Presentation on theme: "GENDER AS A SOCIOLINGUISTIC VARIABLE. It is based on the idea that people often get themselves worked up unnecessarily over trivial issues; they would."— Presentation transcript:
GENDER AS A SOCIOLINGUISTIC VARIABLE
It is based on the idea that people often get themselves worked up unnecessarily over trivial issues; they would be happier and more productive if they learnt to tell the difference between things that really matter and things that don’t. ‘ Don’t sweat the small stuff’.
Interactional Sociolinguistics In relation to spoken discourse, however, ‘small stuff’ can make a big difference- communication may succeed or fail because of it. Interactional sociolinguistics is an approach to discourse analysis that highlights the importance of small and subtle variations in the way people use and interpret spoken discourse.
Interactional Sociolinguistics Related to the study of socially conditioned patterns of variation in language use Related to approaches of spoken discourse
Sociolinguistics It addresses the intersection of language and social phenomena. Current interest in sex as a sociolinguistic variable is the result of the convergence of two trends in social science research: Emphasis on the social context of language. Emphasis on sex as a social and behavioral variable.
Sociolinguistics Proper Quantitive Sociolinguistics is concerned with phonological and syntactical variation. The major finding of this tradition is ‘the gender pattern’ which found that women informants in western, industrial societies scores are closer to the standard variety than those of men of the same status(Labov, 1966; Trudgill,1974a; Millroy,1980)
Sociolinguistic s Proper It is concerned with the different linguistic choices taken by speakers; different ways of saying the same thing(e.g referring to a carbonated soft drink as pop or soda or juice, or pronouncing or not pronouncing an /r/ sound in the word farm.)
Interactional Sociolinguistics It takes a similar approach to phenomena which are important in organizing spoken interaction. Such aspects of interaction as turn-taking rules, conversations for indicating acknowledgement and agreement, the marking of utterances as particular kinds of speech acts or as containing important information are also ‘variables’- that is, are used differently in different contexts or by different kinds of speakers.
The aspects of interaction that interest interactional sociolinguists are often ones that the participants in talk have little or no conscious awareness of. For example: British schoolchildren of African-Caribbean ethnicity have been observed to direct their gaze downwards when confronted by a teacher. This irritated their white teachers. The teachers understand the children’s gaze behavior is disrespectful. For them, ‘looking someone in the eye’ is a mark of attentiveness and of honesty. However, in the children’s own community a different assumption is operative: lowering one’s gaze is a way of conveying respect. (Callender,1997)
Main approaches to Sex Differences in language The Theoretical Frameworks
The two main approaches to sex differences in interactional sociolinguistics reflect the two conflicting views of women’s status in society: one sees women as a minority group which is oppressed and marginalized; the other sees women as simply different from men. Main approaches to Sex Differences in language
The Dominance Approach Research adopting this approach sees the hierarchical nature of gender relations as the primary factor causing sex differences. Women and men are described in terms of subordination and dominance. The first influential study was presented by Robin Lakoff (1973,1975) both under the title Language and Women’s Place.
Lakoff equates ‘subordinate’ with ‘weak’, and interpreted women’s language is intrinsically inferior to men’s. She believes in the existence of a typical female style she refers to as ‘ woman language’. She suggests that this style is characterized by the use of a distinct group of features: lexical, syntactic, and pragmatic which are briefly the following: Robin Lakoff Language and Women’s Place (1973,1975)
1) Specialized vocabulary : precise terms of colors, such as mauve, plum, lavender. 2) Expletives: women use milder forms (‘oh, dear’ or ‘ oh, My God) while men use stronger ones (‘Dammit’, or ‘ Hell’). 3) Tag questions: They use tag questions. A tag question is ‘midway between a statement and an outright question’: It’s a nice day, isn’t it?
4) Empty Adjectives: Those that convey only emotional reaction rather than intellectual evaluation. gender-neutral examples (great, terrific) and examples are restricted to use by women (devine, charming, cute, sweet, adorable). 5) Intonation: Women use intonation patterns that resemble questions indicating uncertainty or need for approval.
6) Superlative forms: Women use indirect request forms 7) Hypercorrect grammar: ‘superpolite’ language 8) Hedges: ‘ Well’, ‘you know’, ‘kinda’, ‘sort of’ which convey the sense that the speaker is uncertain about she is saying. 9) Women don’t tell jokes… women have no sense of humor.
All these features share together one common function in communication which is : they weaken or mitigate the force of an utterance. According to Lakoff, a speaker who frequently uses these mitigating features will appear weak, unassertive and lacking in authority. From her point of view, these features are typical of women’s speech; it follows that women appear weak and unassertive.
Accordingly, Lakoff, like early linguists, holds a traditional and negative evaluation of women’s language as inadequate and tentative. Researchers began to count sex differences in the use of tag questions, empty adjectives, fillers, qualifiers and so on. They confirmed Lakoff’s results.
Conversational Control and Dominance ( Turn taking) Lakoff’s hypothesis is a strong version of the dominance current. Another version puts things differently. In a more developed phase of language/sex research, a shift has occurred from the study of isolated variables to language in actual use. Numerous studies of adults have found that men generally take more frequent and/or longer speaking turns than do women, especially in mixed-sex interaction.
Zimmerman and West(1975) They developed a new variant of the social argument, in which men’s dominance in conversation parallels their dominance in society. Men enjoy power in society and also in conversation. The researchers see interruption and topic control as male dominance in face-to-face interaction with women.
Interruption They identified two sorts of irregularities: overlap and interruption. Overlaps are errors of intrusion, in which a speaker begins to speak at or close to a possible transition place in the current speaker’s turn. They found clear differences between the conversations of men and women in the mixed- sex conversations.
Interruption In the 11 mixed-sex dyads, there were 48 interruptions and just 9 overlaps: Men used 46 of the interruptions and all the overlaps. Also, the noticed that in mixed-sex conversations women fell silent when they were interrupted. Silence is seen as a sign that often reflects malfunctionality in conversation.
Minimal Responses They also found that in mixed-sex conversations, men often delayed their minimal responses. Men said ‘mmm’ and ‘yeah’ at an appropriate point but only after a pause. They explained this that the delayed minimal responses show lack of interest in the speaker’s topic. They concluded that that men seem to use interruptions and delayed minimal responses to deny women the right to control the topic of conversation.
Woods (1989) Woods found that in business settings, gender was a better predictor than status of who would interrupt whom. Women were interrupted less as bosses than as subordinates, but over all they were still interrupted more than men.
Fishman (1978) Fisherman analyzed tape-recording s of natural conversations from the homes of three middle- class couples. She found that the women, consistent with Lakoff’s hypotheses, asked questions more frequently than men do, and said ‘you know’ five times more often.
‘ You Know’ She argues that the use of ‘you know’ by women (women 87=men 17) is evidence of the work they have to do to try to keep conversation going. Women use ‘you know’ more than men do because it is men who fail to respond minimally or with a fully turn at appropriate points.
Questions In her sample, the women used three times as many tag questions and yes/no questions as the men did. Women asked two-and-a half times as many as the men of all the questions asked. Fishman explains that questions give the speaker the power to elicit information; usually in the form of a minimal response rather than a full turn. She believes this due to interactional insecurity.
The Difference Approach The dominance approach is based on the premise that women’s language and speech style is less adequate than men’s. Another approach gained popularity. This approach maintains that men and women talk differently because they are socialized in different sociolinguistic subcultures.
Maltz &Borker( 1982) They believe that women and men carry over to their adulthood the conversational patterns they learned from interacting with the same-sex peers during childhood. The differences between these patterns create conflict and misunderstanding as they try to engage in a friendly female-male conversation.
Difference vs. Dominance Approach This positive approach has proved an important counterbalance to the more negative tone of researchers who see women’s language as weak and tentative. The dominance approach researchers treated women’s supportiveness as a sign of their socialization into powerlessness and deference, or signs of ‘insecurity’ or ‘approval seeking’.
Fishman considers supportiveness a creative and skillful strategy women use in order to have some kind of control in conversation with men. Such strategies are only necessary because men in fact have the upper hand in conversation. Accordingly, due to their negative interaction behavior, women should do the interaction work if they wish to interact at all.
The Difference Approach The difference approach accepts these findings but reinterprets them. Researches of this current are interested in Lakoff’s suggestion that there is a ‘Women’s Language’, but they criticize her negative evaluation. They attempt to explain it from a positive point of view. They propose that it is different but not inferior.
The Difference Approach They believe that women have different habits for contextualizing their talk: different ways of signaling similar speech activities. In the sense, they grow up in different cultural environments, so women and men develop different norms for establishing and displaying conversational involvement. In cross-cultural communication, such cues, are likely to be misinterpreted
Maltz and Borker(1982) Citing research on children’s play, they argue that girls learn to do things with words: 1) To create and maintain relationships of closeness and equality; 2) To criticize others in acceptable (indirect)ways; 3) To interpret accurately and sensitively the speech of other girls.
Maltz and Borker(1982) In contrast, boys learn to do three very different things with words: 1) To assert one’s position of dominance; 2) To attract and maintain an audience; 3) To assert oneself when another person has the floor.
Tannen(1990) She states that in relationships: The contrasting conversational goals of intimacy and independence lead to contrasting conversational goals. These different styles are labeled ‘report talk’(men’s) and ‘rapport talk’(women’s). “women speak and hear a language of connection and intimacy, while men speak and hear a language of status and independence”.
Tannen (1990) We thus can refer to it as cross-cultural communication Tannen asserts that these cross-cultural differences lead to stylistic differences, and these in turn, lead to painful misattribution about speaker’s intentions and personalities.
The Advantages of the Difference Approach 1) The cross-cultural approach blames no particular group for miscommunication. Unlike earlier approaches, the speech style attributed to men is no longer ‘the standard’ speech but merely one way of negotiation the social landscape. ‘report talk’ and ‘rapport talk’ are equally limiting for their uses in cross-sex communication.
2) the model acknowledges language flexibility. The sub-culture approach avoids the problem of equating form with function( e.g., Lakoff’s assumption that all tag questions, for example, had the same meaning.) The Advantages of the Difference Approach
Maltz and Borker(1982) They draw up lists of ‘women’s features’ and ‘men’s features’. 1) Women display greater tendency to ask questions(Fishman,1978). 2) Women are more likely than men to make ‘positive reactions’ including solidarity, tension release, and agreeing. 3) Women show a greater tendency to use minimal responses, especially ‘mmm’ especially during other speaker’s turn rather than the end.
4) women are more likely to adopt a ‘silent protest’ after they have been interrupted or have received a delayed minimal response. 5) women show a greater tendency to use the pronouns ‘you’ and ‘we’ which explicitly acknowledge the existence of the other speaker. Maltz and Borker(1982)
Men’s features are characterized by the following features: 1) they are more likely to interrupt the speech of their conversational partners 2) they are more likely to challenge or dispute their partner’s utterances. 3) they are more likely to ignore comments of the other speaker, that is, to offer no responses or acknowledgements at all, to respond slowly ‘ delayed minimal response’, or to respond unenthusiastically. Maltz and Borker(1982)
4) Men use more mechanisms for controlling the topic of conversation including both topic development and introduction of new topics, than do women. 5) Men make more direct declarations of facts or opinions than do women, including suggestions. Maltz and Borker(1982)
These areas of potential miscommunication arise directly from the different overall styles of women’s and men’s conversations. Women tend to organize their talk co-operatively, while men tend to organize their talk competitively. Maltz and Borker(1982)
Different Conversational Rules Studies show us that men and women differ in 1)their expectations of what constitutes a normal component of conversation, 2) of how conversations should progress, 3)of how important it is to respect current speaker’s right to finish a turn, and 4)how important it is to actively support the current speaker.
In mixed-sex conversations, it seems that women put far more effort then men did into maintaining and facilitating conversation. This does not suggest that women need to change their style because they do control some features in their talk that are desirable. Men suffer from inability to express their feelings or discuss them with other men. Different Conversational Rules
Compared to male speakers, women are more polite, more supportive, more suppressive, less interruptive, and less talkative. Difference researches see women’s language as evidence of women’s more cooperative, more person-oriented style. Women choose this style because it fits with their own interactional or social goals. Different conversational rules
Both women and men seem to be disadvantaged by their own modes of conversational interaction: Women’s style leads to their being dominated in mixed groups. Men’s style reflects a lack of their competence in valuable aspects of the women’s style. In many versions of the difference approach, power disappears from the conception of gender and of difference itself. Different Conversational Rules
The Relatively of Linguistic Strategies According to the dominance approach, whatever women do results from, or creates, their powerless and men do results from, or creates, their dominance. Lakoff viewed women use of indirectness as a sign of insecurity and powerlessness.
Indirectness Tannen (1986) believes that the use of indirectness can hardly be understood without the cross-cultural perspective. Many Americans find directness is logical and aligned with power whereas indirectness is related to dishonesty as well as subservience.
But many speakers raised in most of the world’s culture, varieties of indirectness are the norm in communication. In Japanese interaction, for example, it is well known that saying “no” is considered too face- threatening to risk, so negative responses are phrased as positive ones: one never says “no”, but listeners understand from the form of the “yes” whether it is truly a “yes” or a polite “no”. Indirectness
The American tendency to associate indirectness with female style is not culturally universal. The above description of typical Japanese style operates for men and women. Furthermore, the ability to get one’s demands met without expressing them directly can be a sign of power rather than of the lack of it. Indirectness
The example cited by Tannen, is the Greek father who answers, “If you want, you can go” to his daughter's inquiry about going to a party. Because of the lack of enthusiasm of his response, the Greek daughter understands that her father would prefer she not go to party and “chooses” not to go. A real approval would have been “Yes, of course, you should go.”
This is a conventionalized system by which he and she could both preserve the appearance, that she chose not to go rather than simply obeying his command. Indirectness
Interruption Interruption according to the dominance approach as a sign of power, where men speakers dominate women by interrupting them in conversation. Deborah James and Sandra Clarke(1993) reviewing research on gender and interruption, do not find a clear pattern of males interrupting females.
Especially significant is their observation that studies comparing amount of interruption in all- female versus all-male conversations find more interruption, not less, in all-female groups.
We have to distinguish linguistic strategies by their interactional purpose. For example: does the overlap show support for the speaker, or does it contradict or change the topic? This is overlap that reflects a high involvement This is interruption which reflects an attempt to dominate.
Shortcomings (Crawford, 1995) The sub-cultural approach has its own shortcomings : 1) The approach does not address why and how girls and boys come to be in sex-segregated groups except to suggest that it is voluntary. And why certain strategies, and not others, associated with each sex? By contrast, the dominance approach is a better predictor of why a certain strategy is to be used and by which sex.
2) Feminists criticize the model because it excises the notion of responsibility. If women’s and men’s style are equally valid,and if children segregate themselves naturally, change is unexpected. 3) The two-culture approach neglects that consequences of miscommunication are not the same for the powerful and the powerless groups. 4) The failure to recognize structural power and to connect with interactional power has provoked the strongest criticisms of the two-cultures approach. Shortcomings (Crawford, 1995)