21.  CRAIGE ROBERTS, The Ohio State University

Craige Roberts, 3/16/89		 
Linguistics course description
The Ohio State University
Department of Linguistics
Oxley Hall
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. 

Preliminary Syllabus:

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 
Society 2:45-79.

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 
and Chicago.

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, 
New York. 

Kramarae, Cheris, and Paula A. Treichler, with assistance from Ann 
Russo (eds.)  (1988)  A Feminist Dictionary.  Pandora Press, Boston, 
London, and Henley, 1-22.

Back to the Language and Gender page.   John Lawler