21. CRAIGE ROBERTS, The Ohio State University
Craige Roberts, 3/16/89
Linguistics course description
The Ohio State University
Department of Linguistics
1712 Neil Ave.
Columbus, Ohio 43210
Language and Gender Linguistics 230
This course is intended to stimulate awareness of how culturally
enshrined ideas about gender affect language and the use of language,
and, in turn, how linguistic conventions for the expression of gender
differences tend to reinforce these ideas. The concept of gender
involves not only individual characteristics (e.g. sex), but also a web of
associated social relations and stereotypes, culturally defined norms,
ideology and politics. Language use connects the individual (her
linguistic competence and what she intends to communicate) to the
social (since without historically transmitted conventions and
community usage patterns, language has no meaning). It is in the
dynamic between individual intention and social convention that the
possibility for social change arises. By carefully considering the
nature of this dynamic in language use, we can raise our awareness of
how abstract notions such as "sexism" are embodied in our daily lives,
and make more informed decisions about how to foster gender
The entire course will focus on the ways in which gender is reflected
in contemporary American linguistic usage, and is intended to meet the
"Social Diversity in the United States" requirement of the General
Education Curriculum (GEC). In order to bring our own situation into
perspective, we will compare the relationship between language and
gender in various ethnic groups and classes within this country, and
also in other cultures and eras, considering which, if any,
characteristics of our own language use are universal reflections of
gender differences, and which are tied up with the particular gender
ideology of the contemporary United States.
Course requirements will include reading a number of papers, writing
a mid-term and a final exam, and carrying out research on the reflexes
of gender in actual language usage. Grades will be based on exams
(50%), class participation (20%), and the report on research (30%).
The required text for the course will be Women, Men and Language
by Jennifer Coates (Longman Studies in Language and Linguistics,
New York, 1986). In addition, students will be required to purchase a
reader including a number of papers. In the following preliminary
syllabus, relevant references are listed for each section of the course;
readings would include some selection from these references,
averaging two papers per week.
Section 1. Introduction. [two weeks]
Scope and purpose of course. Introduction of the concept of gender.
Linguistic and sociolinguistic foundations for the study of gender-
related elements in language use. Preliminary discussion of the
relationship of language to culture and thought.
Language Files, The Ohio State University Department of Linguistics,
introductory Files on the nature of linguistics, and on phonetics and
Coates, Chapter 1, Language and Sex; Chapter 2, The Historical
-- Folklinguistics and the early grammarians
McConnell-Ginet, Sally (1980) Linguistics and the feminist
challenge. In McConnell-Ginet, Sally, Ruth A. Borker and Nelly
Furman (eds.) Women & Language in Literature and Society.
Praeger and Greenwood, New York, 3-25.
Callaghan, Cathy (1979) The wanderings of the goddess: Language
and myth in western culture. New Directions in the Study of Man
Section 2. How does gender affect the way women speak? [three
Consideration of characteristics pointed out by earlier writers (e.g.
Jespersen, Lakoff) on "women's language", mostly with reference to
the English of white middle class American women: e.g., politeness;
trepidation and timidity (questions vs. assertions, tag questions);
"proper" grammar vs. slang. Comparison with recent sociolinguistic
studies of women's speech. Consideration of literature on gender and
language in other cultures (e.g., Mayan, African-American women) in
order to address the question of which (if any) characteristics of
"women's language" in our culture are universal.
Jespersen, Otto (1922) Chapter 13, The woman. In Language: Its
Nature, Development, and Origin, Allen and Unwin, London, 237-55.
Lakoff, Robin (1973) Language and woman's place. Language in
Coates, Chapter 3, The historical background (II), Anthropologists and
dialectologists; Chapter 4, Quantitative studies
Valian, Virginia (1977) Linguistics and feminism. In Vetterling-
Braggin, Mary, Frederick Elliston, and Jane English (eds.) Feminism
and Philosophy. Littlefield, Adams, Totowa, NJ, 154-66. Reprinted in
Vetterling-Braggin, Mary (ed.), Sexist Language: A Modern
Philosophical Analysis. Littlefield, Adams, Totowa, NJ.
Stanback, Marsha (1985) Language and black woman's place:
Evidence from the black middle class. In Treichler, Paula A., Cheris
Kramarae, and Beth Stafford (eds.) For Alma Mater: Theory and
Practice in Feminist Scholarship. University of Illinois Press, Urbana
Brown, Penelope (1980) How and why are women more polite:
Some evidence from a Mayan community. In McConnell-Ginet, et al.,
op. cit., 111-136.
Shibamoto, Janet (1983) The womanly woman: Manipulation of
stereotypical and non-stereotypical features of Japanese female speech.
In Philips, S., Steele, S., and Tanz, C. (eds.) Language, Sex and
Gender in Comparative Perspective. Cambridge University Press.
Section 3. How do men and women interact linguistically, and what
are the social roots of this type of interaction? [two weeks]
The power of lexical meaning and language usage patterns to maintain
and enforce social relations. Literal content vs. meta-messages about
speaker's attitude: illocutionary force, register, and conversational
implicatures. The power of presuppositions in conveying intended
meaning: e.g., he as gender-neutral and the idea of norm.
Conversational analysis and turn-taking: the difference between
women's work and men's work in discourse.
Coates. Chapter 5, Social networks; Chapter 6, Sex differences in
communicative competence; Chapter 7, The acquisition of sex
differentiated language; Chapter 8, The role of sex differences in
linguistic change.; Chapter 9, The social consequences of linguistic sex
Henley, Nancy M. (in press) Molehill or Mountain? What we know
and don't know about sex bias in language. In M. Crawford and M.
Gentry (eds.), Gender and Thought. Springer-Verlag, New York, 59-
Fishman, Pamela (1983) Interaction: The work women do. In
Thorne, Barrie, Cheris Kramarae, and Nancy Henley (eds.) Language,
Gender, and Society. Newbury House, Rowley, MA, 89-102.
Nichols, Patricia C. (1983) Linguistic options and choices for black
women in the rural south. In Thorne, et al., op. cit., 54-68.
Grief, Esther Blank (1980) Sex differences in parent-child
conversations. In Cheris Kramarae (ed.) The Voices and Words of
Women and Men, 253-258.
Section 4. What can be done about sexism in language use? [three
The possiblity of ideologically motivated change in meaning, in its
various aspects: word meaning, connotation, and utterance meaning.
Comparison of historical sources of words and expressions and their
contemporary meanings; e.g. woman, hussy . Rewriting history:
women vs.wymym; history vs. herstory . Forms of address: Miss,
Mrs., Ms . Grammatical gender in pronouns: her, him, him or her,
and them . Alternatives to discourse as competition. Consideration of
guides to writing in a non-sexist manner.
McConnell-Ginet, Sally (in press) The sexual (re)production of
meaning: A discourse-based theory. In Francine Frank and Paula A.
Treichler (eds.), Language, Gender, and Professional Writing:
Theoretical Approaches and Guidelines for Nonsexist Usage.
Commission on the Status of Women in the Profession, The Modern
Language Association of America, New York.
Ross, Stephanie (1980) How words hurt: Attitude, metaphor, and
oppression. In Vetterling-Braggin, op. cit., 194-213.
Baker, Robert (1977) "Pricks" and "chicks": A plea for "persons". In
Vetterling-Braggin, op. cit., 161-182.
Martyna, Wendy (1983) Beyond the he/man approach: the case for
nonsexist language. In Thorne, et al., op. cit., 25-37.
Rich, Adrienne (1971) Power and danger: Works of a common
woman. In Rich, On Lies, Secrets, and Silence, 247-258.
Maltz, Daniel N., and Ruth A. Borker (1982) A cultural approach to
male/female miscommunication. In John J. Gumperz (ed.) Language
and Social Identity. Cambridge University Press, Studies in
Interactional Sociolinguistics 20, 196-216.
Treichler, Paula A., and Cheris Kramarae (1983) Women's talk in the
ivory tower. Communication Quarterly 31:118-132.
Penelope (Stanley), Julia, and Susan J. Wolfe (1983) Consciousness
as style: Style as aesthetic. In Thorne, et al., op. cit., 125-139.
Henley, Nancy M. (1987) This new species that seeks a new
language: On sexism in language and language change. In Joyce
Penfield (ed.), Women and Language in Transition. SUNY Press,
Albany, NY, 3-27.
Also the following guides to usage:
Miller, Casey, and Kate Swift (1980) The Handbook of Nonsexist
Writing: For Writers, Editors and Speakers. Lippincott and Crowell,
Kramarae, Cheris, and Paula A. Treichler, with assistance from Ann
Russo (eds.) (1988) A Feminist Dictionary. Pandora Press, Boston,
London, and Henley, 1-22.
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