Language and Gender: Do women and men talk differently?

Essay by sahmed10 December 2009

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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 and gender, based on conversations I have participated in or overheardI will examine gender as a sociolinguistic variable in speech behaviour. Britain (2005) explains 'sociolinguistic variation' as "the study of the way language varies and changes in communities of speakers and concentrates in particular on the interaction of social factors and linguistic structures."

Language and gender research can be divided into two main categories. The first category is concerning the relationship between language and sexism, wherein the general attitudes towards both sexes seems to reflect in language too. For example, some language forms indicate towards the superiority of men and position women negatively. However, in this assignment I will be concentrating on the second category which focuses on the difference in language between men and women. In this kind of research, two main areas of language behaviour have been examined. Wodak (1997:1) points these out as "speech behaviour of men and women on the phonological level and interactions (conversational styles) between women and men in discourse."As far as terminology is concerned, the category under discussion will be 'gender' as opposed to 'sex'. It is important to make the distinction between the...