r n s a n d f o u n d t h e m to h o l d generally. F o r some individuis w h o m we h a d observed i n the c o u r t r o o m , we analysed t h e i r speech i n detall i n o r d e r to tablate the f r e q u e n c y o f t h e W L f e a t u r e s as s h o w n i n T a b l a I L l . A l i t t l e m o r e a b o u t t h e b a c k g r o u n d of the persons w e have described w i l l illustrate the sort o f p a t t e r n we ^ observed. is a m a r r i e d w o r a a n , a b o u t 55 y e a r s o d , w h o is a h o u s e w i f e .

f r e q u e n c y o f W L f e a t u r e s . T h e s e s i x cases w e r e s e l e c t e d f o r d e t a i l e d a n a l y s i : ; because t h e y were representative o f the sorts o f w o m e n a n d m e n w h o s c r v r , ! as w i t n e s s e s i n t h e t r i i s w e o b s e r v e d i n 1 9 7 4 . zermed pozuerless language, B a s e d o n t h i s e v i d e n c c , w.IH-IIC

w o u l d s u g g e s t t h a t t h e p h e n o m e n o n d e s c r i b e d b y L a k o f f w o u l d be

a t e r m w h i c h is m o r e d e s c r i p t i v e o f t h e p a r t i c i i h i i

features i n v o l v e d , f the social status o f those w h o speak i n this m a n n c r , :iiul o n e w h i c h d o e s n o t l i n k i t u n n e c e s s a r i l y t o t h e sex o f a s p e a k e r . F u r t h e r , w e w o u l d suggest t h a t the t e n d e n c y f o r m o r e w o m e n lo
N|H-:II

p o w e r l e s s l a n g u a g e a n d f o r m e n t o s p e a k less o f i t is d u e , at least i n p a n , m t h e g r e a t e r t e n d e n c y o f w o m e n t o o c c u p y r e l a t i v e l y p o w e r l e s s s o c i a l [ l o s i i imi:, W h a t w e h a v e o b s e r v e d is a r e f l e c t i o n i n t h e i r s p e e c h b e h a v i o r o f t l i c i i suc lal s t a t u s . S i m i l a r l y , f o r m e n , a g r e a t e r t e n d e n c y t o use t h e m o r e p o w c i r u l v a i i ant ( w h i c h w e w i l l tcrmpowerful language) m a y be l i n k e d t o t h e f a c t


IIIMI IIU-II

B is m a r r i e d , b u t y o u n g e r , a b o u t 35 y e a r s o d . F r o m h e r t e s t i m o n y , t h e r e is n o I n f o r m a t i o n t h a t she w o r k s o u t s i d e h e r h o m e . C is a p a t h o l o g i s t i n a l o c a l h o s p i t a l . She is 3 5 - 4 0 y e a r s o d . T h e r e is n o i n d i c a t i o n f r o m c o n t e n o f h e r r e s p o n s e s o r f r o m t h e w a y she was a d d r e s s e d ( a l w a y s Dr.) D o f h e r m a r i t a l s t a t u s . She has t e s t i f i e d i n c o u r t as a p a t h o l o g i s t on m a n y occasions. is a n a m b u l a n c e a t t e n d a n t , r a t h e r i n e x p e r i e n c e d i n h i s j o b , at w h i c h status h e has w o r k e d f o r less t h a n 6 m o n t h s . A g e a r o u n d 3 0 . M a r i t a l unknown. E is D ' s supervisor. H e drives the ambulance, supervises emergency status has t r e a t m e n t a n d gives i n s t r u c t i o n s t o D . H e has w o r k e d at h i s j o b l o n g e r than D a n d has h a d m o r e e x p e r i e n c e . Age about 30-35; marital u n k n o w n . F is a n e x p e r i e n c e d m e m b e r o f t h e l o c a l p l i c e f o r c . H e testified i n c o u r t f r e q u e n t l y . A g e 3 5 - 4 0 ; m a r i t a l status u n k n o w n .

m u c h m o r e o f t e n t e n d to o c c u p y relatively p o w e r f u l positions in s o i i c i v

NOTES
1. Lakoff, Robin. 1 9 7 5 . Language and Woman's Place. New York: Plaipn I''M".' 2. Actually each feature should be treated as a seprate concinuum s u n c ili. n- i . imi p. i fect co-variadon. For convenience, we discuss the variation a.s ;i siiir .lr . i m i i i i n n i n ..i possibilities. However, it should be kept in mind that a high frcqui-mv " I '<' ' of one particular feature may not necessarily be associated with a liicJi In .|ih n. , ..i another. 3 . ames have been changed and indicated by a letter only in order lo pir:;ia vr ilh , nymity of witnesses. However, the forms of address used in the couil air ii-iaiiiiil 4. These examples are caken from both the direct and cross examiniii.ioir; n i IIM " H nesses, although Table 11.1 uses data only from direct examinations. i ; x a i i i | i l i . w . n chosen to point out clearly the differences in style. However, it must be i i n i n l i li.n ih. cross examination is potentially a more powerless situation for the witncs:;.

'Women's Language' or 'Powerless Language'?


I n the previous section, we presented data w h i c h indcate that the variation i n WL f e a t u r e s m a y b e r e l a t e d m o r e t o s o c i a l p o w e r l e s s n e s s t h a n t o sex. W e h a v e p r e s e n t e d b o t h o b s e r v a t i o n a l data a n d some statistics to s h o w t h a t t h i s style is n o t s i m p l y o r e v e n p r i m a r i l y a s e x - r e l a t e d p a t t e r n . W e d i d , h o w e v e r , n d i t r e l a t e d t o sex i n t h a t m o r e w o m e n t e n d t o be h i g h i n W L f e a t u r e s w h i l e m o r e men and t e n d to be l o w i n these same features. T h e speech p a t t e r n s o f t h r e e m e n t h r e e w o m e n w e r e e x a m i n e d . F o r e a c h sex, t h e i n d i v i d u i s v a r i e d f r o m

social statuses w i t h relat iv ely l o w p o w e r to m o r e p o w e r (for w o m e n : h o u s e w i f e to d o c t o r ; for m e n : s u b o r d i n a r e job to one w i t h a h i g h degree of i n d e p e n d e n c e o f a c t i o n ) . E x p e r i e n c e m a y also be a n i m p o r t a n t f a c t o r , f o r t h o s e w h o m we o b s e r v e d s p e a k i n g w i t h f e w W L features seemed m o r e c o m f o r t a b l e i n the c o u r t r o o m and w i t h the content of their testimony. Associated w i t h increasing shifts i n social p o w e r a n d experience were c o r r e s p o n d i n g decreases i n