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An Individual’s Language is Influenced By Their Gender

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It can be argued that one’s language can be purely influenced by their gender as Lakoff states that women’s language is inferior to men’s. This suggests that gender is the main factor in what influences how one speaks. However, it can be said that there are other factors, such as age and region, which can influence one’s language.

Robin Lakoff developed ‘The Deficit Model’ which states that women’s language is seen as deficient in some way to the established male ‘norm’.

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The model identifies that women’s language consists of more hedges, fillers, tag questions and euphemisms compared to men’s. For example, women are more likely to soften what that say by adding ‘perhaps’ and ‘do you mind’ and add extra phrases to sentences in order to make it a question. Women also tend to use more euphemisms than men to avoid being blunt in conversation and to come across as well mannered. This implies that women’s language is weaker than men’s as these features of speech can suggest uncertainty and low self-esteem.

On the contrary, Janet Holmes argues that tag questions, hedges and fillers don’t show insecurity but can be a way of being polite and maintaining conversation. This means that women’s language isn’t inferior to men’s as it can depend on how one interprets the use of fillers, tag questions and hedges.

There is also the Dominance Approach, which suggests that men are seen as more controlling and dominating in mixed-sex conversations. This shows that men’s language is more authoritative than women’s. Zimmerman and West conducted a study in 1975 and found that men caused 96% of all interruptions in mixed-sex conversations. This can suggest that women have linguistic freedom so their language is secondary in comparison to men’s as shown by the study. On the other hand, Beattie criticises this viewpoint and suggests that interruptions made by men can be supportive and show understanding. It can then be argued that men’s language isn’t overshadowing women’s because the interruptions can be inferred depending on the context of the conversation.

It can also be argued that age is a factor that influences someone’s language. Stenstrom came up with the idea of ‘Teen Talk’, which recognises that teenagers use slang, taboo, omission (runnin’ instead of running), verbal duelling (teens try to outdo each other) and lang mixing (incorporating lang from other cultures). This insinuates that teenagers have their own lingo compared to their older peers. Penelope Eckert believes that teenagers use slang in order to create a connection with others of their age group and to separate themselves from the older generation. However, this doesn’t mean all teenagers speak alike as she found that differences amongst adolescents are probably far greater than speech differences among members of any other age group. This means that different groups within teens create their own sociolect in order to fit in and bond with each other. Jenny Cheshire did a study on the speech of adolescent girls and boys and found that boys tend to use more non-grammatical forms (e.g ‘ain’t’) than girls. This shows that not only age, but also gender can influence an individual’s way of speaking.

Peter Trudgil found that women’s pronunciation is closer to received pronunciation (RP) but this could depend on region as different social classes have their own sociolect. For example, a region where most of the population is of a working class background will have more of a non-standard English way of speaking due to the sociolect in the area. Another reason for this could be due to the lack of interest in education, which can result in more informal language, and slang and others would follow along so they can fit in with their peers. Contrastingly, in an area with majority of inhabitants being upper class, most people would have RP due to private education and high paying valued jobs where the norm would be very formal language. This can insinuate how region/class is a factor which impacts one’s language as many people would speak in the way others do around them to form a bond and connection within their community.

David Rosewarne coined the term ‘Estuary English’ which mixes ‘ordinary’ London and South Eastern accents with RP and it is believed to be the successor of Standard English. It includes glottal stops (missing out the ‘t’ in words), ‘L’ vocalisation (replacing ‘l’ with ‘w’, e.g. ‘footbaw’) and yod coalescence (‘y’ sound changed, e.g. Tuesday = choosdee). This again suggests how region influences someone’s language as many people started to mix different accents together that it resulted in a new term that could influence others to also speak in Estuary English.

Deborah Tannen developed the ‘Difference Theory’, which focuses on how men and women communicate differently and came up with six contrasts. For example, one contrast is conflict vs. compromise which suggests that men are more likely to argue, where as women would try to avoid conflict and find a rational way to solve something. Another contrast is status vs. support, which means that men see language as a way of declaring dominance, while women see it as a way to confirm or support ideas. This can therefore infer that language is a big influential factor in one’s language as Tannen states how men and women’s way of communicating are completely opposite as men like to be more in control of conversation and women prefer to be passive.

In conclusion, I personally believe that an individual’s language can be influenced by their gender but also other factors such as age and region. This is because it is too broad to say that language can only be influenced by gender in today’s modern society, as there are now more factors than ever which can have great impact on language, such as advances in technology and the media. Age is also a great factor because teenagers have completely opposing sociolects to the older generation, which sets them apart from them. The same goes for region/class as the working class and upper class have different vernacular due to the people around them, which can make them feel more comfortable in their region.

Cite this An Individual’s Language is Influenced By Their Gender

An Individual’s Language is Influenced By Their Gender. (2020, Aug 05). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/an-individuals-language-is-influenced-by-their-gender/

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