Acquisition of Genderlects

Topics: Sociology, Linguistics, Heteronormativity Pages: 4 (1279 words) Published: February 25, 2014

Language Acquisition in Single Parent Household


Language has always been quite resourceful tool for communication within our society. Language allows us to communicate ideas and to formulate strategies on how we perceive life. Interestingly enough, this process happens quite early in our lives, which is called the “Critical age.” In An Introduction to Language Victoria Fromkin states “The critical age hypothesis assumes that language is biologically based and states that the ability to learn a native language develops within a fixed period from birth to childhood.” Language acquisition happens as soon as children begin to notice symbolic and verbal language. This process both directly and indirectly informs behavior. If we look specifically at youth within single parent African-American households, we see gender-based genderlects in language acquisition playing a very important role as it relates to establishing identity. Olga Yokoyama says “most gender linguistic distinctions are learned not biological,”(58) parents or guardians are usually the main source of linguistic acquisition. The single mother has ultimate proprietorship over the understandings of gender within the home, possibly based off her own experiences, but more likely off societal stereotypes. Given this power, their forced social constructs of gender by genderlects acquisition have multilevel effects on the youth, including perpetuating negative stereotypes or even creating confusion around identity. A single mother has experienced her own set of experiences and cultural norms that would have influenced her outlook on her own identity as a woman, as well as the identities of men. Berko Gleason and Esther Greif state, “Fathers are in general more direct speech whereas mothers are more polite.”(147) Without a father present single mothers feel the need to explore both positive and...

References: Fromkin, Victoria A., Robert Rodman, & Nina Hyams 2007. An introduction to Language. 8th ed. Boston. Thomson Wadsworth
Gleason, Jean Berko, & Esther Blank Grief. 1983. Mans Speech to young children. In B. Thorne, C. Kramarae, & N. Hanley (eds.) Language, Gendered and Society.
Lakoff, Robin. 1973. Language and Womens Place. Language in Society
Yokoyama, Olga T. 1999b “Russian genderlects and referential expressions” Language in Society
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