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Women And Men Language Differences English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 5539 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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In the research carried out we tried to identify particular language differences between women and men. We studied previous researched on this topic as well and consulted with such authors as Laurie Bauer and Peter Trudgill “Language Myths”, John Gray “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus”, Deborah Tannen “You Just Don’t Understand”. First of all we made an insight into history of sexes identifying which were the factors influencing these differences in “talking-way”. Secondly we consulted some scientific sources in order to find out with physiological markers make genders use various language styles. In the third place we worked with the cultural influence together with stereotyping and biasing, which play a great role in language differences of women and men.

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Altogether, combining all these “items” together, in our research we tried to answer the following questions: Why? When? How? Namely: Why genders talk differently? When did it start? How exactly do they talk? We are interested as well what was the situation years ago and what is it now. How do people perceive the issue today and how does the topic is on-going?

Our research is a theoretical one which helped us to find answers to all these questions, so the picture became clearer. In future we expect to continue the particular research; we expect it to be more profound. In fact, we are planning to examine certain target group to make out results to be specific and concrete. We think that it will be challenging to study Moldovan students and compare their language differences.

Use what language you will, you can never say anything but what you are.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Language is the means for communication and it plays a weighty role in human’s life; everyone has hisher own way for doing it. In a sense, language it is person’s identity both individual and social. Discourse, as a part of language, shapes people, allowing them to use universal language experience both past and present, because behind every word stands a little history of “why, who, how”.

In the course of time each word took a personal meaning, which reflects many subjective aspects, especially the status of one who is speaking. This worked out so that appeared Language Differences between genders. In that way, the answer to the question “Do Women and Men speak the same?” will be “No”.

Why do Women and Men talk differently?

For a long time women and men performed different tasks (Helen Fisher 2005), they were occupied with different work requiring different skills. This way of things left an imprint on their minds. People are not alike, and enormous cultural impact made them think and speak variously. We can say that each of us is a peculiar mix of these characteristics. Women and Men have their own range of abilities shaped by their unique past.

So, every person is different because heshe is unique, but if looking on gender differences, it should be mentioned that there are natural issues dependent on human body. Women and Men tend to think and speak differently. Psychologists say that women gather details differently and arrange them into particular patterns. Making a decision women rely on more criteria, they consider more options and varieties, looking on an issue from a contextual point of view. Women do not think straight, they thing very similar to the web structure. Men are more likely to think about one thing at a time; they go to the conclusion step by step in a linear way. Men do not relate thousands of other ideas to the discussed topic. Such a difference in thinking process appeared because of some physiological characteristics. According to Fisher (2005) the sections of man brain operate more independently, while the two brain hemispheres of woman’s brain has more nerve cables interconnecting. Moreover, typically men hormone testosterone contributes to focusing one’s attention, while woman hormone estrogen tends to promote typically female web thinking.

It is considered that women while speaking can find an appropriate word easily than men. As Mark Twain said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightening and the lightning bug.” This very tendency begins from early childhood: girls babble definitely more than boys. Girls even start talking with longer utterances and more complex grammatical constructions before boys do.

The scientists came to the conclusion that these two types of thinking were “build” during a very long time of womenmen evolution, where both of them were involved in the contrasting occupations. Women had to do many things at once (Helen Fisher 2005), to take care of children, to make food; whereas men were focused on the hunting – all attention directed only to pursue the victim. Some people considered that women were “born to talk” in order to educate their little offspring and create the harmony and comfort in the family. According to Chinese proverb words are women tools: “The tongue is the sword of a woman and she never lets it become rusty.”

Actually, women use more standard language because they are expected by society to do so. If women act in a rule-breaking way they are judged more severe than men would be judged in the same situation. All over again this stereotyping sticks to the fact that women are associated with family-keepers that raises the children. Moreover language differences appear because of the physical aspects of human body, because of the education and the millions of years of human evolution.

Who talks more?

There is a widespread stereotype that Women dominate the talking time.

If we look on a “talk” in different contexts, then it is seen that it has different functions. Talking in public means that one aims to inform or persuade people. Who speaks in public tends to have a certain social status; the more people are listening to the speaker, the bigger status one has. If considering “talk” in personal context, then we see that “status” disappears and a main role plays interpersonal relation. Here “talk” exists for the sake of talking. Researches from America and Britain collected evidences which prove that the woman-man amount in these two contexts distributes differently. Men, statistically proved, dominate in talking during the business meeting, seminars, organizational events, and etc., because men perceive such dominating as their status approval. Women are more willing to talk in stress-free, relaxed social contexts, where they can develop and improve their relationships.

The particular research was undertaken by Canadian and American scientists; they observed female-male couples in the discourse. Different topics were given to couples and women talked more than men only in “family and relationship” topics. This proves that the real situation is opposite to the existing belief that women talk more.

It was observed that during TV shows where people are interviewed the bigger amount of speaking time is taken by men as well; they speak more than half.

Going to the field of education, researchers concluded that during the seminars where the women-men number was about the same once again men spoke more. They asked two-thirds of all questions, talked to Professors; in short, men dominated the discourse again.

In the school classrooms teacher speaks the most part of the lesson. The remained part of “free-tome” left for students to speak is taken mainly by boys. This fact led researches to the conclusion that in the situation, where time is valuable, speaks the one who has the status. In this context boys are asserting to claim to higher status by taking the majority of time left for student talk. Moreover, this pattern comes up from kindergarten to higher education.

When women have good work positions and the meeting is carried out, men contribute to it more. This information is taken from the British research where 4 women and 4 men were employed to high management positions. Men tend to instruct women and to dominate meetings.

Bringing to notice the “kind” of a talk women and men use, we can observe that men are more likely to express opinions and give information, while women employ supportive talk, more agreeing and encouraging. Men = referential, informative; women = supportive, facilitative. There is another important point to be discussed – social confidence. It is quite clear that if one knows the particular topic sufficiently, then one can contribute to the discussion about it. The more familiar person is with the topic, the more active person is in the discussion. Once again, regardless to genders, during the same conversation men-experts still talk more than women-experts do. Even knowing the topic particularly well, women were more likely to ask questions and make comments. There was another study carries out where some couples with the traditional gender role were observed; the results were the same. Only when women were with strongly marked feministic concerns, then they took a firm hold of the conversation. That is why we can conclude that women tend to talk more when they have expert status and when they follow feminist philosophy.

Over a long period of time women were educated not to make claims to their status, not to speak to the public, not to rule countries, not to hold high ranks. Mainly, they spoke to develop inter-personal relationships, they maintained family connections. Of course, there were exceptions, Margaret Thatcher, for example. In addition to it, the 20th century was a period in human history marked with great changes in everything we could imagine and women started making up for the lost time.

It happened to be that men are considered to be “protectors”. If we reflect this protection on the “talk”, then we will see that some women pretend not to understand and men become so helpful: protecting and explaining. Dale Spender came to a conclusion that the talkativeness of women is not measured in comparison with men; it is measured in comparison with silence. Because people do not judge whether women talk more than men, but whether they talk more than silent woman. Let’s imagine that there is holding a meeting, and woman begins talking and this is perceived by men as “too much”. To understand that, think about situation when children dominate adult party. This is how men get women’s talking out of personal context.

Deborah Tannen (1990) suggests that women – rapport-talk, men – report-talk. Rapport-talking is a gathering if all the emotions, personal feeling and things that happened to a woman. While speaking she would like to tell about it. Imagine a couple they went with friends to a dinner and man is actively talking, makes jokes, and woman is rather quiet. But when they come home she starts to tell him everything what happened to her during the day and when asking husband “How was your day”, she hears “Nothing special, as usual”. It happens because men use report-talk, they state about facts, about events, altogether impersonalized info. But when it comes to expressing the feeling, men drop silent. That is why the stereotype that women talk more happens to be. Women talk about things they found important in their own lives, once again personal topics. While men when they speak a lot, they usually speak in public and this speaking is associated with doing the real work. Actually, Matthias Mehl carried out a research and counted the number of words per day told by women and men. Women – 16,215, men – 15,669, so number is quite the same. What Mehl notices is that men still talk more words in a particular conversation, while women have said less. To make it more clear, rapport talk vs. report talk is feelings vs. material things.

To sum it all up, it is hard to give a straight answer who speaks more, because it all depends on the status, context, will, education, point of view, familiarity with the topic, social role.

How do the gender differences in language look like?

Each individual behave linguistically unlike other individuals. Yes, they might speak the same languagedialect, but still the style will differ. Both of them constitute the speech community, and ideally it would be expected that they should be treated equally, but still linguistic difference happen in linguistic and cultural context. In some cases these differences are not so noticed, they are taken for granted as gestures or facial expression. In other cases these distinctions may be pretty evident and clear.

Women language is considered to be a reflection of their individual qualities: emotions, sensitivity, sociability, expressivities, solidarity, etc. Men language is a proof of their status, independence, control, etc. In general, women are considered to be more polite than men; sometimes this reflects their social insecurity. Language politeness is usually described in terms of compromisers, down toners, weakeners or softeners. These devices make utterances sound more gently. When person wants to emphasize the utterance they normally use booster or intensifier, strengtheners or up graders (Lankoff 1973).

Another linguistic feature that characterizes womenmen language is the “verbal filler”, also called “pragmatic particle”. Verbal fillers make a speaker seem less sure of themselves and their message: I think, you know, sort of, of course. Verbal fillers are considered to be one of the main characteristics of women language. Women use “I think” very often; the phrase is one of the most commonly used by females, because, once again, they want to underline their politeness by means of “I think”.

Next, goes the “question tag” which as well characterizes women-like speech. Over again it emphasizes women desire to be polite. Questions tag a grammatical structure in which a declarative statement or an imperative is turned into a question by adding an interrogative fragment (the “tag”) [3]. Thus, woman use the question tag because they want to get opponents approval, appreciation. The usage of tag questions shows lack of confidence in those who uses them, ex. Open the door for me, could you? Question tags may play two main roles: softeners, as in the example above where is a polite demand made; facilitative – invites someone to take part in the conversation, ex. Such a tasty pie, isn’t it?

Another characteristic feature of women language is that they easily let another speaker in to the conversation, a while speaking they more suggest rather give orders. Moreover, women like to use super-polite form in addressing: ‘would you be so kind, and so on’. Seidler (1989) even considers that women and men tend to speak on different topics: men talk about politics, sport, etc., women – beauty, relationships, etc. But don’t you think it’s rather sexist? Almost everyone has met in hisher life a woman really interested in politics, or a man who’s very attentive about his appearance. On the other hand women have a habit to apologize when they talk a lot as if they have done something wrong. As to men their language style underlines their position in the relations hierarchy, they say in the expressive way showing what they want: “bring this, give me that, etc.” Men tend to dominate, to achieve certain thing and emphasize their point of view.

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Let’s talk about “humor”. Once again people got used that it is more men-like to make jokes, to full around, while women have to keep their “profile”. That is why “lack of humor” is considered to be a trait of women language. It is widely thought that men jump from a topic to topic, they tell anecdotes, while women are poor in this kind of activity.

Pamela Fishman (1980) describes another characteristic of womenmen speech and it’s a minimal responses – the sound which a listener produce during the conversation such as ‘yeah’ or ‘mhm’ – which are used both by women and men, but with different colouring. Women use minimal responses to show that they are involved into conversation and they want to stimulate the speaker, while men on the contrary use minimal responses to express the lack of the interest.

There appears such linguistic term as “hedges”, which means ‘lessening the impact of an utterance’, ex.: seem, tend, look like, appear to be, think, believe [3]. Usually hedges are expressed by adjectives and adverbs, sometimes by certain clauses. In a way hedges are considered to be similar to euphemisms (substitution for harshoffensive words or phrases). Again men speak in a straight way minding their status.

Furthermore, language of a woman is a language of intonation; sometimes it is colds “speaking in italics” – when a word or a phrase in being emphasized in order to catch one’s interest (Lakoff 1973). Sometimes speaking in italics means whispering, in this case it also stresses some particular moments in the utterance. Such word’s stressing wasn’t observable in men speech, because they don’t tend to speak in hints and put a deeper sense in a emphasized word. Next is another interesting case with “empty adjectives”, such as well, sweet, adorable, gorgeous, wonderful, lovely, fantastic, etc. In fact these adjectives do not play any role in the utterance and do not have any message; moreover they are said just for sake of saying something. In the sentence empty adjectives as usual ones define the noun, but the difference is that in empty adjectives is hard to identify the real meaning implied. Actually, the empty adjectives tend to bring more compliment-effect to the conversation.

It was written before that women have a responsibility on them for the children, for keeping the family, hearth and home, and this requires the great deal of how do they speak. Society put on women a weight of “care”; that is why women have to speak correctly, use right grammar forms and pronunciation, otherwise they will be greatly criticized. And this is another trait of women language – hypercorrectness.

As a result of the course of history men always had a bigger freedom and therefore more independence. Of course today situation greatly changes, but some consequences remain. While saying something men do not need any confirmation or a reference, they just report what they know or heard. Although women use in their speech “direct quotations” “Mary said to me that she heard that Liz is…” This usage appears because women do not feel themselves enough confidents, in a way they are afraid of the responsibly for what they have said; in this case ‘Mary will be guilty, because she said so’.

There are scientists (Tannen) who think that it is likely for women to use “hint language”; it means that women don’t say directly “Let’s go to the cinema”, but they use backstairs “Hmm, what a nice movie is on today? How do you think would it be interesting? There is Naomi Watts starring, I love her”. Some say that girls from their childhood are learnt to speak in such a manner, because they are programmed that to say “I WANT” is impolite and inappropriate. For men it is typically to state their thought and want directly with no hints and overtones. This gender trait is connected to another one about the way how women and men speak. Women love details, they can talk round and round the subject keeping the key idea till the end, because for them process of telling is more important than the message by itself, while men want key idea in the first place. It doesn’t mean that men don’t like the details, no they do, but in order to listen to the story in all its beauty, he needs to hear the short ‘summary’ of the topic. It is like scientific research where all the purposes, thesis statements should be mentioned in the introduction, so that reader could be able to draw a picture about what the research is about and then (if a reader is interested) to read detailed description of how, when and why.

Thus there are specific devices in a speech, which stress or soften it. Some of them make utterances more polite and gentle, some – more strict and rough. According to Lankoff (1973) devices which ‘irons the edges’ of the utterance are typical for women and the stressing devices are typical for the men. Let’s enumerate the traits that are identified as a ‘woman language’: softeners, verbal filler, question tag, lack of humor, minimal responses, hedges, speaking in italics, empty adjectives, hypercorrectness, and direct quotations. Hence men use the opposite devices or just do not use some of them, like, for the example, direct quotations.

Gender differences in language and Sexism

Language differences is not the same as the sexism, which is the extreme form of discriminating one sex towards another, and usually women are discriminated. In English, for example word ‘men’ is equal to a human being, so it is both possible to say ‘men’ to indicate man and woman. Some professions in English are associated with both genders, but people generally depict the as male: doctor, writer, professor. If one wants to underline the sex, heshe should add word woman before it: woman doctor, woman writer, woman professor.

Generally, sexism is a strong degree of prejudicing and biasing, it separates woman and men and upraises one over another; while gender differences in language show that women and men don’t talk alike, that they use language in different way with different vocabulary and intonations.

So, we should not mix up these two terms and we should feel the difference between them. Because every person has his own unique speaking style and it is worth to pay attention to it; and absolutely opposite situation is when people are discriminated in language use.

Gender differences in language and Culture

Probably all of us will agree that language and culture go with one another, and human is a ‘concept’ that binds them together. You may ask ‘does culture influence language?’ or ‘language influences culture?’ but the answer will be that they are complementary, they work two-ply.

Each language was shaped during a particular historical time, and while times were changing, languages did the same: Old, Middle, Modern English may stand for how people tended to speak, think. Every period with all the cultural specifics influenced the language. When society was strictly divided into men and women as two different creatures with absolutely different rights, where each of them had hisher set of one mayone may not, then a language used by them was certainly different. Another interesting moment is that some scientists consider that each language and its structure are determined by the culture.

Today the situation is quite the same, language reflects cultural differences and vice versa. Connecting culture to the gender differences in language we can see that culture play a very important role in determining some characteristic traits. First, let’s look on the word culture from a broad and wide perspective. Generally word ‘culture’ means “the characteristics of a particular group of people, defined by everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts” [7]. But there could be a ‘family culture’ – a culture as a part of one family, culture of a particular small or big society, etc. An each person educated if the frames of one, of two or more cultures uses a language different from another person with another background. Let’s imagine a family where parents educate their children in equal manner, they teach boys and girls that they are the same and no one is in a priority. Eventually, kids grow up with similar word patterns, structure, and maybe style. On the other hand, in a family, where boys are considered superior to girls, where girls and grown up women even do not eat at the same table with men, children will definitely have striking language differences.

Actually childhood is extremely important period, during first seven years children are shaped into particular persons. If a boy sees men’s dominance, brutality, certain word use, then he receives it as a role-model; in future, when he will be a grown-up it will be nearly impossible to change him. The same with girls, they see a picture of mincing, shifty and unconfident women, they follow, or maybe they resist, but then will join the judging society that knows what is right or wrong and won’t let girls to be strong. It was just an example of how may happen, of how cultural surrounding may affect.

If looking broader, for example, not a family, but a country, continent, we will see that differences are even bigger. The attitudes and behavior in different cultures are on vaster scale. That is why when a person wants to learn a language, heshe should learn a culture in parallel; these are two notions are always together, they can’t exist separately. In a way culture is a product of human thought and work, the same is a language. Maltz and Borker (1982) consider that women and men by themselves are representatives of two different sub-cultures, despite the differences, they still communicate, contact with each other every day. Women and men have specific cultural background, which reflects their speaking style, and thus they have specific ‘rules’ significant for their style: how to speak, with whom, when, in which way, etc. For example, how do you speak with a friend of yours, how do you speak with a chief, what do you say when you’re angry or happy – all these are your personal rules, it is a ‘code’ in a way, which reflect your culture and education.

Another interesting moment is that girls and boys approximately from the age of 5 to 15 communicate mostly with representatives of their own sex. Boys have their own ‘code’, girls have, they live in a small societies made by them. But what if a girl is mostly communicating with boys’ clique or a boy is grown up in a family consisting of mother, two sisters, aunt and granny? Then the role-models change the world view and language style of a girl or a boy.

Moreover, economic and political life plays a huge role in language development. We can say that economic situation and political power reflect the language genders use. Countries, were women can be at the helm, definitely give the example for others what a woman can reach to.

Not in terms of linguistics, gender differences is the study of sociolinguistic that is concerned with age, sex, style, social class, and environment. For example, older people are less likely to use new words and if they got used to some speech patterns it would be extremely difficult to teach them that it is wrong or sexist. The sex we have already discussed a lot in previous and following chapters. Every social class has its specific language ‘code’ typical only for them. Style is the way how something was said, done, performed, etc.; so we can ‘style’ to question ‘how’ and this question describes how people speak; intonation, stress, pitch, vocabulary, voice, manner, body language, and so on. And finally goes environment, which greatly influences language; utterance directly depends on environment: at home, at work, with friends, with enemies, at party, at funerals.

As we see us, culture shapes us, culture is our background and basis on which stands our whole world-view. Furthermore, first years of a child are extremely important because they perceive everything they see around and in future they unconsciously follow it as s role-model. Culture and language coexist together and reflect one another, thus we can judge about person’s culture according to hisher language use.

Is it a Myth?

Today many scientists claim that gender difference in language is just a dogma in which people want to believe. The idea that “Men are from Mars and Women from Venus” is considered to be biased, that someone for some purposes imposes people to think so. The thing is that every person, no matter man or woman, speaks differently, every person has hisher own style, manner and vocabulary. Once again it sticks to the culture, education and personal traits. Today there are men whose language can be characterized accordingly to all women-like traits we described before. Moreover, it was observed that today young women leave from all “hedges, softeners”, etc. in their speech. Language becomes somehow unisex. ” Still there are hundreds of books dedicated to the topic, and sometimes it is difficult to ‘battle’ with nature when scientist say that womenmen have specific traits typical only to one gender (hormones, brain structure).

One can ask himherself “What gender do you speak?” in a sense whose language is closer to you: woman or man? Why should one ask the question? Because all over this research it was stated that women speak in their own particular way, men speak in their. But still it is not a strict rule, every person may have a mix of these characteristic, some men may be so expressive and emotional, and some women can be extremely restrained and non-chatty. Many modern business women leave men far behind in how they speak in public or during the meeting.

So, if you ask are there some differences in menwomen speech or is it a myth, you’ll get the answer “It depends”. It is a very fair answer, and to put somebody into particular frame is a mistake. As many people are there in the word, as many language styles and traits do exist.

Gender-Neutral Language

Gender-neutral language was put into practice not so long ago; many of gender-specific words were replaced by neutral ones, for example, waiter and waitress happened to be server [2]. The example with ‘server’ is a substitution of one noun with another, while it is possible to change the suffix; “ship” is a quite common malefemale suffix which helps to avoid gender-specific words. As well as suffixes, one can be focused on careful word-choice: people instead of men, police officer instead of policeman, etc. Gender-neutral language is linguistic prescriptivism that doesn’t stress the gender in utterance. Here are some examples connected with pronouns (at the present time a very discussed topic): “The dancer put his hat on”, representatives of gender-neutral language would say “The dancer put his or her hat on” or “The dancers put their hats on”, but sometimes the last variant, when you want to specify a particular person, is not so appropriate; ‘their’ can be also used when gender is unknown. There is one more variation which is quite debatable, because many consider it incorrect, other consider it rather informal: “The dancer put their hat on”, but still the variant exist and is widely used. Another variant is to write ‘she’ instead of only ‘he’. We should not confuse ‘gender-neutral language’ with ‘genderless languages’, which initially does not have gender forms in their structure.

Gender-neutral language adherents consider that language is rich in synonyms, alternatives and they should be used in order not to discriminate. Today it became very popular to use gender-neutral language in academic writing and political speeches in order not to specify gender or make exclusions. Many people consider that gender-neutral language is a good idea especially in a sense of job or social life. Of course no one can make you use the gender-neutral language, there is no such law; it is a personal choice. Moreover, everything depends on the context, situation and assumptions, because someone can say a very humiliating and sexist phrase even without gender stressed words. Still, gender-neutral language is more accurate and it is fact, and if you want to avoid awkwardness and misunderstanding, you’d better be more attentive with the vocabulary you use.


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