Essay: Linguistic Differences Between Men and Women

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Genders and Linguistics

Many studies have been conducted on the different ways that men and women use language (Westin 2013, Westin 2013). These works have come up with two main theories. The first says that men use language to dominate while women use it in a complementary way, that is, to confirm that subordination. The second says that the language of the genders evolved as the result of their distinct sub-cultures and life experiences. The language of one gender did not become superior to the other. They simply evolved as different from each other. Feminine language communicates feelings and aims at forming and nurturing bonds. This is why women's language tends to prevent or reduce the risk of hurting the other. Masculine language, on the other hand, is mainly aimed at expressing information. Because of this starkly objective tendency, men's language does not seem to consider the feeling of the listener. Women's language is traditionally more polite and warm, while that of men is allowed to incorporate cold, non-standard and even profane words. These differences have, however, become less distinct as gender roles breach the traditional limits. Women now occupy positions of authority while men are increasingly able to verbally express and display emotion in the last few decades. Nevertheless, clear distinctions can still be detected. Basic differences are still evident. Men and women use language differently (Westin, Westin).

Data

Experience provides evidence that women and men do not speak alike in many communities (Marlow 2013). In the United States, women use words that describe appearance, color and behavior more colorfully than men's. The differences are heightened among the Japanese, French, Chukchee of Siberia and the Thai. Men and women use different words even when expressing the same feeling or thought. Men and women of higher socio-economic classes behave and speak differently from those in lower classes. A study on girls and boys in a New England village showed that separation in the communication channels resulted in the differentiation of their speech patterns. It also revealed that sex differences in language are not biological. They only reflect the socio-cultural phenomena of gender (Marlow).

Amos (2012) proposes that men and women differ in their body language in behavior and in purpose. Some of the manifestations of their separate body language are said to be "pre-programmed" into their distinctive natures. Others are learned from experience and vary according to culture. Amos illustrates that women are generally more nurturing, emotional and expressive of their emotions than men. On the other hand, men are generally more domineering and assertive. These general distinctions have, however, become more varied in the modern world because of overall acceptance and greater comfort towards displays of non-gender-typical body language in situations (Amos).

The differences in the way men and women communicate have evolved as a myth passed through the ages and cultures (Cameron 2007). Popular psychology interpretations have portrayed men as alien beings from Mars trying to converse with women from Venus. The constant struggle quite often results in misunderstandings because of the basic differences between them and the nature of their respective communication. These interpretations have a number of claims in common. They argue that language and communication are more important to women as they talk more than men. Women are more skilled at talking. Men talk to get things done while women, to connect with others people. Men talk more about facts and concrete things while women, about relationships, people and feelings. Men use competitive language while women, cooperative language.

It is easy to see that readers and other supporters of generalizations can accept them as fitting familiar stereotype occasions. But these generalizations fail to acknowledge the equal number of stereotype occasions of men cooperating and women competing with their language (Cameron).

Cameron (2007) concludes that the most basic expectation between men and women's use of their respective language is that they will be different instead of the same. It is apparent that a significant difference is considered a positive finding and makes the study worthy of publication. These claims, however, have been discredited as largely built on myths rather than facts (Cameron).

A study used 9,280 utterances from 6 English and 8 Persian film scripts from two libraries at the University of Shiraz to determine the differences between the genders' use of intensifiers, hedges and tag questions (Nemati & Bayer 2007). The purpose was to test the linguistic differences between men and women as proposed by Robin. Lakoff. Lakoff suggested that these differences reflect their different and unequal roles and status. Because of their low status, women tend to use more hedge questions, intensifiers, super polite forms and quotations. Results of the study did not support Lakoff's argument that language is gender-bound. She believed that women tend to use tag questions more than men because women want to soften the hardness of assertion and out of uncertainty. She also believed that women use more hedge questions. The results showed no significant difference between the sexes in the use of hedges or intensifiers (Nemati & Bayer).

An undergraduate dissertation explored the use of gendered language by drag kings and queens and the translation of their language from spoken English to German subtitles

(Voegeli 2005). The study compiled features of the genders' speech. These features suggest that women's speech is more grammatically correct and better formed, more polite and tends to facilitate and initiate conversations. Women also tend to ask more questions than do men and use more hedge questions more frequently than men and communicate in a more personal and emotional way than men. In comparison, men tend to use colloquial language, speak more directly and factually and more about themselves than women do. These differences appear to reflect their different social status and are expressed in their language. The language features also strongly suggest the power imbalance between them, but one that derives more from ideology than reality (Voegeli).

Like her professor Robin Lakoff, Tannen (1994) claimed that men and women spoke or used language differently. Because they do, these differences should be identified and understood so that they would not blame themselves or others for the adverse effects of their dissimilar conversational styles. She theorized that boys and girls grow up in what are immediately and essentially different cultures. As men and women, their talk can only develop into a kind of cross-cultural communication. In the conduct of her past studies and videotapes on cross-gender communication, she pointed to gender distinctions built-in into language as the most important consideration. She asserts that from the series of daily conversations, using and understanding language will lead us to absorb and transmit assumptions about the genders. One assumption is setting male speech style as the norm. Because of this, it is women who are told to change. Doing this hurts both of them. Women are treated according to the norm of and by men. The trouble is that women will not change into men's conversation style. Those who do are judged not in the same way as men are treated and judged. Women who change are judged harshly as unlady-like, rude or bitchy invaders (Tannen).

Tannen (1994) see men and women with their different speech styles as engaging in "rapport-talk" and "report-talk," respectively. Women engage in conversation for intimacy, while men, for information. Women are taught or indoctrinated from childhood that talk glues relationships. One is always negotiating for closeness when he or she speaks with women or rapport-talk. On the other hand, men converse for information or report-talk to dominate a talk and protect themselves from attempts to put them down. Boys learn early to keep relationships through activities. They belong to a hierarchical social order where they are either up or down (Tannen).

Analysis, Interpretation and Conclusion

Men and women do not speak alike in all… [END OF PREVIEW]

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