Gender and Language

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Lexical Analysis of Gender and Language Theories

Muna Mohammed Abbas
College of Engineering/ Babylon University

1. Introduction
The major thing that distinguishes human beings from animals is basically our way to communicate with each other by using language. We have words for specific things, emotions, expressions and it appears as though we have words for everything when thinking about it. In each language; words are constructed in a certain way. When working with language, it is quite possible to determine whether a word belongs to one stem or another just by looking at it even if the person has no clue of the word’s meaning which is quite fascinating. The question, Do men and women use language differently? played a central part in the emergence of feminist socio linguistics more than two decades ago, and it casts a long shadow. This paper focuses on the literature that has contributed to the understanding of the major research questions underlying two major strands, language and gender, concentrating on the development of the literature from the deficit and dominance models to the social constructivist era of post-modernism in order to provide a context for recent developments in language and gender theories.

2. Definitions of Sex Versus Gender
In defining gender, the concept of sex, male and female with their accompanying nations of masculinity and femininity are also included within this definition. Eckert and McConnell – Cinet (2003) argue that sex is a biological categorization based primarily on productive potential, whereas gender is the social elaboration of biological sex. In their view, the definition of males and females, people’s understanding of themselves and others as male and female is ultimately social. They also show that gender is a learned behaviour which is both taught and enforced, and leading to the conclusion that gender is collaborative in the sense that it connects individuals to the social order. By this, gender is not something we have but that we do. The idea of doing gender is explained by Coates (1998) who says that doing/performing gender is presenting oneself as a “gendered being”.

3. History of Language and Gender Studies
Through time, society has gone through great changes which have influenced our languages. New vocabularies have been added to our languages and old-fashioned words have been replaced. Each language has its characteristics and reflects society to a great extent. Many studies have been carried out through the years. During the 1970’s, vast sociolinguistic investigations were made and one focused mainly on syntactic, phonological and morphological variations. At first, gender was regarded as a sociolinguistic variable, just like social class, age, ethnicity and social status. It was not until the midst 70’s when Robin Lakoff’s essay Language and Woman’s Place was released, science about gender and language was established (Lakoff, 1975). Even so, studies about gender and language were regarded as pure feministic research at the beginning. Why is that? One researcher named Deborah Cameron has divided science in gender and language into three different categories: deficit, dominance and difference. She claims that all research in the referring area can be placed in one of three hypotheses. The hypotheses stand for different convictions regarding female’s use of language and the reasons for possible differences between male’s and female’s way of expressing themselves. Women’s submissive role in society is being reflected in language according to those who believe this to be the truth. When working with language one sometimes hears the expressions “female language” and “male language”. Are females speaking in a special way in comparison with males or do the expressions, female and male language, refer to something else? Since society changes the use of language must certainly change too due to the fact that language...
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