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Language and Gender

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  1. Language and Gender 侯钰璐 2011.5.27

  2. Two Concepts Sex is what you’re born with. Gender is what you’re given. Sex Vs. Gender • Sex: one’s biological property, a matter of physiology • Gender: one’s social property, learned behavior

  3. Outline The Importance of the Issue Gender Differences in Language Use Major Models to Explain the Differences Linguistic Sexism Suggestions for Cross-Gender Communication

  4. You are what you say. By Robin Lakoff

  5. The Importance of the Issue Why is it important? Why is it critical not to overlook the social aspect of language? Society provides language with a suitable context of use, in which we can enjoy aspects of language vividly and truthfully Language is a mirror of society, through which we can understand social activities of a certain society better. Sociolinguistics

  6. Social Parameters Language Class Education Age Gender Religious Belief Ethnic Identity

  7. Background Two millenniums ago: ancient Greek drama 1922: Otto Jespersen, Language: Its Nature, Development and Origin 1960s: feminist movement, the rise of gender studies . 1970s: Lakoff, Labove, Trudgill. Since then, gender and language has become a focus in the linguistic field. 1999: the 44th International Linguistic Association took “Gender and Language” as the central subject under discussion

  8. Outline The Importance of the Issue Gender Differences in Language Use Major Models to Explain the Differences Linguistic Sexism Suggestions for Cross-Gender Communication

  9. Gender Differences in Language Use Robin Lakoff, Language and Women’s Place, 1975 Lexical differences Syntactic differences Other differences

  10. Gender Differences in Language Use 1. Color-words E.g. The wall is mauve. I prefer the lavender wallpaper. beige, ecru, aquamarine… 2. Swear-words E.g. (a) Shit, you’ve put the peanut butter in the refrigerator again. (b) Oh dear, you’ve put the peanut butter in the refrigerator again. shit, damn, hell, fuck.. oh dear, fudge, goodness, dear me… Lexical Differences

  11. Gender Differences in Language Use 3. Empty adjectives E.g. (a) What a terrific idea! (b)What a divine idea! divine, adorable, gorgeous… 4. Intensifiers E.g. terrible, awful, so, very, quite Lexical Differences

  12. Gender Differences in Language Use 5. Tag-question E.g. (a) Is John here? (b) John is here, isn’t here? You don’t mind eating this, do you? 6. Hedges phrases like “sort of”, “kind of”, “I guess”, “it seems like”… Syntactic Differences

  13. Gender Differences in Language Use 7. Intonational patterns E.g. --When will dinner be ready? --Oh…around six o’clock? 8. Compound requests E.g. (a) Close the door. (b) Please close the door. (c) Will you close the door? (d) Will you please close the door? (e) Won’t you close the door? “Would you mind…” “If it’s not too much to as…” “Is it ok if…” “I’m sorry, but I think that…” Syntactic Differences

  14. Gender Differences in Language Use 9. Topic Selection Men: Politics, economy, sports, religion… Women: children, food, health, family, fashion… Serious Vs Trivial? 10. Amount of Speech “Women never stop talking”. “Three women and a goose make a market”. Is this true? Public Vs Private Other Differences

  15. Gender Differences in Language Use 11. Turn-taking Women are more likely to obey the rules of turn-taking, while men often take other speakers’ turn to gain control of the whole conversation. 12. Overlap and Interruption Zimmerman and West (1975) recorded 31 conversations in public (20 single-gender, 11 mixed-gender), all of the overlaps and 46 of 48 interruptions were caused by male speakers. Other Differences

  16. Outline The Importance of the Issue Gender Differences in Language Use Major Models to Explain the Differences Linguistic Sexism Suggestions for Cross-Gender Communication

  17. Major Models to Explain the Differences Deficit (Robin Lakoff) Dominance (D. Zimmerman, C. West, P. Fishman) Difference Deborah Tanne, M.H. Goodwin) Politeness (Janet Holmes) Constructionism (Deborah Cameron)

  18. Outline The Importance of the Issue Gender Differences in Language Use Major Models to Explain the Differences Linguistic Sexism Suggestions for Cross-Gender Communication

  19. Linguistic Sexism Language of Women Language about Women • Def. of linguistic sexism: • A term used to refer to sex-biased phenomena in language use.

  20. Examples of Linguistic Sexism 1. Masculine forms in English Man is mortal. The emergency room is manned (be operated by man) by… (When writing a letter) Dear sir… salesman- sales assistant storeman- sto re assistant postman - letter carrier, mail carrier, postal fireman- fire fighter

  21. Examples of Linguistic Sexism 2. suffix: –ess, -ette, -rix, -enne, actress actor ambassadress ambassador suffragette suffragist usherette usher comedienne comedian 3. Implied derogatory words Master- Mistress Governor- Governess Bachelor-Spinster (a) He is a professional. (b)She is a professional.

  22. Outline The Importance of the Issue Gender Differences in Language Use Major Models to Explain the Differences Linguistic Sexism Suggestions for Cross-Gender Communication

  23. Suggestions for Cross-Gender Communication Identifying Differences in Language Use Increasing Mutual Cognition Trying to Be Flexible

  24. Thank You!