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Why ESL teachers should study about Gender & Language

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  1. Why ESL teachers should study about Gender & Language 1. “…we need to be aware of findings concerning the differences between men’s and women’s speech so that we will not teach inappropriate forms to our students.” 2. “…research on speech patterns of men and women who are native speakers of American English constitutes an important source of information regarding rules of speaking in these communities.” Wolfson, Nessa. 1889. Perspectives: Sociolinguistics and TESOL. Boston: Heinle & Heinle Publishers, p. 162. 1/16

  2. Differences in Men’s and Women’s Language  Exogamous Amazon tribe languages  Gros Ventre American Indian Tribe (Montana) pronunciation  Yana (N. American Indian language) morphology—affixes  Chiquita (S. American Indian language) morphology  Japanese lexis—vocabulary pronouns Holmes, Janet. 2013. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics, 4th edition. London: Pearson, pp. 159-161. 2/16

  3. Factors in Gender Differentiation in Language Hierarchy—“Gender differences in language are often just one aspect of more pervasive linguistic differences in the society reflecting SOCIAL STATUS or POWER differences.” [my emphasis] Gender-Exclusive Social Roles—“The responsibilities of women and men are different in such communities, and everyone knows that, and knows what they are.” Cultural Practices—like EXOGAMOUS Amazon Indians. Spouses speak different languages because they must marry out of tribe and each tribe has its own language. Holmes, Janet. 2013. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics, 4th edition. London: Pearson, pp. 159, 162-163. 3/16

  4. Gender Differences 1 “In many speech communities, when women use more of a linguistic form than men, it is generally the standard form—the overtly prestigious form—that women favour. When men use a form more often than women, it is usually a vernacular form, one which is not admired overtly by the society as a whole, and which is not cited as the ‘correct’ form.” Holmes, Janet. 2013. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics, 4th edition. London: Pearson, p. 166. 4/16

  5. Gender Differences 2 Concerning Western speech communities, Holmes says “when women use more of a linguistic form than men, it is generally the standard form—the overtly prestigious form—that women favor. When men use a form more often than women, it is usually a vernacular form, one which is not admired overtly by the society as a whole and which is not cited as the ‘correct’ form.” In 1983 Sociolinguist Peter Trudgill said this is “‘the single most consistent finding to emerge from sociolinguistic studies over the past 20 years’”. Holmes, Janet. 2001. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics, 2nd edition. London: Longman, p. 156. 5/16

  6. Preference for Vernacular [ In] over [ IN ] Holmes, Janet. 2013. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics, 4th edition. London: Pearson, p. 164. 6/16

  7. Explanations for Differences between Women's and Men's Language 1. Social status explanation 2. Women’s role as guardians of society’s values 3. Women’s status as a subordinate group 4. Vernacular forms express masculinity 5. Alternative explanations Holmes, Janet. 2013. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics, 4th edition. London: Pearson, pp. 167-174. 7/16:5

  8. Lakoff’s Features of Women’s Language 1 (a) Lexical hedges or fillers (you know, sort of, well, you see) (b) Tag questions (she’s very nice, isn’t she?) (c) Rising intonation on declaratives (it’s really good) (d) ‘Empty’ adjectives (divine, charming, cute) Holmes, Janet. 2013. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics, 4th edition. London: Pearson, pp. 302-303. 8/16:8

  9. Lakoff’s Features of Women’s Language 2 (e) Precise color terms (magenta, aquamarine) (f) Intensifiers (just, so: I like him so much.) (g) ‘Hypercorrect’ grammar (consistent use of standard verb forms) Holmes, Janet. 2013. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics, 4th edition. London: Pearson, pp. 302-303. 9/16:6

  10. Lakoff’s Features of Women’s Language 3 (h) ‘Superpolite’ forms (indirect requests, euphemisms) (i) Avoidance of strong swear words (fudge, my goodness) (j) Emphatic stress (it was a BRILLIANT performance) Holmes, Janet. 2013. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics, 4th edition. London: Pearson, pp. 302-303. 10/16:6

  11. Distribution of Tag Questions by Function and Sex of Speaker1 Function of tag Women Men % % Expressing uncertainty 35 61 Facilitative 59 26 Softening 6 13 Confrontational — — Total 100 100 N2 51 39 (Source: Based on Holmes 1984a: 54) 1 Based on a 60,000 word corpus containing equal amounts of female and male speech collected in a range of matched contexts. 2 N is presumably the number of tags found in the sample. Holmes, Janet. 2013. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics, 4th edition. London: Pearson, p. 307. 11/16

  12. Women's and Men's Idle Talk 1 Women “Its overall function for women is to affirm solidarity and maintain the social relationships between the women involved.” “Women's gossip focuses predominantly on personal experiences and personal relationships, on personal problems and feelings. It may include criticism of the behaviour of others, but women tend to avoid criticizing people directly because this would cause discomfort.” Holmes, Janet. 2013. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics, 4th edition. London: Pearson, p. 316. 12/16

  13. Women's and Men's Idle Talk 2 Men “The male equivalent of women's gossip is difficult to identify. In parallel situations the topics men discuss tend to focus on things and activities, rather than personal experiences and feelings. Topics like sport, cars, and possessions turn up regularly. The focus is on information and facts rather than on feelings and reactions.” Holmes, Janet. 2013. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics, 4th edition. London: Pearson, p. 317. 13/16

  14. Language Teacher’s Responsibility “‘It is not the responsibility of the language teacher qua linguist to enforce Anglo-Saxon standards of behavior, linguistic or otherwise. Rather, it is the teacher’s job to equip the student to express her/himself in exactly the way s/he chooses to do so—rudely, tactfully, or in an elaborately polite manner. What we want to prevent is her/his being unintentionally rude or subservient. It may, of course, behoove the teacher to point out the likely consequences of certain types of linguistic behavior.’” Thomas, Jenny (1983: 96) cited in Nessa Wolfson. Perspectives: Sociolinguistics and TESOL. Boston: Heinle & Heinle Publishers, 1989, p. 31. 14/16

  15. What ESL Learners Should Know about Sexist Language 1 1. Teach how to use appropriate generic pronouns, especially in writing. (165) 2. Promote use of generic "they" (especially in speech) 3. Remind students that even if they know that some English speakers use "terms of endearment" that this is probably useful only as PASSIVE/RECEPTIVE knowledge. Do not do it yourself. (170) Wolfson, Nessa. 1989. Perspectives: Sociolinguistics and TESOL. Boston: Heinle & Heinle Publishers, Chapter 8: Language and Sex, pp. 162-187. 15/16

  16. What ESL Learners Should Know about Sexist Language 2 4. Terms degrading women exist and are offensive. (174) 5. Be aware that references to men or women using terms for the other sex may have connotations the learner does not know or understand. (175) 6. Point out "appropriately sex-linked forms of speech". (185) Wolfson, Nessa. 1989. Perspectives: Sociolinguistics and TESOL. Boston: Heinle & Heinle Publishers, Chapter 8: Language and Sex, pp. 162-187. 16/16