Text and Discourse - Gender and Speech

Term Paper, 2004

10 Pages, Grade: 2



1. Introduction

2. Field of Work and General Perspective

3. Historical Background

4. Women and Their Words

5. The different use of Grammar and Intonation

6. Social Background

7. Man made Differences

8. Perspectives

9. Bibliography

1. Introduction

George Orwell wrote in his essay “Politics and the English language” in the year 1946: “Let meaning choose the word and not the other way around”.

Every day people participate in conversations. There are conversations between men, between women and between men and women. If we consider that people we look at have a difference in gender, social class, age, race, nationality, profession and religion, it will be easy to see the differences. They are obviously visible. But I will restrict this work. I look at people of the same language, which means people within the same cultural background, more like a homogenous society or let’s call it even tighter a community. In this case I could assume that there are no communicational problems. Even if there are some differences in education, a person who talks to another person can expect that he or she will be understood. Because of the cultural knowledge a person brings into a conversation. Therefore it will not be a problem to understand each other. To summarize such a situation I will phrase this as a society with the same language.

2. Field of Work and General Perspective

We know that we have everyday in plenty of different conversational topics, difficulties to understand each other, sometimes we do not understand each other at all, because we do not understand the meaning, sometimes we can assume that the patient has enough knowledge to follow our thought and will therefore understand what we want to tell him or her. Sometimes we use different perspective to describe a situation. In such cases we do not understand each other. It needs time to describe the standpoint or the perspective from where the speaker comes. This happens between men and women more often than between men and men or women and women. No matter which social class, sometimes no matter which age or which is less often no matter which culture. The same sex understands each other much easier. What could be the reason not to understand each other, if we look at the sex of human beings? There are questions coming up. Do we have differentials between men and women in speech? Do women have a differential lexical knowledge than men? Can we find these conversational problems in the difference of semantic?

There are men who say that it is difficult to understand women, because they think in a different way. And there is the same amount that says that it is difficult to understand men, but with the misunderstanding from men to women it includes already this idea. The amount of people who think there are differences in conversations between men and women are enough to take a deeper look into the field of speech and gender. However, this would mean that women think different than men. And so far I would agree and say it is true. But in daily conversations I would not want that a female person does not understand me on a linguistically perspective.

To look at this problem more specific I will restrict the field mostly to three areas. The most focus will be on lexical, habitual and social differences in the conversation of gender. I will look, if women and men have a different way of using their lexical knowledge, which does not imply that there is a difference in the amount of lexical knowledge, but I will take a brief look in the perspective of the beginning of research, where people maybe thought different about the female lexical knowledge. Therefore it will be necessary to look in the work of Otto Jespersen.

The next will be to look if there are different words for the same object or activities used by males or females. I suppose there are lots of words, which used gender wise. Furthermore I will try to explain the differences by the habitual use of each personals speech, which means that women and men were taught to talk in a specific way. For example women would not use several words in certain contexts.

3. Historical Background

To begin with it will be useful to know a little bit about the historical background. There is a long history about speech and gender. The beginning of the studying started already in the 17th and 18th century. Scholars and missioners started to spread their civilization all over the colonies and within their “teaching” they studied the life of what they called uncivilized people. The peak of research was in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the female movement in the U.S.A. started. The Vietnam War and the protest against the treatment against black and other ethnic minorities made it possible that the interest of women became also a major focus in a political and psychological way. The difference between men and women and their usage of speech was a reason to take a deeper look how men and women speak all over the world. The interest was going beyond the western civilization. Africa and Asia were also part of the research, as much as America and Europe.

4. Women and Their Words

The most known name when it comes to gender and their differences is the Danish linguist Otto Jespersen. His famous work “Its Nature, Development, and Origin” was published in 1922. Jespersen had spend one chapter on women and their differences within speech. He talks about tribes, which use a totally different speech or at least a distinct dialect between men and women. He quotes from the book “Historie naturelle et morale des Iles Antilles” written by Rochefort in 1665. Rochefort writes:


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Text and Discourse - Gender and Speech
University of Constance
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Text, Discourse, Gender, Speech
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Marco Kaiser (Author), 2004, Text and Discourse - Gender and Speech, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/78896


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