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Language and Gender

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  1. Language and Gender

  2. Congruence of two areas: Sociolinguistics and Gender Studies • Sociolinguistics: linkage of linguistic variables to social factors. • Gender studies: the social phenomenon of gender. • Results in the study of the linkage of linguistic variables and socially defined gender roles.

  3. Sex versus Gender • Sex Differences: biologically based • Gender Differences: socially constructed • Sociobiology: • The study of genetically-based behavior in humans. • Could be applied to ethnic groups: x is inferior because of "unfortunate" gene distribution. • Sociobiology might argue that women have higher voices because their vocal cords are shorter. • This does not explain why French women's voices are so high. • Why high pitch may be employed by men in certain circumstances. E.g. West African griots. • Most Scholars consider differences in behavior between men and women to be largely socially constructed. • Some gender distinctions may build on sex differences. • No comparable distinction for the basis of race differences.

  4. What has happened is that behavior by gender has been socialized. • Consequently one must look to social factors for an explanation. • The social elaboration of gender • Sex differences v Gender differences • Need to examine the dimension of dominance/subordinance v equal

  5. Lexicon: lexical Asymetries • Mistress v master postman v lettercarrier (postperson) • Spinster v bachelor chairman v chairperson, dept head, chair • Witch v warlock stewardess v flight attendant • governess v governor • Lady v lord • Cow v bull • Secretary v secret-ary • s/he v cameroon pidgin i- • the lexical bias reflects a social bias in the culture • What happens when you try to correct lexical bias? • Once alternatives have been offered, each speaker is faced with a choice of which form to use.

  6. Sociolinguistic Variables • Differences can be: • Morphological: Haas. Gender differentials among the Koasati. • Whole languages: Carrib v Aarwak • Example: Interruptions and overlap (Zimmerman and West 1975).

  7. Interruptions and overlap Zimmerman and West (1975)

  8. Crossing the Sex barrier: Asymmetries • What happens when women adopt a masculine form • What happens when men adopt a feminine form? • Crossing the race barrier • What happens when blacks talk like whites • What happens when whites talk like blacks • Why is it more of a stigma for men to use female speech than the other way around? • downward mobility?

  9. What do men and women talk about • Komarovsky (1962 describes the extensive sex segregation in the lives of blue-collar couples in America, a segregation that also affects patterns of talk. In her study, each sex felt that it had little to say to the other, and even in social situations involving couples, the sexes split up for conversation. The women talked to other women about family and interpersonal matters; the men talked to male friends about cars, sports, work, motorcycles, carpentry, and local politics. The men ridiculed female conversation (... a derogation the women were aware of, but did not apparently reciprocate, although they did complain about a lack of communication in their marriages. Thorne and Henley, p 21

  10. Stages of Awareness ofUnderprivileged Groups in the minds of Overprivileged Groups • Stage 1: Invisibility: Group does not exist. • Piaget's work on intellectual growth (cf. Gilligan • Stage 2: Marginality: Group Exists, but not seen as significant • Women are classified by class according to husband's occupation. • Stage 3: Problematic: Group exists and is seen as problematic because it does not conform to the views and expectations of the majority. • Working Class Women hyper correct. • Stage 4: Resolution

  11. Hypercorrection • Hypercorrection is defined by authors as "whereby in formal styles their [the users'] scores on certain variables are nearer to the prestige standard than the scores of the highest status group indicating conscious overcompensation". This is not to be confused with the term "hypercorrection" as used in language acquisition and elsewhere where a rule is applied to forms it shouldn't. Percentage of multiple negation, Tugdgill 1978: Detroit

  12. Trudgill’sExplanations of deviance • #1. Conservatism: women stick to older patterns than men. • #2 Status sensitivity: women are more sensitive to social connotations of speech. • #3. Covert prestige: Nonstandard speech is associated with the working class which has connotations of masculinity.

  13. #1. Conservatism: women stick to older patterns than men. • Which is the conservative form? • Not much agreement by linguistics as to which form is conservative: both forms have been around for a long time. • Women as innovators • There is considerable counter evidence to suggest that women are often in the vanguard in linguistic change. • Women are not always conservative. • While true in middle class women, it is not true with working class

  14. #2. Status sensitivity:women are more sensitive to social connotations of speech. • Trugdill speculates that women may be more status conscious than men because: • society sets more standards for women and • Women’s typical activities do not confer status itself. • this insecurity offers a parallel with the insecurity of the lower middle class who also hypercorrect. • But if so, why does society set different standards for women?

  15. #3. Covert prestige • Nonstandard speech is associated with the working class which has connotations of masculinity. • But why should the working class be associated with masculinity?

  16. Limitations in the traditional model; Occupation as an indicator of Social Class. • Both Trugdill and Labov use a standard sociological model which place a heavy emphasis on occupation as an indicator of social class. • But this model on which sex-difference findings depend - itself uses sex differentiated criteria. Men are rated on their own occupations, but women are classed with the men on whom they are assumed to be dependent. • ... it can hardly be denied that there is a problem for sociolinguistics in using the traditional model which takes the family as the primary unit of social stratification at a time when our traditional concept of the family (...) is breaking down. • [What would an alternative look like?]

  17. . Network Analysis: Milroy • Networks are measured by: • Density: number of associations • Multiplexity: kinds of associations (more types ascribed to men than women • Network analysis allows one to examine the nature of the individual as opposed to the membership of the individual in a social role. A praxis oriented approach. • Milroy argues that sex differences [in language use] can be explained by the controlling influence of the network: • men's tighter-knit networks maintain vernacular norms, where as women’s relatively looser-nit networks have less capacity to enforce linguistic norms.

  18. Networks Sparse Dense

  19. Market forces • Some evidence to suggest that different economic forces (secretaries v unskilled labor may be of relevance. • That is, individuals take an active role in deciding how to speak. • Note, this focuses on praxis. The individual’s point of view.

  20. Island v mainland residents • Both economically and linguistically, island residents contrast with Black mainland residents. • Men worked as construction workers • Women worked as domestic workers (homes & motels), sales clerks, & 1 mail carrier. Some island women became teachers but moved off the island to do so.

  21. Groups • ISLAND V MAINLAND RESIDENTS • Both economically and linguistically, island residents contrast with Black mainland residents. 57 • MAINLAND: Groups • small group of educated elite professionals (teachers, preachers, school board members, political figures, business men) • larger group of poorer, less educated, construction workers and domestic laborers. • (this group had most creolized speech) • For mainland residents, women have a higher percentage of creolized speech than men. • ISLAND • land holders, several generations on island, originally communual rice farmers, now construction workers and domestic laborers. • Overall, speech is less creolized than mainland poor and less standard than mainland elite. All but one islander adult could read and write.

  22. Island Groups • Old adults: over 65 who stayed mainly on the island. • For island residents, men and women in the oldest age group use approximately the same percentage of creolized speech. • Middle age adults: between 30 & 50 who commuted to daily mainland jobs • Men work as construction workers • Women work as domestic workers (homes & motels), sales clerks, & 1 mail carrier. Some island women became teachers but moved off the island to do so. • Young and middle island women use the least. • Young adults: between 15 and 25 (typically in school, unmarried, and socially interactive as a group. 59 • Young island men use the most.

  23. INDICATORS OF CREOLISMS CP=Cameroon Pidgin English: A Creole spoken in Cameroon. Krio is spoken in Sierra Leone

  24. Distribution of Creolisms

  25. ANALYSIS • Language use patterns within the black speech community suggest that where educational and occupational opportunities are limited, women will show more "conservative" linguistic behavior than men in their group. • When these opportunities begin to expand,they do so along sex-segregated lines. • White collar jobs in sales, nursing and elementary school teaching are opening up primarily for women, in part because of the low salaries associated with such jobs. • Somewhat paradoxically, such jobs are also ones that require knowledge and use of standard English, even heavy investment in higher education. • Families often make great sacrifices to send their daughters to college, recognizing the importance of their earning power to the family; 63 • Blue collar jobs are largely available to men. They pay more, but require little formal education. • [Thus] island men have far less incentive to change their linguistic patterns or their traditional educational goals in a similar way. • What seems clear is that future studies of sex-differentiated language can no longer rely on traditional sociological models of social class if their results are to have any validity.

  26. Conclusion • Language use patterns within the Black speech community [in South Carolina] suggest that, where educational and occupational opportunities are limited, women will show more conservative linguistic behavior than men in the group. Nichols 1983

  27. CONCLUSIONS • Linguists have long understood that the interaction of language and social life has important consequences for linguistic behavior (Ferguson 1959; Hymes 1967, 1973). Hymes observes that inequality among speakers arise because some speakers participate in social situations not available to other speakers. If men and women have differentiated social roles within society, we must expect language use to reflect that fact. If their life experiences are sharply different, their speech will be different. However, the way and the extent to which they differ can be expected to vary from social group to social group. In some speech communities, men or sub-groups of men may exhibit more conservative linguistic behavior than women; in others, the reverse may be true. The linguistic choices made by both men and women are always constrained by the options available to them, and these options are available always and only in the context of the group which shares rules for the use and the interpretation of language. To speak fo "women's language" outside that context is linguistically naive. Nichols 1983:66

  28. The End