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can be distinguished in certain features. The main area of interest that Lakoff was most famous for are her theories on gender discrimination through language. Lakoff argued that language is fundamental to gender inequality and it could contribute to the lack of women’s power. She claimed that there were certain features of women’s language that gave the impression women are weaker and less certain than men are. Some linguists argue that the differences between genders, as well as these features of women`s speech are universal, inherent and even biologically determined. So, the question is whether these gender and speech features exist in today`s English or not. These are Robin Lakoff`s speech features identified as “Women`s language”: 1. Hedging- uncertainty and lack of authority e.g. sort of, kind of In today`s English men use hedge phrases as well as women. 2. Super polite forms – ‘If you don’t mine please may you..’ 3. Apologies- ‘I’m sorry, but I think that… ’ In today`s society these features depend on the relationship between the people that talk with each other and on the situation. If it`s a close relationship (for example, the relationship between two friends) and an informal situation there is no need of using super polite forms. On the other hand, if the situation is formal or the relationship between the two people isn`t a close one super polite forms might be used. But that`s not dependent on gender. Besides that, the factor of social status and power is also very important here. For example, if we have a conversation between an employer and an employee, the employee is more likely to use super polite forms or to apologize, because he has less power than the employer and has probably a lower social status.
delightful and sweetie’ . ‘I am very frustrated with you’ That`s something that didn`t change. e. 4. Tag questions – show that women want approval from their utterances e. Speaking in italics – women use exaggerated intonation or stress for emphasis.g.g. regardless of the fact whether they are men or women. will use more hypercorrect grammar and pronunciation than uneducated people.e. adorable. e. lovely. could you? 5. Women still speak more in italics. all right?’ Tag questions are connected with the desire for confirmation of information of which the speaker is uncertain. Sometimes they do it to be polite.g. 6. women avoid ‘ain’t’ or double negatives In today`s English this is more a matter of education. Women still use more tag questions than men. Educated people.g. but that doesn`t mean that men don`t do it at all. There are also some regions in the Englishspeaking area where these forms like ain`t or double negatives are used more than in others.3. Empty adjectives approval (men very rarely use empty adjectives in today`s society) If a man uses these terms he appears more feminine as it damages his masculine prestige e. It stayed the way even in today`s English.g. Open the door for me. ‘divine. Hypercorrect grammar and pronunciation. So this feature can also depend on the region where the speaking person lives. But at the same time they can be a sign of a lack of self-confidence in the speaker. ‘I’m coming with you.
9. I think that Lakoff’s theory can`t argue that women use certain features in language. Special lexicon. it`s something that depends on the character of a person. ‘Dinner’s in half an hour?’ This isn`t exclusively a feature of women`s language in contemporary English. Sense of humour lacking. I agree that speech features can be a reflection of social status and that language can contribute to lack of power and status in society even today.And that`s the same with: 7. to be more polite. Men also do this when they want to confirm something.g. Nowadays women still do this more than men out of different reasons.g. I don`t think that this is something that has to do with gender.Lakoff argued that women don’t joke as much or understand jokes. e.Lakoff claimed women use this because they do not feel the authority to give orders e. but I don`t think that all gender and speech features by Robin Lakoff can be applied to today`s English. Question intonations in declarative statements. different ages and are in different situations. Use of implication. 10. purple of blue women would say violet 8. in society today people are from different places. isn’t it’ instead of ‘shut the window’ or I`m so thirsty instead of asking for a drink.Lakoff states that such words are trivial and evidence of the fact that women have been allowed control over unimportant things e. therefore speak in a dissimilar way.g.women raise the pitch of their voice at the end of statements expressing uncertainty e. . ‘it’s cold in here.g.
University of Mostar Faculty of philosophy Department of English Robin Lakoff`s gender and speech features in today`s English Ružica Palac Mostar. February 2010 .