Gender and Language variations: Differences between Male – Female linguistic behaviours in terms of Dominance, Power and Status.
In Sociolinguistics, among major issues, Close affinity between Language and Gender has attracted considerable attention in the recent years. According to folk – linguistics beliefs it seems an easy enterprise to claim that men and women differ in their linguistic behaviours or why can’t women be like men? In this regard men are thought to be more assertive and dominant speakers, while women are assigned a subordinate role to play in the process of conversation. In the context essay will illustrate whether men and women talk differently, and in what ways these two groups differ, for which it will present Lakoff’s ‘dominance’ approach towards the differences between assumed gender roles of men and women. Important to note, here, is the difference of perspectives both men and women have in conversation. ‘If women speak and hear a language of connection and intimacy,’ a clash of conversation styles can occur, when confronted with men’s language concerned with status and independence. (Tannen 1990)
The essay will focus on the use of linguistic functions by both men and women in everyday conversational context. It presents two approaches, ‘dominance’ and ‘difference’, that will attempt to define the sex differences in terms of communicative competence.
1. Women Versus Men Speech behaviours.
In late twentieth Century Feminist movement paved a way for the sociolinguists to provide the mechanism for the scientific investigation of language variation on the basis of socio-economic and gender factors. These studies, with respect to different sociolinguistic aspects, including gender, investigated phonological variables of male and female differences to determine the stratification of these variables and to find a support for a mechanism of synchronic change. The differential use of these variables was interpreted as constituting a gender pattern. Women were found closer to received pronunciation, a prestige norm, than men, support is provided by the studies by Martin (1954), the Norwich studies by Trudgill (1972, 1978, 1998), and Fasold (1990). As Martin observes:
Women, it seems, are considerably more disposed than men to up grade themselves into the middle-class and less likely to allocate themselves to the working-class - a finding which confirms the common observation that status consciousness is more pronounced among women. (Martin 1954:58) These studies, on the gender and variable language use, are contrasted with interpretive (qualitative) approaches, as Lakoff (1972, 1973, 1975) has claimed that the differential use of language needed to be explained in large part on the basis of women's subordinate social status and the resulting social insecurity. Lakoff observed that women's use of colour terms (mauve, ecru, 1
lavender), of adjectives (divine, adorable), their frequent use of tag-questions (John is here, isn't he?) and weak expletives (Oh fudge I've put the peanut butter in the fridge again!) differed radically from male use. Taking her cue from Bernstein's (1972) theory of language codes she claimed that women's linguistic behaviour is deficient when contrasted with male speech behaviour. As one explanation for this deficiency she pointed to the differences in the socialization of men and women.
2. Differences between Women’s and Men’s Language.
It is now understood that men and women differ in terms of their communicative behaviours (Coates 1989). In the explanation of these differences, Montgomery (1995) warns that there is a sense of variation in speech differences between men and women. He points out that ‘speech differences are not clear cut’ and a set of universal differences do not exist (P. 166). Gender, as a ‘dimension of difference’ between people should always be thought of in relation to other dimensions of difference, such as those of age, class and...
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