Language and gender part two
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Language and Gender: Part Two. Unlike sex, gender is a cultural construction, and part of this construction seems to be that women everywhere and their domestic sphere of influence are accorded inferior valuation as opposed to men and their world of public action (Duranti, 1986: 305).

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Language and Gender: Part Two

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Language and Gender: Part Two

Unlike sex, gender is a cultural construction, and part of this construction seems to be that women everywhere and their domestic sphere of influence are accorded inferior valuation as opposed to men and their world of public action (Duranti, 1986: 305).

Gender Styles: English

  • Alternatives: pronunciation, word selection, grammatical construction.

  • Language styles: reflection of gender differences

  • “You’re driving rather fast, aren’t you?

    “Well, I guess it’s approximately four feet high.”


  • Socialization

  • Cultural values

  • Gender roles and cultural values

  • Social norms: construct and reinforce gender attitudes

Gender Roles Reflected in Language Styles

  • Pronunciation: tone, intonation, volume

  • Grammatical forms

  • Choices of vocabulary

Sociolinguists look at:

  • Conversational interactions ( styles of interactions)

  • Tendencies in language use: Phonological variations:

    --Example: New England study, “-ing”; the progressive suffix on verbs-

Fischer’s study(1958)

  • prefer –ingprefer –in

  • Boys57

  • Girls102

  • Intonation: rhythm, volume, pitch

    • Different intonation

    • Women: Wide range of pitches, rapid shift in volume and velocity (more emotional)

    • Men: Atonal (control, restrain)

    • Cultural interpretation: cultural valued or negatively evaluated behaviors

    Grammatical Variants: Standard versus non-standard grammar

    • Cheshire (1982) in Reading, England

    • Present tense –s with non-singular subjects:“We goes shopping on Saturdays.”

    • Has with first-and second-person subjects:“We has a little fire keeps us warm.”

    Tag Questions

    • Tag questions are sentences in which the speaker makes a declarative statement and add on a tag in the form of a question about the assertion

    • Louise and Lucille didn’t leave together last night, did they?

    • Bill took Luke to the park last night, didn’t he?


    • --are reluctant to make direct assertions

    • --thus avoiding coming into conflict with the addressee

    • --construed as polite

    • --uncertainty lack of definite opinion

    Choice of Vocabulary

    • Different social and cultural domains:

      --assumption of expertise


    Gender Bias in English

    • Nouns, adjectives, and verbs

    • English covertly and overtly degrades females

    • normative roles and secondary roles

    • Creating a context for interaction of genders

      ---term opposite sex

      ---covert and overt inequality

    The child caught the ball.The ball was caught by the child.

    Conversational Styles

    • Assumptions about conversational domination

    • McConnell-Ginet (1988)

      ---Men: 12 min

      --Women: 3.17

    • Edelky (1981)

      --25 to 400% longer

    Cross-cultural analysis

    • Ideology of gender enacted in language:

    • Example: English

    • Gender specific ways of comm…

    • Universality of gender asymmetry

    • Highly valued speech and men

    • Three cross-cultural examples: Malagasy, Javanese, Kuna

    Malagasy (Madagascar)

    • Speech norms: indirectness in speech

    • Articulated in public: Kabary ceremony

    • Through use of proverbs, allusions and innuendo

    • Kabary speech and male activities

    Women and Exclusion

    • Encourage to violate norms

    • Women’s style of speech; secondary

    • Indirect speech = public = male = prestige

    • Direct speech= domestic = female = secondary

    Javanese Language

    • Importance of politeness for both sexes

    • Status of addressee and speaker reflected in speech

    • Highly stratified

    • Weak distinctions along gender lines

    • Strong ideology of gender equality

    • Differences of speech in public and private

    Private and Public Spheres (Javanese)


    • Women: mas or “older brother”

    • Men: dkik or “younger sibling”

    • Difference in seniority


    • Women: Less skillful

    • Men: Greater art of polite speech

    Kuna (Panama)

    • Egalitarian society

    • economic, political. Labor

    • Complementary separate but equal

    • Private and public contexts: speech styles

    • Public: --equally accessible to both genders

      --Generally the domain of men

    • Public: ---Exclusive for women

    What do these examples tell us about the asymmetry in the cultural evaluation of the sexes?

    • Malagasy and Kuna: Egalitarian

    • Javanese stratified

    • Malagasy and Javanese: marked linguistic behavior

    • Kuna: no great differences

    Languages with “Gender-Preference” Patterns

    • Gender exclusive: alternatives appropriate to their gender

    • Gender preference: language style a social or cultural choice

    • Japan: class, seniority, gender

    • Men: less polite and more assertive

    • Women: more polite and less assertive

    Choice of words depending on the context

    • Less polite forms More polite forms

    • Stomach hara onaka

    • Water mizu ohiya

    • Delicious umai oisii

    • Eat kuu taberu


    • Women’s domestic sphere -- less value

    • Cultures evaluate gender styles in a similar way

    • Example: Malagasy, Javanese and Kuna Languages

    • Ways of evaluating lang and gender relationship

      ----Gender exclusive

      ---- and gender-preference patterns

    Discussion Question

    • In what ways are the relationship between language and gender cross-culturally similar or different to the relationship between language and race?

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