Gender and Language

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Table of contents:
I. II. Introduction Language, Identity and Gender
1. 2. 3. Gender and the effect of stereotyping Development of a different language Gender variation in speech 3.1 3.2 3.3 Women‟s language Men‟s language (C)overt prestige – a case study

S. 3 S. 4
S. 4 S. 5 S. 5
S. 6 S. 8 S. 9


(Mis)communication between men and women

S. 10

III. Conclusion IV. Bibliography

S. 13 S. 14


I. Introduction
Language is undoubtedly the most important method of communication and can be described as a system of finite arbitrary symbols combined according to rules of grammar for the purpose of communication. Individual languages use sounds, gestures and other symbols to represent objects, concepts, emotions, ideas and thoughts.1

The branch of sociolinguistics, which can be seen as a mixture of linguistics and sociology, deals with the relationship between one‟s identity and one‟s language usage, or, more precisely, how these two features of the human being influence each other. In the last few years there was much research done in this field and many articles has been published. Of particular interest was the relationship between gender and language usage, which offers a great deal of secondary literature, including many case studies. Most of the researchers here are concerned with the question if women and men talk differently and, in case they do, how this is reflected in their speech. To answer these questions is the purpose of this paper, which is structured in the following way: First of all it is necessary to define what gender is in opposition to sex and which role stereotyping plays in this discussion. Afterwards it is explained why men and women developed a different language, with regard to the social background. The third chapter deals with gender variation in speech, including typical features of the so called women‟s language in comparison to men‟s language, and a case study about how men and women try to gain prestige through their language. The topic of the fourth chapter is the communication between men and women, which often seems to be pretty difficult. Although it is not repeated in every chapter, one must never forget what a huge impact the above mentioned stereotyping has on the research that is presented. The last chapter can be seen as a conclusion, which briefly summarizes the main aspects and ideas of this paper and thus answers the question whether men and women talk differently and why.



II. Language, Gender and Identity
1. Gender and the effect of stereotyping
As Simone de Beauvoir put it, „one is not born a woman, but rather becomes one. “2 This famous quotation refers to the fact, that gender, in opposition to sex, is a social construction. Indeed, the terms „sex‟ and „gender‟ are often misunderstood as meaning the same thing, which is a wrong interpretation. The following short overview shows the most obvious and important differences between sex and gender:

Sex Biological construction Fixed category → not much discussion about it Given by nature Male & female → originally: unchangeable features

Gender Social construction Developed category → a lot of research in this field Achieved through actions etc. Masculine & feminine → learnable characteristics

Despite of all these differences, sex and gender are linked together concerning certain expectations, which members of our society must fulfill: Women (relating to sex) are supposed to be feminine (in terms of gender) and men are supposed to be masculine. So gender in the current sense is understood as “an indication of the masculine or feminine behavior of men and women”.3 This idea of femininity and masculinity also plays an important role in Ervin Goffman‟s theory about the „class of sex‟: Insofar as the individual builds up a sense of who and what he is by referring to his sex class and judging himself in terms of the ideals of masculinity (or...
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