Gender and Language 2

Gender and Language 2
Unlike sex, gender is a cultural
construction, and part of this
construction seems to be that women
everywhere and their domestic sphere
of influence are accorded inferior
valuation as opposed to men and their
world of public action (Duranti, 1986:
Gender Styles in English
Alternatives: pronunciation, word selection,
grammatical construction.
Reflection of gender differences
“You’re driving rather fast, aren’t you?
“Well, I guess it’s approximately four feet
Cultural values
Gender roles and cultural values
Social norms: construct and reinforce
gender attitudes
Gender Roles Are Reflected In
Language Styles
• Pronunciation: tone, intonation, volume
• Grammatical forms
• Choices of vocabulary
Sociolinguists look at:
• Conversational interactions
• Tendencies in language use
• Phonological variations
Example: New England study:
“-ing”; the progressive suffix on
Fischer’s study(1958)
–prefer –ing
– Boys
– Girls
prefer –in
Social Meaning and Lang usage
• -ing:
Formality, symbolizing female speaker
• -in
Informality, symbolizing male speaker
Style=unified cultural structure of behavior
• Rhythm. Volume, pitch
• Different intonation
• Women: wide range of pitches, rapid shift in
volume and velocity (more emotional)
• Men: Atonal (control, restrain)
• Cultural interpretation: cultural valued
Grammatical Variants
• Standard versus non-standard grammar
• Cheshire (1982) in Reading, England
Present tense –s with non-singular subjects:
“We goes shopping on Saturdays.”
2. Has with first-and second-person subjects:
“We has a little fire keeps us warm.”
Tag Questions
• Tag questions are sentences in which the
speaker makes a declarative statement and
add on a tag in the form of a question about
the assertion
• Louise and Lucille didn’t leave together
last night, did they?
• Bill took Luke to the park last night,
didn’t he?
• --are reluctant to make direct assertions
• --thus avoiding coming into conflict with
the addressee
• --construed as polite
• --uncertainty lack of definite opinion
Choice of Vocabulary
• Different social and cultural domains:
--assumption of expertise
Gender Bias in English
• Nouns, adjectives, and verbs
• English covertly and overtly degrades
• normative roles and secondary roles
• Creating a context for interaction of genders
---term opposite sex
---covert and overt inequality
The child caught the ball.
The ball was caught by the child.
Conversational Styles
• Assumptions about conversational
• McConnell-Ginet (1988)
---Men: 12 min
--Women: 3.17
• Edelky (1981)
--25 to 400% longer
Differences: sex and gender
Biological given: contested
Culturally constructed category
Language reflects the way we internalize
the construction of gender categories
Discussion Questions
• In what ways are the relationship
between language and gender similar or
different to the relationship between
language and race?
Are intonational and
phonological variants an
indication of sex or gender
differences? Explain.