Misunderstandings: Gender Role

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Thus far this semester, we have learned of how language functions as a whole on society, but I’ll be doing something a little different. Let me start off with a question. Who here has gotten into a fight with their significant other or just a friend of the opposite sex over a misunderstanding, misinterpretation, or feel that they are just speaking another language and you don’t understand them?

This so-called phenomenon is best described by the metaphor of ‘men are from mars and women are from venus’ and that’s why we speak different languages. We don’t really come from different planets, but we are very different in our communication styles. Our expression of language is affected by our sex and gender. This is epitomized by the ever so popular cliché of, “I don’t understand women/men.” And this cliché was verified by your answers to the question I just posed.

While the most obvious function of language is to communicate information, language also contributes to at least two other equally important, but less often recognized, functions: (1) to establish and maintain social relationships, and (2) to express and create the social identity of the speaker. In my paper I will attempt to verify how language is affected by sex and gender. My primary focus will be on Deborah Tannen’s work on understanding women and men in conversation.

Tannen discusses many disparities in language caused by gender such as men often seeking straightforward solutions to problems and useful advice whereas women tend to try and establish intimacy by discussing problems and showing concern and empathy in order to reinforce relationships. Female subculture uses language to build equal relationships, while male subculture uses language to build hierarchical relationships.

If conforming to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis that language shapes the way we see the world, language allows people to pass on ideas influencing the younger generation. The gender identity that...
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