7.  ALICE F. FREED, Montclair State College

Alice F. Freed
Linguistics Department
Montclair State College
Upper Montclair, NJ 07043
(201) 655 - 7505

(Course number: LNGN 255)
Course last taught - SPRING 1993

General Information:

This is an undergraduate course with no prerequisites. At Montclair 
State, it can be used as an elective within the Linguistics major or 
minor and/or as an elective for the Women's Studies minor. It also 
satisfies the College's General Education Social Science Topics 
requirement  and the Minorities' Culture requirement. 

The course is designed to simultaneously introduce students to the 
field of language and gender (as a subfield of sociolinguistics) and to 
women's studies. A basic feminist perspective is built into the course 
and is made explicit from the beginning.  An overview of language and 
gender research is provided by tracing the growth of the field and by 
exploring the development of research approaches; this is 
accomplished through readings and class discussion. A number of 
topics which are not included here could be substituted for the ones 
that are listed; for example, there is no section on the acquisition of 
sex-linked speech characteristics nor is there a section on women and 
politeness. The term project, which requires students to collect and 
analyze naturally occurring speech, is a particular focus of this course. 
This and the assignment for which students tape and transcribe a 
section of a conversation are both extremely successful.

There have been two sorts of difficulties encountered. 1. Although 
some of the students have had other courses in linguistics and some 
have not, this, in itself, is not a significant problem.  More of a 
problem is getting a group of undergraduate students to discuss, with 
any level of sophistication, the important points of primary linguistic 
sources. However, teaching this course solely through textbooks and 
secondary sources is NOT satisfactory. 2. Depending on the 
composition of the class, there is sometimes resistance to the feminist 
perspective introduced in the class. This is a potential problem of 
much feminist pedagogy and requires vigilance on the part of the 

Finally, it is becoming increasingly difficult to choose among the ever 
increasing number of interesting articles and books in language and 
gender. A number of good textbooks and anthologies are available in 
addition to the ones used here. (Some, however, seem to come in and 
out of print.) Compiling and copying a different xerox packet every 
year is quite time-consuming.

Outline of the Course

Required Readings:

     Coates, Jennifer and Deborah Cameron, Eds.  1989.  Women in
     Their Speech Communities. London and New York: Longman.
     Graddol, David and Joan Swann. 1989. Gender Voices. Oxford
     and Cambridge, MASS.: Blackwell.

     Packet of xeroxed articles. 

Course Requirements:

1. Assigned readings.
2. Written homework assignments.
3. Attendance and class participation. 
4. A midterm exam.
5. A final exam. 
6. A term project: Details below.

Term project:

Choose or create a situation in which you will be able to investigate 
the speech of women and men. You will have to deal with speech and 
not with writing and you will need to study "naturally occurring" 
speech, not "artificial or made-up speech." You can investigate any 
language that you are familiar with. The project will require collecting 
speech  samples involving 15-20 different women and 15-20 different 
men. The speech samples will be analyzed for possible differences 
between the speech of the women and the men.  As many variables as 
possible will have to be considered: i.e. the situation, the social 
context,  the sex of the interviewer, the age of the informants, their 
social backgrounds, etc. If possible, you are encouraged to enlist the 
help of a friend or relative of the opposite sex to collect half of the 
data. Procedures for these projects will be discussed at length in class.

You will be required to:
1. Hand in a short description of your project. The most important part 
of this is a detailed description of your plan for data collection. 

2. Give an in-class presentation of your project highlighting your 
results. This will be about a ten-minute presentation, and will be 
scheduled for the last two or three weeks of class.

3. Prepare a 8-10 page double-spaced typed paper. This is to be handed 
in three weeks before the end of the semester. All papers are due 
before the class presentations begin. The paper will include a 
transcription of your data, a discussion of the procedures which you 
used and an analysis and interpretation of the results. 

Back to the Language and Gender page.   John Lawler