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: 305). 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 high.” Why? • • • • Socialization 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 verbs Fischer’s study(1958) –prefer –ing – Boys – Girls 5 10 prefer –in 7 2 Social Meaning and Lang usage • -ing: Formality, symbolizing female speaker • -in Informality, symbolizing male speaker Style=unified cultural structure of behavior Intonation • 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 behavior 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? Why? • --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 --profanity Gender Bias in English • Nouns, adjectives, and verbs • English covertly and overtly degrades females • 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 domination • McConnell-Ginet (1988) ---Men: 12 min --Women: 3.17 • Edelky (1981) --25 to 400% longer Summary • • • • 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.