18. BONNIE MCELHINNY, Stanford University
I've designed the following syllabus for the next language
and gender course I teach. The changes reflect the renewed
interest that language and gender has recently received in
linguistics. There has been a spate of recent articles, and a
major conference (Locating Power: The 1992 Berkeley
Conference on Women and Language). As always happens as
a field of study develops, articles have become increasingly
specialized. One doesn't find articles on "Women and Men's
Speech in Culture X"; rather one finds articles detailing
aspects of interaction (affect, politeness, etc.). The
organization of this syllabus also reflects however changing
theoretical understandings of how gender ought best to be
studied. Rather than isolating gender from other aspects of
social identity, we're coming to understand that the best way
to understand how gender is constructed is to understand
how it is normatively and actually linked to the construction
of a variety of other identities (ethnic, age-related, regional,
class, occupational, sexual) and to the display of other social
stances and emotions (affect, politeness, affiliation with
traditional/modern norms, formality, and more).
I've borrowed the idea of a semester's-end class conference
from John Rickford's African-American Vernacular English
class. In that class, as in this, students regularly produce
original and innovative work. In a traditional college
classroom, this work would only be seen by the instructor.
A one-day mini-conference affords students' additional
experience in the valuable skill of public presentations, as
well as allowing them to hear the research results of their
fellow students, and engage in the questioning and academic
discussion that seeing such presentations often engenders.
John also regularly "publishes" this work in a course-reader
proceedings--a measure that serves to further legitimate
and recognize the work done by these students. It's a
particularly effective technique to use with students (like
women and minorities) whose academic work we may
particularly want to recognize.
LANGUAGE AND GENDER
Bonnie S. McElhinny
This course is a comprehensive introduction to the study of
language and gender. Students need not have any previous
linguistic training to enroll in the course, though students
with some linguistic background will probably reap
additional benefit from the course. The course has a strong
international focus, drawing on descriptions of women and
men's speech in Europe (Spain, Newfoundland, the
Netherlands, Wales, Germany, Hungary), Asia (Java, Japan),
North America (African-American, European-Amerian,
Native American, Puerto-Rican), Africa (Egypt, Madagascar),
South America (Warao, Tenejapa, Mexicano, Kuna) and the
Pacific Islands (Samoa). Students will consider some of the
debates currently taking place in sociolinguistic studies of
gender about which theoretical frameworks to use in
understanding why, how and when gender differences in
language use exist. Though this debate takes a particular
form within sociolinguistics (often, dual culture models vs.
power/resistance models), similar debates take place in
psychology, history, anthropology and other fields. This
course thus also provides an introduction to some of the
principal questions of feminist theory, as viewed from
sociolinguistics. The course introduces students to a variety
of sociolinguistic concepts as they are used and useful in
studies of language and gender (including style, dialect,
standard and nonstandard language, speech community,
bilingualism, politeness and communicative competence).
An important part of this course is the set of attached mini-
fieldwork exercises.These are intended to provide students
with practice in the gathering, analysis and interpretation of
naturally-occurring conversational data. Near the beginning
of the quarter students will tape a conversation somewhere
on campus, and then will use that audiotape to consider a
number of questions about language and gender. I expect
that these exercises done by the students will in some cases
provide evidence against some overly hasty generalizations
made in the sociolinguistic literature about men and
women's speech. Further, these exercises provide students
with firsthand evidence about how one's choice of methods
and data can influence the outcome of a study.
Students will also be expected to turn in a weekly one-page
response to the readings. This response should NOT be a
summary of the readings (I've read them!) but rather than
attempt to consider some point in more detail--illustrating it
with data from one's own tape or experience, questioning it,
offering an alternative interpretation, relating it to other
reading we've done.
Finally students will be required to write a final paper (20
pages) on a some issue relating to language and gender. This
paper may be an extension of one of the fieldwork exercises,
or an investigation of some issue not addressed by class
readings, or a theoretical critique of some aspect of language
and gender research.
Many of the articles listed below could be classified under
more than one of the weekly subject headings. When an
article from previous weeks is particularly relevant, that
article is included in parentheses at the end of the brief
paragraph describing that week's readings. So, for instance,
Briggs 1993 is included under week 4 (power and
resistance) but also under week 7 (gender and affect). Such
articles should be reviewed carefully, along with the other
readings assigned for that week.
We'll be using the following texts in this course:
Cameron, Deborah. 1985. Feminism and Linguistic Theory
(London: Macmillan Press).
Coates, Jennifer. 1986. Women, Men and Language: A
Sociolinguistic Account of Sex Differences in Language
Lakoff, Robin. 1974. Language and Woman's Place (NY:
Thorne, Barrie, Cheris Kramarae, and Nancy Henley (eds.).
1983. Language, Gender and Society (Rowley MA:
Week 1: Theoretical Overviews
These articles provide an overview of theoretical
perspectives on the study of gender in general, and on
language and gender in particular. The questions these
articles raise are ones we'll return to frequently throughout
the semester. Come to class prepared to discuss the
definitions of 'gender' offered in these articles.
Borker, Ruth and Daniel Maltz. 1989. "Anthropological
Perspectives on Gender and Language" in Gender and
Anthropology: Critical Reviews for Research and Teaching
(AAA: Washington DC).
Cameron, Deborah. 1985. "Chapter 2. Linguistic Theory:
Frameworks and Approaches" in Feminism and Linguistic
Theory, pp. 9-29.
Eckert, Penelope and Sally McConnell-Ginet. 1992. "Think
Practically and Look Locally: Language and Gender as
Community-Based Practice" Annual Review of
Gal, Susan. 1991. "Between Speech and Silence: The
Problematics of Research on Language and Gender" in
Gender at the Crossroads of Knowledge: Feminist
Anthropology in the Postmodern Era (Berkeley: Univ. of
California Press), pp. 175-203.
Jaggar, Alison and Paula Rothenberg. 1984. "Theories of
Women's Oppression" in Feminist Frameworks:
Alternative Theoretical Accounts of the Relations Between
Men and Women (NY: McGraw-Hill), pp. 81-91.
McElhinny, Bonnie. 1993. "Theories of Gender in
Sociolinguistics" Chapter 1 of How Gender Talks: Discourse
and Dialect as Symbols of Professional Identity (Ph.D.
dissertation, Stanford University).
Rhode, Deborah. 1990. "Theoretical Perspectives on Sexual
Difference" in Theoretical Perspectives on Sexual
Difference (New Haven: Yale University Press), pp. 1-13.
Week 2: Gossip
Stereotypes about men and women's speech shape many
speakers' (and many scholars'!) ideas of what differences
exist between men and women's language. One negative
stereotype attached to women's speech in many cultures is
that women talk all the time, or talk too much, about trivial
things and other people. This week's articles consider the
functions of gossip in three very different communities: a
Spanish village, a Newfoundland village and an African-
American urban community. Borker reviews studies of
gossip across Europe, while Spacks develops an account of
the way that subordinate groups more generally (servants,
women, slaves) use gossip as a way of disseminating
information, promoting unity, and keeping their distance
from the superordinate group. Consider the functions of
gossip discussed here in light of Gal's views on silencing and
resistance. Come into class with a short list of stereotypes of
men's and women's speech in languages and communities
with which you are familiar. Are there any patterns? How
do you think the stereotypes correspond to the way men and
women actually talk?
Borker, Ruth. 1980. "Anthropology: Social and Cultural
Perspectives" in Women and Language in Literature and
Society, pp. 26-44.
Coates, Jennifer. 1986 "Ch. 2: The Historical Background:
Folklinguistics and Early Grammarians" in Women, Men
and Language, pp. 15-34.
Goodwin, Marjorie. 1980. "He-said-she-said: Formal
Cultural Procedures for the Construction of a Gossip
Dispute Activity" American Ethnologist 7(4):674-695.
Foris, James. 1966. "The Dynamics of Verbal Exchange: A
Newfoundland Example" Anthropologica 8(2):235-248.
Harding, Susan. 1975. "Women and Words in a Spanish
Village" in Toward an Anthropology of Women (NY:
Spacks, Patricia Mayers. 1985. "Ch. 2: Its Reputation" in
Gossip (NY: Knopf).
Exercise 1 --Transcription of Conversation-is due.
Week 3: Dual Culture Models and Critiques
One explanation for gender differences in speech is that boys
and girls in a given society are socialized so differently that
communication between them (and between men and
women) is like communication between two different
cultures. Borker and Maltz 1982 first presented this dual
culture model; Tannen 1990 provides the most elaborated
and well-known version of it. In psychology Carol Gilligan's
work (especially, In a Different Voice) makes a similar
argument. Before class you will want to review Eckert and
McConnell-Ginet's critique of this dual-culture model. Also
reconsider Goodwin's 1980 article. Does her work provide
evidence for or against a dual-culture model?
Freed, Alice. 1993. "We Understand Perfectly: A Critique of
Tannen's View of Cross-Sex Communication" in M.
Bucholtz, K. Hall and B. Moonwomon (eds.), Locating Power:
Proceedings of the 1992 Berkeley Conference on Women
and Language (Berkeley: Dept. of Linguistics, Univ. of
Gilligan, Carol. 1982. "Ch 2: Images of Relationship" in In a
Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's
Development (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press), pp. 24-63.
Maltz, Daniel and Ruth Borker. 1982. "A cultural approach
to male-female miscommunication" in Language and Social
Identity (NY: Cambridge University Press).
Tannen, Deborah. 1990. You Just Don't Understand: Men
and Women in Conversation (NY: William Morrow and Co,
Week 4: Power and Resistance
Critics of the dual-culture model argue that thinking of men
and women as separate but equal cultures doesn't take
power differences between men and women into account.
They argue that that model doesn't explain how these
different cultural styles arose for men and women, and the
ways that differences in men and women's speech might
reflect and support differential access to power in their
shared culture. These articles explore a variety of ways of
thinking about power and resistance to power as it is
expressed in language (See also Gal 1991, Eckert and
Abu-Lughod, Lila. 1986. "Ch 7. "Modesty and the Poetry of
Love" and Ch. 8 "Ideology and the Politics of Sentiment" in
Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society,
Briggs, Charles. 1992. "Since I am a Woman, I Will Chastise
My Relatives: Gender, Reported Speech and the
(Re)production of Social Relations in Warao Ritual Wailing"
American Ethnologist 19(2):336-361.
Cameron, Deborah. 1985. "Chapter 6: Silence, Alienation
and Oppression: Feminist Models of Language" and
"Chapter 7: Feminist Models of Language: Semiology and
the Gendered Subject" in Feminism and Linguistic Theory,
Radway, J. 1984. Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy
and Popular Literature (Chapel Hill: Univ. of No. Carolina
Week 5: Interpreting Linguistic Forms and their Social
Some of the earliest work on gender differences suggested
that women's speech isn't as effective as men's because
women tend to use certain negatively evaluated forms more
than men do. The next wave of linguistic research suggested
that often linguistic forms that were negatively evaluated
when used by women were sometimes positively evaluated
when used by men, and that where linguistic forms were
consistently negatively evaluated, people of lesser status
(whether male or female) used such forms more than people
of greater status (male or female). All this suggested that it
isn't a linguistic form itself which should be considered to
have an inherent meaning, but rather the social position of
the speaker, and the context in which that speaker is
speaking. Recently this has been used as evidence for the
necessity of studying the use and interpretation of linguistic
forms within the norms of a given community by scholars
like Penny Eckert, Marjorie Goodwin and Cindie McLemore.
They've suggested that the categories of 'men' and 'women',
unless defined within the context of a given community, are
too abstract to be useful in understanding why people use a
given linguistic form and what it means. We'll consider the
question of the interpretation of linguistic forms and their
relationship to cultural context with this week's readings.
Coates surveys studies of a number of linguistic forms
(intonation, hedges, tag questions) associated with sex
differences in English. Tannen and West focus on the role of
interruptions in Dutch and English interactions. McLemore
and Ochs provide theoretical accounts of how to determine
the meaning of a linguistic form within a community. Does
the work of Tannen here best support a dual-culture model
of gender difference, or a power/resistance model? How
about the work of Zimmerman and West?
Coates, Jennifer. 1986. Ch. 6 "Sex Differences in
CommunicativeCompetence" in Women, Men and Language,
Lakoff, Robin. 1974. Language and Women's Place (NY:
McConnell-Ginet, Sally. 1988. "Language and Gender" in
Frederick Newmeyer (ed.), Language: The Sociocultural
Context (Vol. IV. in Linguistics: The Cambridge Survey)
(Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press), pp. 75-99.
McLemore, Cynthia. 1991. "The Interpretation of L*H in
English" in C. McLemore (ed.), Linguistic Forum 32:
Discourse (Austin: University of Texas Dept. of Linguistics).
Ochs, Elinor. 1992. "Indexing Gender" in C. Goodwin and A.
Duranti (eds.), Rethinking Context: Language as an
Interactive Phenomenon (Cambridge: Cambridge
Tannen, Deborah. 1989. "Interpreting Interruption in
Conversation" in Papers from the 25th Annual Meeting of
the Chicago Linguistics Society, Part 2, 266-287.
West, C. and Don Zimmerman. 1983. "Small insults: A study
of Interruptions in Cross-Sex Conversations between
Unacquainted Persons" in Language, Gender and Society
(Rowley, Mass: Newbury House).
Exercise 2--Gender Differences in Interruptions--is due.
Week 7: Politeness
Expressions of politeness not only indicate one's attitude
towards an interlocutor (one is generally more genuinely
polite to those one respects than those one does not), and
one's social distance from them (for instance, one is
generally more likely to be polite to a stranger than to
family, in the West), but they also often index one's own
social position (so that in the West one is often more polite to
a social superior than to a peer, and one is differently polite
to a social superior than to a social inferior). Levinson and
Brown is a seminal attempt to codify the principles
governing the expression of politeness. The other articles
included here discuss the ways that use of politeness by men
and women in a number of cultures indexes, and often
reproduces, their social positions.
Abrahams, Roger. 1975. "Negotiating Respect: Patterns of
Presentation Among Black Women" Journal of American
Folkore 88, pp. 58-80.
Brown, Penelope. 1990. "Gender, Politeness and
Confrontation in Tenejapa" Discourse Processes 13(1):123-
Brown, Penelope and Stephen Levinson. 1987. Politeness:
Some Universals in Language Use (Cambridge: Cambridge
Univ. Press), pp. 55-84.
Deuchar, Margaret. 1988. "A Pragmatic Account of Women's
Use of Standard Language" in Women in Their Speech
Community (London: Longman), pp. 27-32.
Goodwin, Marjorie Harness. 1980. "Directive-Response
Sequences in Girls' and Boys' Task Activities" in Women
and Language in Literature and Society (NY: Praeger), pp.
Keenan, Elinor. 1974. "Norm-makers and Norm-breakers:
Uses of Speech by Men and Women in a Malagasy
Community" in Explorations in the Ethnography of
Speaking (NY: Cambridge University Press).
Smith, Janet. 1992. "Women in Charge: Politeness and
Directives in the Speech of Japanese Women" Language in
Smith-Hefner, Nancy. 1988. "Women and Politeness: the
Javanese Example" Language in Society 17(4):535-554.
Week 7: Affect
In many cultures the expression of certain emotions like
anger or sorrow are considered appropriate only in certain
carefully defined contexts and/or for certain members of the
society. Often such expression is implicated (or indexed--see
Ochs 1992) in cultural notions about what women and men
are like. These articles explore the expression of affect
among Bedouins, Americans, Malagasy and Tenejapan men
and women, and its role in the construction of gender. (See
also Briggs 1992.)
Lutz, Catherine. 1990. "Engendered emotion: gender, power
and the rhetoric of emotional control in American
discourse" in Language and the Politics of Emotion, pp. 69-
Lutz, Catherine and Lila Abu-Lughod. 1990. "Introduction:
Emotion Discourse and the Politics of Everyday Life" in
Language and the Politics of Emotion, pp. 1-23.
McConnell-Ginet, Sally. 1983. "Intonation in a Man's World"
in Language, Gender and Society, pp. 69-88.
McElhinny, Bonnie. 1993. "I Don't Smile Much Anymore:
Gender, Affect and the Discourse of Pittsburgh Police
Officers" in Locating Power: Proceedings of the 1992
Berkeley Conference on Women and Language (University
of California, Berkeley Department of Linguistics).
Ochs, Elinor and Bambi Schieffelin. 1989. "Language has a
Heart" Text 9(1):7-25.
Philipsen, Gerry. 1975. "Speaking like a Man in
Teamsterville" Quarterly Journal of Speech, pp. 13-22.
Sattel, Jack. 1983. "Men, inexpressiveness and power" in
Language, Gender and Society (Rowley Mass: Newbury
Exercise 3-- Gender Differences in the Expression of Affect--
Week 8: Political Economy and Gendered Language
We continue our consideration of how power shapes gender
relationships as we turn to the ways that larger economic
and political structures shape speech and possibilities for
speech. Gal provides a theoretical overview of language and
political economy. Coates reviews the interaction of
language, gender and class in quantitative (Labovian)
sociolinguistic studies of largely First World countries, while
Sherzer develops a typology of the sorts of gender
differences one might expect in developed and non-
developed societies. Consider the different notions of
stratification developed in the anthropological articles (Ochs,
Sherzer, Thomas) and in the more sociologically-influenced
articles (e.g. Labov), and the influence that has on definitions
of gender and how gender affects language use.
Cameron, D. and J. Coates. 1987. "Some Problems in the
Sociolinguistic Explanation of Sex Differences" in Women in
their Speech Communities (London: Longman), pp. 13-26.
Coates, Jennifer. 1986. Chapter 4 "Quantitative Studies" and
Chapter 5 "Social Networks" in Women, Men and Language.
Eckert, Penelope. 1989. "The Whole Woman: Sex and
Gender Differences in Variation" Language Variation and
Gal, Susan. 1989. "Language and Political Economy" Annual
Review of Anthropology 13:345-67.
Ochs, Elinor. 1985. "The Impact of Stratification and
Socialization on Men and Women's Speech in Western
Samoa" in Language, Gender and Sex in Comparative
Perspective, pp. 50-71.
Sherzer, Joel. 1987. "A diversity of voices: Men's and
Women's Speech in Ethnographic Perspective" in
Language, Gender and Sex in Comparative Perspective, pp.
Stanback, Marsha Houston. 1985. "Language and Black
Woman's Place: Evidence from the Black Middle Class" in
For Alma Mater: Theory and Practice in Feminist
Scholarship, pp. 177-193.
Thomas, Beth. 1988. "Differences of Sex and Sects:
Linguistic Variation and Social Networks in a Welsh Mining
Village" in Women in their Speech Communities (London:
Longman), pp. 51-60.
Week 9: Gender and Language Change
As socio-political structures change, so often does language.
People within a given society can indicate changing
orientations towards social structure by the language they
choose to use. These changes may be part of their life cycle
(so that adolescents and students often rebel against parents
and extant political structures) or part of a historical change
(as wars, legislative revolutions, changing populations, and
changing occupational opportunties give people new ways of
thinking about or participating in old political economies).
These articles consider how changing gender roles affect, and
are affected by, changing language use.
Abu-Lughod, Lila. 1990. "The Romance of Resistance:
Tracing Transformations of Power through Bedouin
Women" in Beyond the Second Sex: New Directions in the
Anthropology of Gender (Philadelphia: Univ. of
Pennsylvania Press). pp. 311-338.
Coates, Jennifer. 1986. "Ch. 8: The role of sex differences in
language change" in Women, Men and Language , pp. 135-
Eckert, Penelope. 1988. "Adolescent Social Structure and
the Spread of Linguistic Change" Language in Society
Hall, Kira and Alissa Shethar. 1992. "zu Hause jesprachen,
von der Strasse jehabt: Women's Use of Berlinisch in East
and West" Paper presented at Annual Meeting of the
Linguistic Society of America, Philadelphia, Jan. 9-12,
Labov, William. 1990. "The Intersection of Sex and Social
Class in the Course of Linguistic Change" Language
Variation and Change 2:205-251.
Nichols, Patricia. 1983. "Linguistic Options and Choices for
Black Women in the Rural South" in Language, Gender and
Society (Rowley, MA: Newbury House), pp. 54-68.
Rothstein, Robert. 1973. "Sex, Gender and the October
Revolution" in Festschrift for Morris Halle, pp. 460-66.
Exercise 4--Quantitative Analysis of Phonological Variation
in English--is due.
Week 10: Bilingualism: Gender as Linguistic Broker
In multilingual or multidialectal societies, different
languages or dialects may be differently accessible to, or
have different values for, different members of a society--
old/young, men/women, members of different ethnic
groups. The articles by Gal, Hill, Medicine and Urciulu
consider these complex interactions. Consider the work of
Gal and Hill in light of last week's discussion about language
change. To what extent do these anthropological studies
support or contradict the generalizations made by Labov
Gal, Susan. 1978. "Peasant Men Can't Get Wives: Language
and Sex Roles in a Bilingual Community" Language in
Hill, Jane. 1987. "Women's Speech in Modern Mexicano" in
Language, Gender and Sex in Comparative Perspective
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp. 50-70.
Medicine, Bea. 1987. "The Role of American Indian Women
in Cultural Continuity and Transition" in J. Penfield (ed.),
Women and Language in Transition (Albany: SUNY Press),
Urciuli, Bonnie. 1991. "The Political Topography of English:
The View from a New York Puerto Rican Neighborhood"
American Ethnologist 18(2):295-310.
Velasquez, Maria Dolores Gonzales and D. Letticia Galindo.
1993. "A Sociolinguistic Description of Linguistic Self-
Expression, Innovativeness, and Power among Chicanas in
Texas and New Mexico" Locating Power: Proceedings of
the 1992 Berkeley Conference on Language and Gender.
Week 11: Semantics and Pragmatics
In the past weeks we've considered differences in the ways
men and women talk. This week and next week we consider
differences in the ways that men and women are talked
about, differences in the ways they may interpret language,
and the ways that sexist language arises.
Cameron, Deborah. 1985. "Ch. 4. False Dichotomies:
Grammar and Sexual Polarity" in Feminism and Linguistic
Theory, pp. 57-71.
Martin, Emily. 1987. "Medical Metaphors of Women's
Bodies: Menstruation and Menopause" in The Woman in
the Body: A Cultural Analysis of Reproduction (Boston:
Beacon Press), pp. 27-53.
McConnell-Ginet, Sally. 1989. "The Sexual (Re)Production of
Meaning: A Discourse-Based Theory" in Language, Gender
and Professional Writing: Theoretical Approaches and
Guidelines for NonSexist Usage, (NY: MLA), pp. 35-50.
Michell, G. 1990. "Women and Lying: A Pragmatic and
Semantic Analysis of 'Telling it Slant'" in Hypatia Reborn:
Essays in Feminist Philosophy (Bloomington IN: Indiana
University Press), pp. 175-191.
Morgan, Marcyliena. 1992. "Indirectness and Interpretation
in African-American Women's Discourse" Pragmatics.
Exercise 5--Sexism in Language--is due.
Week 12: Sexism in Language
One ongoing debate in sociolinguistics is between people who
say that language is sexist, and others who say that language
is not sexist, but its users are. As you read the articles
below, try to decide which claim is most convincing to you,
Cameron, Deborah. 1990. "Making Changes: Can We
Decontaminate Sexist Language?" in Feminism and
Linguistic Theory, pp. 72-90.
Ehrlich, Susan and Ruth King. 1993. "Feminist Meanings and
Sexist Speech Communities" in Locating Power:
Proceedings of the 1992 Berkeley Conference on Women
Graddol, David and Joan Swann. 1989. "Is Language Sexist?"
in Gender Voices (Cambridge: Basil Blackwell), pp. 95-135.
(See especially "Sexism in Europe" pp. 119-123).
Linguistic Society of America Guidelines for Nonsexist Usage.
Martyna, Wendy. 1983. "Beyond the He/Man Approach:
The Case for Non-Sexist Language" in Language Gender and
Society (Cambridge: Newbury House), pp. 25-37.
Week 12: Class Conference/Summing Up
We'll use this week for the presentation of work done by
students this semester. Instead of meeting in our regularly
scheduled slot, we'll hold a one-day mini-conference for the
presentation of student research. Dozens of questions
remain unresearched in language and gender--it's quite
likely that the research you're doing for this class is original
and innovative! Each student will have 20 minutes to give a
research presentation based on research done for the final
paper, followed by 10 minutes for questions from other
students in the class. Your final paper will be due ONE WEEK
after the date of the conference. If you're interested, we
may try to publish the papers in a course-reader type
format conference proceedings.
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