Language And Gender: Do Women And Men Talk Differently?

3238 words - 13 pages

The research on language and gender has been essential in providing answers regarding the sociolinguistic variation associated with speaker's gender. One of the main topics widely discussed in gender and language research is concerning the difference in language between men and women. This assignment is an attempt to answer the question: Do women and men talk differently? I will thoroughly investigate the question looking at the evidence which suggests women and men differ in language as well as examine how it differs. I will also search to discover the motivating factors which make women and men speak differently. I will include some personal observations in relation to language use ...view middle of the document...

It is important to make the distinction between the two terms so that, as Wodak (1997:2) points out, 'naturalization of characteristics and attributes' can be avoided. Chambers et al (2002) describing the difference between the terms says "The term "sex" has often been used to refer to the physiological distinction between females and males, with "gender" referring to the social and cultural elaboration of the sex difference"Quantitative studies of variation in sociolinguistic research were first initiated by William Labov, 'The Social Stratification of English in New York City' (1966) and Peter Trudgill, 'The Social differentiation of English in Norwich' (1974). Coates (1993:61) says these studies aimed to "examine the correlation between linguistic variation and other variables, in particular social class." Bayley (2002:177) explains that the basic belief behind the studies in this tradition is that "an understanding of language requires an understanding of variable as well as categorical processes and that the variation that we witness at all levels of language is not random." Labov looked at the pronunciation of the postvocalic 'r' in New York and found that, the higher the social class, the more often they pronounced the 'r' in casual speech. Trudgill's research in Norwich looked at the effects of social class on language use examining a range of variables. One of the variables was the pronunciation of 'ing' where it was observed whether the speaker dropped the final 'g' and pronounced it as 'in'. Trudgill discovered some interesting differences between men and women. Nichols (1998:56) says that Trudgill found "women to use the standard-prestige - ing ending more frequently than men." Overall, both studies had a common result. Patrick (2005) says "holding constant other variables such as age and social class, women generally appeared to use forms which closely resemble those of a standard or prestigious speech variety more frequently than men, or in preference to the vernacular, non-standard or stigmatized forms which men appeared to favour."In an attempt to explain the tendency of women speakers using standard prestige as opposed to men, Nichols (1998:56) says "Labov and Trudgill have suggested that women are 'linguistically insecure'." Furthermore, Nichols (1998:56) says "Trudgill elaborates on this point by observing that women achieve status in western societies more on the basis of how they look than on what they do. Use of prestigious language might be seen as one of women's limited means of achieving and signalling status, particularly in more formal situations."Although Labov and Trudgill's approach was helpful in many ways, it had limitations. For example, the people were grouped into rigid categories without the consideration of intra-group variation and the focus was only on particular variables and not on language 'in use'. Also, it failed to into account important variables such as context. (Class notes, week 4) Developm...


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