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Language and Gender
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Language and Gender

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  1. Language and Gender Dominance Theory Language serves male needs and interests and reflects male thinking

  2. The Theory • Everything in the English language is presumed to be male unless otherwise stated • The generic pronoun is male • Women’s language is ‘borrowed’ • There are lexical gaps in the language

  3. The Theory • The female is perceived as inferior • In mixed-sex conversations men take control • Women support social interactions

  4. Zimmerman and WestCalifornia, 1975 • White, middle class, under 35 sample group • 31 conversations, 11 mixed gender • Men interrupted 46 times in mixed gender conversations • Concluded that men dominate or attempt to dominate in mixed gender situations

  5. Fishman1980s • Conversation in mixed gender groups often breaks down because of men • Men take longer turns • Women ask more questions

  6. Dale Spender1978 ‘The Facts of Life: Sex Differentiated Knowledge in the English Classroom and the School’ Spender observed a number of English lessons in London comprehensive schools.

  7. Hypothesis • Boys and girls are given a different knowledge about themselves, school and their ability to be successful through interaction in the classroom • The male is viewed as the norm

  8. Findings • Girls were ignored for longer periods of time than the boys • Boys were not corrected when they shouted out, moved from their seats or displayed silly behaviour • Boys dominated classroom talk • Boys spoke ‘rough’ and girls spoke ‘soft’

  9. Findings • Girls were addressed collectively, boys by their individual names • Girls were expected to be better and more willing readers • Girls were expected to enjoy writing and write more than the boys • Girls took more care over the presentation of their work (teachers marked untidy work from a girl more severely than that of a boy)

  10. Findings • Teachers gave higher grades for tidy work if they thought it was done by a girl • The children thought more highly of writing by a man than a woman

  11. Conclusions • The male was viewed as ‘the norm’, the more powerful figure and was, therefore, allowed to dominate • The girls allowed this to take place because they followed the rules of this power system • Teachers reinforced this view through their behaviour