Term Paper, 2014
17 Pages, Grade: 67%
Exclusive Speech difference between males and females
Sex preferential speech features
Reasons for differences
Language and gender theories
The details of each theory are as follows.
The deficit theory
Social Constructivist Theory
Recent theoretical theories
Since the dawn of human history, what makes people different from other creatures on the earth is their ability to use language to communicate with one another. When it comes to language, people define it as a system of communication based on words and sentences to make our communication meaningful and understandable. However, the ways language is used are not the same in different countries, by different people and by different genders. A major topic in sociolinguistics which has been discussed over the last few decades is whether men and women speaking a certain language use it in different ways.
Do men and women use language differently? If there are differences in the language used by different gender, what linguistic aspects are different? And what are the reasons for those differences. With a view to answering those questions, sociolinguists have been trying to carry out such a lot of research and surveys and lay out different thesis and theories for this issue. There are two important things sociolinguists did in their study about language and gender. The first one is the differences in linguistic aspects the two different genders use in their language. The second thing is the reason why there are such differences.
This paper looks at the literature which has helped us to understand the topic: language and gender in society. It provides a context of past and recent developments in language and gender theories .It focuses on two types of studies: 1. Sex exclusive speech differences. 2. Sex preferential speech features. It also examines the three major approaches to language and gender: Deficit theory, Difference theory and Social Constructivist approach. Discoveries from previous research of these studies are also mentioned and discussed in this paper.
When we look at the linguistic literature, two different types of studies have been made .The first study tries to look at the societies where there are very clear differences in the language used by gender. The second one examines the society where there are preferential speech features in using language by gender. Those two types of studies cover all of the sociolinguists’ studies in the field of language and gender.
Generally, sociolinguists indicate that there are speech varieties used by men and women in some societies. In these societies a woman or a man cannot speak the language of the other gender. For that reason, the varieties are considered as gender-exclusive speech.
According to sociolinguists, what differs is listed as follows:
- There are several societies where the sex of the speaker determines the speech forms.
- There are some societies the hearer’s sex determines the speech forms
According to Baron (1986), the most typical example of gender difference is found among the Carib Indians. He reports that male and female Caribs speak different languages, dating back to the time when the Carib speaking men killed the Arawak- speaking men and mated with the Arawak women. Their children are described having different languages as the boys learn language from their fathers and girls learn language from their mothers. Holmes (1992) also reports similar cases, such as in the community in the North West Amazon basin, the husband and the wife speak a different language altogether because the people in that community must marry outside their own tribe. In the particular instance reported by Holmes, the husband speaks a language called Tuyuka which the wife also uses with the children but when she speaks with her husband, she uses her own tribal language which is Desano and he replies in Tuyuka.
Sherzer (1987) describes the language practices of Kuna Indians of Panama. Although he notes that there are relatively few gender differences in phonology and intonation, the speech differences are in rituals and everyday discourse. Since men are involved in rituals and women are not , their verbal styles have some linguistic properties distinguishing from everyday speech which is used by women. Schieffelin (1987) describes a similar situation among the Kaluli, a small society in Papua New Guinea. She points out that in everyday conversation, there are no clear gender differences. However, there are some distinction in other verbal genres: men tend to tell the stories about trickster and animals, women perform song- texted weeping at funerals and on other profound loss occasions Finally, women and girls engage in an interaction routine used in the linguistic socialization of children under the age of three.
Lakoff (1975) and Holmes (1992) also claim that in some languages, the male speaker’s form is longer than that of the female’s. For example, women are more likely to say “Will you help me with these groceries, please ? ” than to say“ help me” . Another example is Yana, a North American Indian language. For the word “deer” Yana women say ba while men use bana or women say yaa for the word “person” but men say Yaa-na and so is Japanese where some male forms are longer. Studies of sex differences in length of utterances in children indicate that girls are significantly superior to boys at various matched age levels in average length of utterance ( Winitz, 1959). Maccoby (1966) reported a similar result in her summary of 19 studies. A recent investigation on over 200 people made by Pennebaker and Stone (2003) shows that in written and spoken text, the mean words-per-sentence was 23.4 for men and19.1 for women compared to a standard deviation of 35 words
However empirical evidence suggests that in some certain conditions women’s sentences are shorter than men’s. Swacker (1975) reported in his research that at professional conferences, the average time used by women asking question was less than half that used by men.
According to my observation, the length of an utterance does not always depend on gender. It not only relies much on the situation, interest or linguistic ability of the speaker but on what occasion, when and why the speaker uses it as well. I find that few researches focus on the communication context where there are also other cases that men speech is shorter than that of women. In Vietnamese family, for example, a husband may have not a lot of words to talk about cooking because it is not his domain. In contrast, his wife can talk on and on about this topic as cooking is her duty every day. Therefore, we cannot apply all the above findings to every society at all.
Haas (1944/64 as cited in Fasold, 1990, p.89) states that there are some societies where the sex of the speaker determines the speech forms while there are some where the hearer’s sex determines the speech form. There are yet others where the sex of both the hearer and the speaker are important. For example, a woman might use one form when speaking to another woman and another form when speaking to a man while a man may use a third form when speaking to either man or woman. An interesting finding by Dixon (1971) is the language of the Dyirbal people in Australia . Guwal- their everyday language is used by both genders, but the language the men use to talk to their mothers- in-law or the language the women talk to their father in law is Dyalnuy. According to Bradley (1998), Yanyuwa, a native Australian language, men and women’s languages are different. Men use men’s dialect among themselves and talk to women. Women use their own dialect among themselves and talk to men. Briefly, it can be seen clearly that every society has its own characteristics attached to its language and gender differences in using a language are of great varieties.
In many societies, different genders show a preference for using certain linguistic features more than others. One of the claims is that women use more socially accepted variants of language than men. This means that women generally choose and use forms which are much closer to the standard ones more frequently than men. An interesting survey carried out by Fischer (1958 as cited in Bonvillain, 1997, p168) shows that in English women use more –ing [iŋ] and fewer -in’ [in] pronunciations .The same phenomenon was reported by Labov who investigated the use of this form among speakers on the Lower East Side of New York, by Wolfram (1969) on black speakers in Detroit, Trudgill (1974) in Norwich and Milroy (1980) in Belfast. Similarly, Holmes (1992) found that in Canada, the pronunciation of [l] in chunks such as il y a and il fait differs between women and men .Australia has the same phenomenon, some men and women pronounce the initial sound in thing as [f], but men do it more than women .
In addition to standard and non standard, some studies find differences in word choice, vocabulary and morphology used by men and women. Ekka (1972 as cited in Fasold, 1990, p91) found that there are several morphological forms used by women only when addressing other women. These forms are not used by men or women when addressing men. Hass (1944) observed that in Koasati, an American Indian language spoken in southwestern Louisiana, men pronounced an “s” at the end of verbs but women did not. In Japanese , there is also vocabulary differentiation where males and females use different terms to refer to the same entity. For instance, male speaker refers to himself as boku or ore while women use watasi or atasi.
Holmes (1988) reports that giving compliments is more frequent among the women as compared to men. She shows a study conducted in middle-class Pakeha New Zealanders, two-thirds of all compliments were given by women and they received three-quarters of them. She also notes that women complimented each other twice as much as men did. Lakoff (1975) adds to this phenomenon by giving a statement that women used tag question more often than men and showed uncertainty. In conversations involving both men and women, many researchers agree that when men talk to men, the content of suck talk focuses on competition and teasing, sports, aggression, and doing things. On the other hand, when women talk to women, the topics are the self, feeling, affiliation with others, home and family. Women also use more polite forms than men. Mills (2003) contests the view that women are more polite than men. She said that politeness “is clearly a resource which interactants use to structure their relations with others, and they are able to be self- reflexive about their own and others’ use of politeness and impoliteness” (pp245-246). I strongly agree with her in this argument. Politeness is something that comes from one’s education and experience they get from life. It isn’t gender that determines the degree of politeness in an individual.
In my opinion, these findings cannot apply to all societies as robustly as required. I suppose that one of these studies may be true in one society but may not be valid and reliable in another society. That’s the reason why the topic on language and gender is so far still a controversial topic among sociolinguists.
There are various studies having been carried out to explain why these differences occur.
1. Social status:
According to Holmes (1992) women are more status conscious than men. Therefore, they use the standard form more. Further support for this explanation is the fact that women in New York (Labov) and Norwich (Trudgill) reported that they used more standard forms than they actually did .It was speculated that women lack the social status because they do not have a social identity which is usually obtained through work. Since language defines class, the use of the standard variety becomes more important to them.
I don’t think it is true that women who are not in working environment and having no power in their community are more likely to claim higher social status by the use of standard forms. It’s their education and regional dialects that determine their ways of communicating with others in their community not because they try to show that they are in a higher social class. I also think of an implication in this situation: if women are given the opportunity to improve their social status and are not sexually discriminated, they may not force themselves to employ such a language use.
2. Guardian of society’s values
In many societies women are expected to be better behaved than men. Little boys are given more leeway than girls and girls’misbehaviours are more often corrected. Similarly, rule breaking by women is frowned upon because women are supposed to be models of correct behaviors in community. For example, in Australia school teachers especially the primary school teachers are considered to be the models for their students, so they must be selected through a strict process in which they are tested carefully by the police. This explanation may be true in some social groups but according to my observation, in the relationship of family members. The language used between family members seems to be more relaxed and informal. In this case we cannot expect the mother or the father and their children to use standard language to communicate. Instead, the mother will try to speak as similarly to the way her children speak the language as possible. This is the situation where we have to accept more vernacular forms.
3. Subordinate groups must be polite
Women have a subordinate position in society and the subordinate group is expected to be polite so as not to offend the group in power. Standard speech equates with polite speech. This, however, is an overgeneralization. Standard speech can be impolite. A related explanation to this is that standard speech is polite and the use of it can prevent offence. These explanations seem to rely on the assumption that women’s behaviour is aberrant and has to be explained .Why should women’s standard speech or correct behaviours need to be explained? Is it because women are not considered as equal as men that their language and behaviour need to be examined and judged? What if men use more standard forms? Is this case going to be discussed and explained? I myself raise these questions and think that through the perspectives of sociolinguists, any situation may be the topic to be discussed and studied in light of sociolinguistics.
4. Vernacular forms express machismo
The vernacular form has covert prestige. The vernacular form connotes masculinity and toughness. Men regard this form positively. Evidence was given by a study in which subjects listen to recordings of men speaking and then say who they think would be more likely to win a street fight. The subjects believed that the men who used more vernacular in conversation were voted ‘most likely to win a street fight’. Another study showed that Norwich men tended to claim they used more vernacular forms than they actually did. Conversely, it is claimed that standard forms is associated with femininity and so this is why women use them.
With regard to theoretical aspects of language and gender, studies on language and gender have undergone three different phrases:
1. Deficit theory
2. Difference theory
3. Social Constructivist approach
The details of each theory are as follows.
The deficit theory
Sociolinguists who support this theory said that there are differences in the way men and women speak and the reason for these differences is that men are superior to women or women are considered to be subordinate to men in society . Lakoff (1975) is among the sociolinguists that support this theory. He mentions that men’s speech was stronger, more prestigious, and more desirable. Female speech was seen as a sign of subordination that should be rejected .The work of Lakoff has been extremely influential in the studies that look at women’s speech from a position of disadvantages. Lakoff (1975) argues that women’s speech reflects their subordinate status in society .The author divides women’s language into three categories:
1. It lacks the resources that allow women to speak strongly;
2. It encourages women to talk about trivial subjects;
3. It requires women to speak tentatively.
Examination Thesis, 5 Pages
Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 31 Pages
Essay, 9 Pages
Excerpt, 17 Pages
Literature Review, 11 Pages
Literature Review, 6 Pages
Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 20 Pages
GRIN Publishing, located in Munich, Germany, has specialized since its foundation in 1998 in the publication of academic ebooks and books. The publishing website GRIN.com offer students, graduates and university professors the ideal platform for the presentation of scientific papers, such as research projects, theses, dissertations, and academic essays to a wide audience.
Free Publication of your term paper, essay, interpretation, bachelor's thesis, master's thesis, dissertation or textbook - upload now!