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Talking Sex: Culture, gender and language use. What is culture?. The key definitional features are that: culture concerns the group or the collectivity culture is learned behaviour /values/knowledge/perceptions culture is knowledge that transcends the individual

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Talking Sex: Culture, gender and language use


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    1. Talking Sex:Culture, gender and language use

    2. What is culture? • The key definitional features are that: • culture concerns the group or the collectivity • culture is learned behaviour/values/knowledge/perceptions • culture is knowledge that transcends the individual • culture is the way of life of a people/group • culture is a process and product of history (i.e. it changes with time) • culture is ordered and organized in certain ways.

    3. Cultural knowledge • Acquired and learned through complex processes of primary and secondary socialization. Through explicit instruction, emulation, osmosis • What becomes known is often subconscious and regarded as ‘normal’ and ‘natural’ (differences ‘abnormal’ and unnatural) • Covers gamut of human behaviour: eating, moving, posture, gestures (gaze, hands, etc.), conversing, flirting, being sociable, rearing children, family responsibilities, impression management, attractiveness, belief in the supernatural (religion), beliefs about gender roles. • Expectations, attitudes, fears, joy, excitement, humour and much more - are all culturally learned • Groups share symbols: most obvious is language • Cultural knowledge differs according to the group

    4. Cultural differences • As humans we search for patterns. We have an in-built capacity to identify them and learn from them. • We then go through processes of adaptation • ‘cultural learning’: based on previous experiences, including stereotyping

    5. Is it culturally acceptable … • … in polite company, to eat holding only a fork? • To drink from a bottle of beer at the table? • To smack one’s 3 yr old child? • To stand in a queue or form a queue at the bus stop? • To walk across a pedestrian crossing when the light shows ‘DON’T WALK’?

    6. Multi-culturality • We are all multi-cultural in that we move between different cultural groups (sub-cultures) in our everyday life

    7. Underlying cultural rationales • Clifford Geertz: Each cultural world operates according to its own internal dynamic, laws written and unwritten (‘cultural rationale’) • There are, however, common threads running through all forms of cultural behaviour (how ck is transmitted, how digressions are sanctioned, etc.) • World of communication: three parts: words and discourse, material things, behaviour • By studying these 3 parts we may learn about a vast, unexplored region of human behaviour

    8. Differences? • Men and women and biologically different, and their social roles are clearly separated in many obvious respects, so what about their language use? • This question has generated a great deal of research and debate, and the research results are far from consensual. • Are some languages more ‘sexist’ than others? Does this reflect (and confirm and continue) sexist attitudes in society?

    9. The culture of sexism

    10. Ladybirdland • Peter helps his friend with some carpentry while Jane saddles up for a horse ride. Peter waters the garden while Jane warns him, maternally: "Don't get wet and don't let the water get on the cat. She does not like it." Jane then bathes her dolls. • What are your experiences in terms of expectations regarding gender roles?

    11. English: common words: mankind, chairman, fireman, manhole, etc • everyday expressions: ‘man in the street’, ‘one man, one vote’ • woman taking husband’s name at marriage • Danish: ‘franskmand’, ‘nordmand’, pronoun ‘man’ (one)

    12. Gender: social construct • Gender (not sex) is socially accomplished through interaction, dress, appearance, behaviour in general and, perhaps, in the way we speak and interact • Is there a ‘male’ and ‘female’ way of interacting through language?

    13. Women live longer than men • Earn less in Western societies, occupy fewer ‘leader’ roles in the job market • Generally fulfill different social roles • Socialised somewhat differently (expectations re. behaviour, values, etc.) • Biological differences: size, testosterone, oestrogen, and concomitant behavioural differences (aggression) • Numerous obersvers claim men and women talk in different ways

    14. Some differences .. • Phonological: Amerindian language GrosVentre there are phonological differences between men’s and women’s speech • Tone: Margaret Thatcher changed her speaking style to sound ‘more like a man’, when became PM • Vocabulary: Lakoff claims that women use colour terms and adjectives that men typically do not

    15. More (apparent) differences .. • E.g. lovely, adorable, mate, charming, sweet (others?) .. • Taboo words: some claims that men swear more frequently than women • Conversational style: Research has claimed that men interrupt more often than women (although this has also been disputed by others) • Gossip: Preisler examined women’s speech and claimed greater amount of ‘small-talk’ or ‘gossip’ amongst women on factory floor • Your observations?

    16. Talking gender • Deborah Tannen: You Just Don’t Understand: different expectations regarding talking between sexes • John Gray: Mars and Venus • Deborah Cameron: The myth of Mars and Venus • Summarise some of DB’s main points • Discuss your views (in 3s) on what Cameron says

    17. Political correctness • Greater awareness of language as vehicle of sexism • Sexism: apparent in language use: he-she-it, Professional titles: often show sex bias: Danish: barnepige (barnedreng?), smorrebrødsjomfru • Nationality groups (Danish): cf. Norwegian, French • English: tendency not to mark some professions for gender: fireman (fire fighter), actor (actress?), policeman (police officer)