The aim of this blog is to serve as a meeting point to those who study or have studied English philology and, more broadly, to all those who love literature and language.

11 Sep 2008

GENDERLECTS

“Do men and women speak in the same way? Do men dominate topics of conversation? Are men more assertive than women? Do men interrupt women more often than women interrupt men?" This is the beginning of the section devoted to the gender variable in language production, included in the text book used for SOCIOLINGÜÍSTICA INGLESA last year. In it several aspects, such as the notion of genderlect, the neurophysiologic differences in the way males and females process language, the ‘unmarked’ status of the masculine forms… are discussed.

It is also commented that, to some extent, the differences in western societies are blurring with time.

“Gender differences are exceedingly complex, particularly in a society and era when women have been moving self-consciously into the marketplace and calling traditional gender roles into question”. (Eckert, 1997:214)

I accept that there are differences such as the features identified by Robin Lakoff (more frequent use of evaluative adjectives, hesitant intonation, more indirectness, etc. in women than in men) but, taking into account my immediate environment and experience, I’d say that they are not substantial... or are they and I don't realize?

Today I was emailed a copy of this video sketch:


I found it funny and recognised the criticism on the stereotyped image of ignorant and quiet women as more feminine and socially valued in a certain type of patriarchal world in the past. I also thought that a situation like that sounds more and more improbable nowadays. Anyway, I was shocked by some of the comments made by viewers of the video on YouTube. The topic engages people and fosters participation and arguments.

3 comments:

  1. Once I used to ask myself if women and men really talk different. Now I used to ask myself how could I be so fool. Gosh! Of course men and women talk different! Even more, old people talk different from young people, religious people talk different from atheist people, and probably one day or another some scholar will demonstrate that people talk different according to their zodiac sign. I talk different from my brother. What the hell! I talk different from myself some years ago! The point is that sameness simply doesn´t exist. Everything is a question of proximity. The closer you examine two things; the bigger differences you find between them. Nothing is equal to nothing. We are all islands; all similar, but all different.
    Juan F.

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  2. Are we really islands with regards to our idiolects? I'm not so sure. I'd say that our way of speaking, our intonation, choice of words, style... or even preferred topics of conversation are indebted to those of some of the people we have nearby, be them friends, relatives or radio broadcasters. We talk differently, of course, but too interconnected, hardly isolated.

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  3. I agree with Juan in being isolated islands in the sense of uniqueness, we may be similar but there is always uniqueness in the way every person man or woman talks that makes him/herself attractive or unbearable sometimes.

    I think we talk differently because we are different, but different does not mean inferior to men as some tragically tend to think.

    Also, in my opinion, some women tend to confuse equal rights with sameness and in their blindness for equality they follow the wrong path and instead of being themselves, they just take men as a model to follow, imitating behaviours and even SPEECH.

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