Sex specific communication

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2003

25 Pages, Grade: 1 (A)



1 Introduction

2 Theoretical Background
2.1 Sex-specific communication and characteristics of perceptibility
2.1.1 The Development of a different language
2.1.2 Metacommunication
2.1.3. The language of women
2.1.3 The language of men
2.2 How to deal with sex-specific communication
2.3 Individuality concerning the communication as medium

3 Experiment
3.1 Construction
3.2 Execution
3.3 Findings
3.3.1 Quantitive analysis
3.3.2 Qualitative analysis

4 Applicability
4.1 Internal Communication
4.2 External Communication

5 Conclusion

6 Bibliography (APA)
Book literature
Internet literature

- The limits of my language mean the limits of my world. (L.Wittgenstein)

1 Introduction

Since the beginning of time humans have been trying to put the world into scientific formulas. This constant search for all the coherence, which defines our reality, affects today’s civilisation and its achievements essentially. But not always has science led to enlightenment of humankind. It was used repeatedly to endorse existing prejudices and malicious thoughts. At the end of the day empirical and absolutely subjective research only exist in our minds, that science is and always will be a thin line surrounded by deep abysses.

This paper should be regarded as a pre-experiment serving towards the exploration of polyphony in both genders. The rise of short messaging service (SMS) enables to conduct research with modest effort. More and more one should ask what necessity an additional paper has, since this topic is already considered as well explored. Therefore it is important to emphasise that this paper is not another attempt to justify existing prejudices in a wannabe scientific manner.

We, as a group are convinced, that every human being is unique and that there is ultimately no way to categorise this uniqueness without narrowing its diversity.

Nonetheless we intend to examine following two points. On one hand, if there are any tendencies of linguistic habit, which are consistent with the existing theory. But most of all if it possible for regular people (i.e. not specifically trained) to recognise a sex specific communication. Finally, one should keep in mind, that this experiment only represents a snapshot of our personal live, and environment, and should be treated as such.

2 Theoretical Background

2.1 Sex-specific communication and characteristics of perceptibility

For centuries the societies in our world have been strongly men orientated. Men determined politics, trade, science and art while women were in charge of housekeeping, the raising of children and following men’s orders. Each gender had and - despite of the process of emancipation – still has its own role to play. As a consequence men and women developed their own way of thinking, recognition and communication. This thesis is strengthened through some other authors who also believe that language used by women should fundamentally different. Feminist theorists corroborate this thesis by arguing that there are remarkable differences in how women write and speak (Steyaert 2001).

2.1.1 The Development of a different language

One very important factor is the education of boys and girls in connection with social expectations.

Boys still get rewarded when showing the ability to implement, girls when being friendly, kind and nice, or with other words, strive for harmony. As a consequence the language of boys develops with the focus on other values than the language of girls. As it is easier communicating with someone who puts the focus on the same values, this insight might be one reason why human beings usually find it easier to communicate with the same gender rather than the other (Oppermann & Weber, 1995).

2.1.2 Metacommunication

Today we know that every piece of information usually contains, besides the pure information aspect, another three messages. Including the information aspect the four messages are:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Thereby both the sender and the receiver are sensitive for these four messages. It is said that the sender has got four tongues and the receiver four ears as shown below.

(Source: )

This “four ears and four tongues model” is very helpful to highlight differences in gender specific communication.

Nowadays linguists agree that men and women put different emphasis on these four messages and therefore focus on dissimilar aspects in a conversation.

2.1.3. The language of women

One well known difference is the fact that women are more sensitive on the relationship ear / tongue than men. For most women it is very important how they communicate and what kind of feeling they develop.

Similar to the language of men the language of women begins to develop in the early childhood. But whereas boys tend to play in large groups, girls usually prefer to play with only one or two friends. Within these small groups girls strive after gain intimacy.

As a consequence the language of women is very individual searching human closeness and the acceptance of the receiver. Often they talk about personal experiences to overcome strangeness and distance towards other people and create an atmosphere of equal communication, trust and transparency (Armonaite, 2000).

Because of the fact that women tend to react very delicately to relationships they maintain, women, more than men, perceive interpersonal interactions and ambience. This can be with reference to a men-women relationship or with reference to work climate etc.

Beside the sensitiveness of women to the relationship aspect, women also react very strongly to appeals. Linguists start out from the fact that women tend to formulate their needs indirectly and are therefore particularly sensitive to indirect messages. For example the sentence “Oh, it’s so cold in here” might contain the appeal to someone to close the window. This does not cause problems as long as the receiver understands the appeal, because both sender and receiver focus on the “appeal” message: But what happens if one part puts the emphasis somewhere else as it is often the case in men-women communication? (Oppermann & Weber, 1995).

This indirect way to formulate needs is also valid for proposals. Women, like already mentioned, strive after appreciating communication and this includes not expressing demands directly because this would mean to put oneself hierarchically over someone else. Men often interpret indirectly formulated proposals as the incompetence to put it in a nutshell.

The following characteristics of women’s language can be observed:


Women tend to use more forms of minimization or beautification (Trömel-Plötz 1982). One typical example is: “oh, that is so sweet.” Trivializations make the language on the one hand appear emotional and friendly and on the other hand it smoothens the statement.

Vulgar Expressions:

In comparison to men women use less rough terms as for example vulgar expressions, curses, ambiguities or coarseness. This is based on the idea that women do not want to be impolite or hurt the opponent. The females believe that a more appropriate discourse with their opponent will simplify or at least facilitate a mutual understanding.

Attenuation / Relativizing expressions:

A specially female characteristic is their bias to use attenuation of their predications, such as “I believe..”, “It seems..”, “Maybe...” or “.., is it not?”, “.., don’t you think so?” etc. This is often misleading men to assume women being uncertain and self-conscious. That means the female reveal their insecure side, which might weaken their credibility. Moreover, in the male’s point of view these statements reduce the content’s value. On the other hand, from the females’ perspective their phrases should invite their opponent for a deeper, a more personal discussion. It should be messaged that the counterpart is questioned to contribute his own opinion (Oppermann and Weber, 1995).


The “I-language” syndrome is an interesting point that is often used by women. In comparison to the men’s tendency of using “We- or You-sentences”, “I-sentences” imply much more subjectivity. The men allege that the female “I-language” is too little clinical and objective (Oppermann and Weber, 1995). They amplify their assumption by asserting that the subjective statements of the women are, hence, vulnerable. This would be, as a matter of fact, a weakness.

Emphatic Adverbs:

It is unnecessary to mention that women love to use emphatic adverbs. Probably the most well-know examples are: “so beautiful”, “oh really”, “That’s so true”. The intend behind these expressions is to signal to the listener interest and active participation in the conversation.

Women who were asked in a study to describe the language of women considered it rash, more open, with confirmation of others, more appropriate to support communication, less interruptive, with more enquiries and rather imprecise (Schanel, 1999).

2.1.3 The language of men

It would be wrong to argue that men are not sensitive to the relationship level at all. Men do possess such an ear/tongue as well but their prime request is not to create an atmosphere with equal communication but to make sure what happens to their personal status.

The way men communicate already begins to develop in the early childhood. When boys play in groups in most cases a hierarchical structure with a leader can be observed within these groups.

The language is thereby the most important instrument to set a position in the hierarchical structure. The hierarchy is determined by making proposals, orders and even by telling jokes and stories, which expose the others. As a result the language of men pursues the aim of protecting and expanding their own status or, in other words, to create an image for oneself (Oppermann & Weber, 1995).

The status orientation might be one reason why information is so essential for men. It plays a key role in the quarrel for a position in the hierarchy. Information means power and can lead to a status - advantage if it is used in the right circumstance. Therefore it is important for men to possess information and use it whenever necessary e.g. to demonstrate the own superiority (Armonaite, 2000).


Excerpt out of 25 pages


Sex specific communication
University of St. Gallen  (Psychology)
1 (A)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Sex, sex, specific, communication, men, women, man, woman, multivoicedness, diversity, psychology, prejudice, metacommunication, language, quantitative analysis, qualitative analysis, experiment, anal
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Andreas Ernst (Author), 2003, Sex specific communication, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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