Presentation on theme: "The Dominance Paradigm Based on Language and Woman’s Place by Robin Lakoff Originally published in 1975, this document refers to the 2004 revised and expanded."— Presentation transcript:
The Dominance Paradigm Based on Language and Woman’s Place by Robin Lakoff Originally published in 1975, this document refers to the 2004 revised and expanded edition, edited by Mary Bucholtz.
Lakoff was the first researcher to approach the topic of gender-based differences in speech. Her work laid the foundations for a considerable body of subsequent research. And although some aspects of her work have been challenged, the contribution she made to the field of language and gender is unquestionable.
Supposing you wanted to draw conclusions about how groups of speakers use language. What are the advantages and drawbacks of these different techniques? Recording data and analysing it Questionnaires Introspective judgements
Lakoff used the method of introspection. This is the most frequently criticised aspect of her work, but it is worth remembering that Lakoff’s paper was intended more as a challenge for researchers to investigate, rather than a definitive statement of fact. In her own words, “But granting that this study does in itself represent the speech of only a small subpart of the community, it is still of use for indicating directions for further research in this area,...a means of discovering what is universal in the data and what is not, and why.” p.40
TASK: write down the features of “women's speech”. Unlike last lesson, this time I'm asking you to write down what you genuinely think are the features that define women's use of language.
Features of “women's language”, according to Lakoff a greater vocabulary for describing colours use of “meaningless” particles, such as oh dear instead of shit (i.e. polite euphemism) adjectives that “denote approval of the trivial” (p.46), such as divine, adorable, charming, sweet and lovely use of intensive so, e.g. I feel so unhappy greater use of tag questions, e.g. don't you? use of rising (question) intonation in declarative sentences greater use of politeness strategies such as the indirect forming of requests
Let's now consider one of those claims in more detail, and interpret its significance. Lakoff claimed that women use more tag questions than men. She notes that tag questions can be used to seek corroboration for a personal opinion, Lakoff claims that, “It is my impression, though I do not have precise statistical evidence, that this sort of tag question is much more apt to be used by women than men.” (p. 49) “The way prices are rising is horrendous, isn't it?” (p.49)
Assuming this to be true, how would you interpret it? Does it suggest anything about male/female behaviour, or the wider society? “While there are of course other possible interpretations..., one possibility is that the speaker is … reluctant to state [their answer to the question] baldly.” (p. 49) Lakoff's conclusion is the following: In short, she is saying that women lack confidence, and look to their interlocutor for reassurance. Is this a useful interpretation?
Although Lakoff's conclusions seem rather patronising towards women, her analysis was overtly feminist. She saw language use as a two-step process that kept women in their place (hence the title). 1. Little girls are taught to speak “like a lady”, and not to adopt the rough and unfeminine speech of boys 2. However, “The acquisition of this special style of speech will later be an excuse others use to keep her in a demeaning position, to refuse to take her seriously as a human being.” (p.41)
It should be pointed out here that subsequent research has not supported Lakoff’s claims, we'll be looking at an example later in the course. Nonetheless, her work is extremely important, she is associated with what Cameron (1990) calls the dominance framework, namely the attempt to explain gender differences in language use in the context of a gender disparity in power
But Lakoff's careful and tentative approach was not always evident in mass media sources that seized on her ideas and promulgated them as the definitive truth. I'll give you a copy of “Girl talk - boy talk”, an article taken from May 1990's edition of Glamour magazine. Read it, and consider these questions. Which of the claims reported in the article reflect general stereotypes, and which seem to be based on Lakoff's ideas? What stylistic differences are there between this and Lakoff's representation of her ideas?
References Bucholtz, M. (ed.) (2004) Language and Woman's Place: Text and Commentaries. Oxford: Oxford University Press Cameron, D. (ed.) (1990) The Feminist Critique of Language: A Reader. London: Routeledge