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Language Forms Between Men and Women in Terms of Gender-Exclusive Differentiation

Discuss about the Society and Language.

It is only in the 1960's that the sociolinguists began researching on sex and gender and their relationship with language. These studies were mainly focused on examining the differences between men's and women's speech behavior. Therefore, the studies were centered on the differences at the phonological level and the conversational styles as applied differently by both men and women. Language, as used by both men and women, represent different perspectives. For instance, while men's language is perceived as a representation of toughness, control, competitiveness, hierarchy and independence, women's language, on the other hand, is conceptualized as symbolizing; emotional expression, connectedness, conservatism, solidarity, insecurity, deference, insecurity and prestige consciousness (Bergvall, 2014). The primary goal of this paper, therefore, is to examine the sociolinguists' various views concerning the language forms as used by both men and women. The paper will thus seek to differentiate these forms regarding gender exclusive and gender variable.

A gender exclusive language is a language form that results to ostracism of a particular gender usually, women and occasionally men (Stout, 2010).  Stout (2010) also argues that different language forms as employed by men and women in a communicative exchange denote exclusive gender differentiation. These differences occur at phonological level, syntactic level, morphological and grammatical or lexical level. One of the most used and explicit gender-exclusive differentiations is notable in the use of the third person singular pronoun "he" and the noun "man." The pronoun "he" and the noun "man" are generically used to refer to both men and women in some contexts particularly in the biblical context.

In addition, gender-exclusive differentiation is exhibited by variation in phonological uses by men and women (Xia, 2013). A variety of languages demonstrates phonological differences in the speech of men and women. For example, a study conducted by Xia (2013) in Chukchi, a language widely spoken in the Eastern Siberia shows a variation in phonology as used by men and women. While women use /ʃ/ men use /t ʃ/ or /r/. Therefore women will only substitute /ʃ/ for /t ʃ/ or /r/ when quoting words or phrases spoken by a man. Similarly, in the Bengali language, an Indo-European language spoken in India, men tend to substitute /I/ for initial /n/ while children, women and uneducated persons do not.

In other languages, lexical differences denote gender-exclusive differentiation in that some vocabulary items are used differently by different genders. Different forms of language use differentiate the sex of a speaker. These include; color terms, tag questions, weak versus strong expletives, question intonation and women versus neutral adjectives. For example, it is believed that women have more color vocabularies than men. Similarly, men are more likely to use rather offensive words while expressing feelings as compared to men (Nemati  & Bayer, 2011).

Language Forms Between Men and Women in Terms of Gender-Variable Differentiation

There is also different use of morphological items between men and women. In some languages, the mode of communication is determined by the sex of the interlocutors (Broadbridge, 2010). For example, Broadbridge (2010) notes that when a woman is speaking to a fellow woman, the form of language used may vary from that used while speaking to a man. In India for instance, a language known as Kurux which is spoken by a small group of people women use different morphological forms while addressing another woman, but these forms are never used by men or by women to address men. For women they use a word such as "bar'en" meaning "I come" while men use the term "bardan" for the same meaning.

 As men and women engage in continuous interaction, linguistic variations become inevitable. These linguistic variations result to gender variation differentiation.  Both sexes thus use Gender-variation differentiations, but one sex prefers them more than the other. Features/forms of gender variation differentiation are such as; use of different lexical varieties, the standard use of language, the pitch of a speech and conversational features of the male and female speech (Coates, 2015).

 Firstly, gender-variation differentiation is noticeable in the lexical varieties. These differences are common in the morphology and vocabulary usage by men and women. For instance, women are known to use more endearing vocabulary terms than men (Coates, 2015). These are words such as darling, fantastic, sweet and lovely among others. Additionally, they mostly use inclusive word forms such as us, we or our. Coates (2015) also notes that have a wide range of specific color names which men do not possess. On the other hand, men occasionally use endearing terms or inclusive words rather they possess great vocabulary which is mainly related to the male activities such as sporting and repairing cars (Coates, 2015). In essence, the word choice by either gender is informed by the environment in which a person is brought up or by the context in which the speakers are involved. 

 Gender-variation differentiation is also exemplified by different speech pitches as used differently by men and women. The pitch is a physiological component of language and occurs differently in different sexes. According to Hellinger and Motschenbacher ( 2015) women's degree of vocal codes vibration is said to be higher than that of men. The rate of vocal vibration varies between 100 and 400 cycles per second for women and between 80 and 200 for men. It is also believed that women have shorter vocal tracts than men thus the high-pitched speeches (Hellinger & Motschenbacher, 2015).

Women Use of More Standard Forms than Men in Speech

In addition, men and women portray distinction in conversational styles. Conversational styles include topic selection and control, turn-taking, interruption and speech overlapping, responses and initiation and completion of a conversation. There is a perception that women tend to use questions and minimal responses more than men within a single conversation so as to keep the conversation going on and avoid interruptions (Joshi & Joshi, 2013). On the other, men do a Joshi, and Joshi (2013) also argue that men more often than not tend to control or decide on the topics of speech as a way of portraying their dominance and power. Another characteristic of gender variation differentiation is notable in the use of standard and non-standard language form. In this case, women are believed to make wider use of closer to the standard language form as opposed to men as it will be illustrated in the following section. 

 A standard form of a language or speech refers to the accepted variety of language in a given context. For example, the standard form of English language is that which is commonly used in all English speaking countries. Women are believed to choose and apply more standards language forms than men in speech despite their age or social status (Gordon, 2010). Nevertheless, Gordon also argues that women use of the standard forms is not deliberate rather it is influenced by their perceived low status in the society. Therefore women use more standard forms than women so as to claim equality or to gain high social status in the society. However, such a postulation is subject to debate. It is also argued that women use standards forms of language in a speech o as to develop and maintain social cohesiveness as well as promoting cooperation and competitiveness in a communicative exchange (Litosseliti, 2014). This includes the use of polite words such as kindly, please, thank you among others.

Similarly, women, unlike men, tend to send out and look for signs of agreement and pay attention to the speeches of others. Consequently, this creates a sense of respect to others through ensuring healthy turn taking (Wilkinson & Kitzinger, 2014). On the contrary, men rarely observe the standard forms due to various behaviors such as a tendency to shift from one topic to the other and the excessive use of explicit directives, competition for speech dominance as well as the strong use of vernacular language as a symbol of power and dominance (Wilkinson & Kitzinger, 2014). For example, while women express their feelings and personal problems men do not and thus their conversations are mainly dominated by anecdotes about personal achievements. Other men tend to talk more than others without regard to the form of vocabulary, pronunciation or word choice used. Instead, they tend to ignore others opinions and stress on their opinions. It is arguable that regarding the use of standards forms, the majority of the standard features occur mainly in women speech in particular among the women belonging to a higher socio-economic class than in the speeches of men and the women belonging to the lesser socio-economic class.


The existence of this speech behavioral differences between men and women can be explained regarding; firstly social power, secondly, psychological differences and thirdly, the cultural differences.  While the social power influence has been discussed the psychological differences arise from different upbringing of children to adulthood, for example, young children mature into adults; the female children learn different existing rules that guide their interactions in different times and different contexts. Therefore, this explains why women develop and use more standards forms than men. In respect to cultural differences, men and women are taught right from childhood how to behave differently, and this is consequently replicated in the manner each sex communicates (Montgomery, 2013).

In conclusion, it is evident from the various literatures that there exist different language forms used differently by men and women. These forms are also distinguishable regarding their gender-exclusive and gender-variable differences. The studies have also shown how women use more standard forms than men in their daily speeches. In therefore inarguable that differences in the behaviors of men and women when it comes to speech are inevitable. Thus there is a need to appreciate such differences.

References

Bergvall, V. (2014). Rethinking language and gender research: Theory and practice. Routledge.

Broadbridge, J. (2010). An Investigation into Differences between Women's and Man's Speech.

Module 5 Sociolinguistics, 1(1) p.1.

Coates, J. (2015). Women, men, and language: A sociolinguistic account of gender differences in

language. Routledge.

Gordon, E. (2010). Sex, Speech and Stereotypes: Why Women Use Prestige Speech Forms Mote

than Men. Language in Society, 26(1) pp 47-63.

Hellinger, M., & Motschenbacher, H. (Eds.). (2015). Gender across languages (Vol. 4). John

Benjamins Publishing Company.

Litosseliti, L. (2014). Gender and language theory and practice. Routledge.

Joshi, D., & Joshi, S. D. (2013). Improved language identification using sampling rate compensation & gender-based language models for Indian languages. In Signal Processing, Computing and Control (ISPCC), 2013 IEEE International Conference on (pp. 1-5). IEEE.

Montgomery, M. (2013). An introduction to language and society. Routledge.

Nemati, A., & Bayer, J. M. (2011). Gender Differences in the Use of Linguistics Forms in the

Speech of Men and Women. A Comparative Study of Persian and English, 185-201.

Stout, J. G. (2010). When He Doesn't Mean You: Gender-Exclusive Language as a Form of

Subtle Ostracism.  Masters Theses 1986- February 2014, paper 250.

Wilkinson, S., & Kitzinger, C. (2014). Conversation analysis in language and gender studies.

Handbook of Language, Gender, and Sexuality, The 141-160.

Xia, X. (2013). Gender Differences in Using Language. Theory and practice in Language

Studies, 3(8) pp1485-1489.

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