7. ALICE F. FREED, Montclair State College
Alice F. Freed
Montclair State College
Upper Montclair, NJ 07043
(201) 655 - 7505
WOMEN, MEN AND LANGUAGE
(Course number: LNGN 255)
Course last taught - SPRING 1993
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
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.
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.
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.
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