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On a cross-national level, the effect of gender on language has been getting much attention that is spurring even deeper attention. The model developed by Gumperz for language differences and tensions between ethnic interactional groups has been expanded by Maltz & Borker to included differences and tensions between genders and further elaborated upon by Tannen.
It has been established that there are different gender based norms of language use that develop in childhood for boys and girls--and are in some cultures intentionally fostered by restricted vocabulary--and these separate norms carry over to adulthood, in some cultures without (until recently) the benefit of knowing there are separate norms. The result is that often in cultures, or communities of practice, women think men are breaking the norm while men think women are breaking the norm, so each representative of the gender may harbor an idea of the offenses of the other.
One impact relates to power. In dual-gender interaction occurrences, which norm has the power to govern the interaction? This is a question that is presently receiving research attention. The developing models seek to establish the place of individual choice--individual agency--in determining dual-gender interactive power since the idea that the gender-mutual view of violated norms rests solely on inadequate information about the existence of those norms is open to strong challenge.
[Consult "Think Practically and Look Locally: Language and Gender as Community-Based Practice" by Penelope Eckert and Sally McConnell-Ginet from which this answer was drawn for in-depth information].
In sociolinguistics, scientists study the effects of many aspects of society on language. Gender is one of these aspects that affects the way people use language. Linguist Robin Tolmach Lakoff actually came up with a list of ways that men and women use languge differently. You can research her and find out more about this (Language and Women's Place). It is quite fascinating, actually. For example, some of the things she came up with were:
- Women use more qualifiers when they speak that tend to weaken the assertiveness of their language - "sort of" and "kind of" and "it seems"
- Women use what she calls "empty adjectives" whereas men do not - things like "divine" and "gorgeous"
- Women's use of language employs more polite terms such as "would you mind" and "is it OK if"
- Women tend to apologize more when they speak or begin speaking, "I'm sorry, but I cannot do that" instead of "No, I cannot do that" as a man would say
- Believe it or not, women speak less frequently!
- Women tend to avoid coarse language and curse words more than men
- Women tag their questions with additional phrases or words - "You don't mind if I take this, do you?"
- Women are much more concerned with correct grammar and pronounciation
- Women make requests in an indirect way, "Wow! It's really hot in this house" instead of asking for the air conditioning to be turned off (I know this drives MY husband nuts - ha ha!)
- Women use variations in tone more to express themselves - Lakoff calls this "speaking in italics"
Other ways in which women and men are different in the way they use language have to do with how they change the topic of conversation, what they disclose about themselves when speaking, how often they take turns while speaking, how they ask and respond to questions, how verbally aggressive they are (men are more), how well they listen without interrupting, who tends to dominate conversation more, etc.
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