Gendered speech

Hello everyone,

Happy 4th of July! I’ll try to jazz up the forum a bit by introducing a topic that I find very interesting: gendered speech. Below you can find some questions related to the topic. I’d appreciate any comments.

How do men and women use language differently? Why?

Do you think that you can tell whether the author of a text is a man or a woman basing on how he or she writes?

All the best.

Hi, Englishuser

Complicated question, I see. :smiley: I think study of the manner of writing belongs to the branch of psychology ( I don’t imply graphology :smiley: ) but anyway if each of us is to some extent a psycologist I 'd assume that there are people that are able to define the sex of the writer by the way of writing. Moreover I know one or two of them( they don’t want to share with their experiences :slight_smile: )

But referring to your way of writing I strongly believe that you are man not woman. Maybe it’s my feminine intuition that is peculiar to us or subconscious mind, I don’t kow.

How do men and women use language differently? Why?

I think we must not generalize because each of us is an individual with peculiarities, manners, habits peculiar just to him. :smiley:

Thank you for your comment. But I’m afraid I disagree with you. I don’t think that there is an innate difference in how men and women write. I do recognise that men often write in a way that differs from a woman’s way of writing, but there are so many exceptions to this rule that it’s impossible to tell for certain which gender group the author of a text belongs to. If it were true that you could determine a person’s gender simply by analysing his or her writing it would make the life of psychiatrists and psychologists working with transsexuals a lot easier. [/url]

Hi Pamela

My “feminine intuition” is different from yours. :wink:
I also think a woman is more likely than a man to bring up a topic such as “gendered speech”. :wink:

Hi Englishuser

Generally speaking, I think the gender of a good writer is usually not easily identifiable.

Regarding gender differences in language, it seems to me that, in the USA, for example, whatever previously identifiable gender differences there may have been must have lessened considerably in the last 30 or 40 years as more and more women have entered the workplace.

Although I think I’ve mentioned this in the forum before, I’ll mention it again here: I once had a German woman in a class who had married an American soldier. Her accent was “perfectly” American, her speech quite fluent. Her language mistakes tended to be mainly “native speaker” errors. Her writing reflected all of this. But her style sounded like a man to me. Her main role model and “teacher” had been her soldier husband and her English sounded like what I can only think to call “boot camp English”. Her English had been molded in a world dominated by men and toughness and that was very clearly identifiable.


Hi Amy

Why does Englishuser keep his sex in secret? :lol:

if a woman or a man is the author of a text :?: ,I think that women always enter in details not only in writng but also in speaking while men go straight to the point ,a detail that makes me feel you are a HE … feminine intuition as Pamela said…but maybe I’m wrong after all,[color=red]so only you can reveal your well hidden secret :shock:

Tell us,dont’t let our imagination flyyyyyyy :smiley: :smiley: :smiley: :smiley:



Please find some comments of mine below.

I definitely agree with you, and could not disagree more with those who think that you can tell a person’s gender from the way he or she uses the language. Just like Pamela said, this question has to do with psychology. There is no absolutely accurate test available to determine a person’s psychological gender. The Rorschach test together combinded with some other tests can give you some pointers, but they’re all but 100 per cent accurate.

I find this question very interesting. It’s natural that you’re a bit curious about my identity: after all, I have started many quite controversial discussions here in the forum. I’ve also supported views that many people find irksome to say at least. I don’t mind that a debate is going on about my gender. In fact, I think that it’s both amusing and interesting. Gender-related issues, amongst accents, appeal to me. And I will definitely start new discussions related to language and gender in the future as long as you find them interesting. So, to get to the point, why do I keep my gender (and nationality) in secret? Why do people visit websites anonymously? Perhaps because you can do much more that way. If you write using your name, your education, your nationality, and your country as your merits it’s great, but some people might prefer to reveal less about themselves as it gives them more freedom. An even more important question is: does my gender and my nationality matter? Would people treat me differently if they’d know my gender and my nationality?

This is the question I have been meaning to ask those users who have expressed their interest in Englishuser’s gender and other personal information.

Who says that in order to be a good forum moderator or a professional person in any calling you have to give away your identity? How do we know a person’s identity is real? I think what really counts is how a moderator responds to questions, interacts with users, provides support and communicates with other community members.[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEFL listening lectures: Why do the Lascaux cave paintings probably not qualify as graffiti?[YSaerTTEW443543]

Hi Englishuser

I am not qualified enough to discuss the topic (“language and gender”).
But I’ve found a fresh review (in Russian) and dare translate some points (just to make distinguish between a scientific view and an informal blablabla to spend time):

(Sorry, my English is not impeccable :wink: but hopefully I’ll be able to impart the main meaning and viewpoint.)

Peculiarities of communicative style are considered in terms of the following oppositions: “debate vs. relate”, “report vs. rapport”, “competitive vs. cooperative”.

When discussing a problem, men often aim to find ‘simple decisions’ and ‘good advice’, whereas women try to bridge relations and openly express sympathy and empathy.

…women tend to tell about their private life and feelings and try to involve in communication all people around…

… men try to demonstrate their knowledge, possession of information; frequently changing a subject and trying to set a hierarchy in conversation.

Doctor Lillian Glass (1992)… found out that…

  • women more often use intensificators like few. so, really, quite, much;

  • changing a subject, women more often use conjunctions and, but, however. whereas men more often use exclamations, like ’Hey!’, ‘Oh!’, ‘Listen!’;

  • women more often use ‘tag ending’, for example, “It’s a nice day, isn’t it?”, whereas men more often use an affirmative form “It’s a nice day.”

  • women asks more questions to intensify a conversation;

In 1975 Robin Lakoff published a book Language and Woman’s Place in which she gave a list of characteristic features of women speech. They more than men use:

  • extra polite forms: “Would you mind…”, “I’d appreciate it if…”, “…if you don’t mind”,

  • phrases: “sort of”, “kind of”, “it seems like”,

  • tag questions: “You’re going to dinner, aren’t you?”,

  • inflexional emphasis: so, very, quite,

  • ‘empty’ adjectives, like divine, lovely, adorable,

  • ‘super-right’ grammar ( :wink: ),

  • intensifiers so, very: “I am so glad you came!”

  • ….

[size=84]1.Bock, Ute (1996): Frauensprache - M?nnersprache: Fakt oder Artefakt. Berlin.
2. Chambers, J.C. (1992): “Linguistic Correlates of Gender and Sex”. English World Wide 13: 173-218.
3. Coates J. Women, men and language. London; New York, 1989
4. Coates, Jennifer (19932): Women, Men and Language. London.
5. Coates, Jennifer (ed) (1998): Language and Gender: A Reader. Oxford.
7. Coates, Jennifer/Cameron, Deborah. (eds.) (1989): Women in Their Speech Communities. London.
8. Dubois, Betty/Crouch, Isabel (1975): “The Question of Tag Questions in Women’s Speech: They Really Don’t Use More of Them”. Language in Society 4: 289-294.
9. Dr. Lillian Glass. He Says, She Says: Closing the Communication Gap Between the Sexes. Putnam, 1992.
10. Holmes, Janet (1992): An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. London.
11. Holmes, Janet: “Women’s Talk: The Question of Sociolinguistci Universals”. In: Coates, Jennifer (ed.) (1998): Language and Gender: A Reader. Oxford: 461-483.
12. Kramarae, Cheris/Spender, Dale (eds.) (1992): The Knowledge Explosion. New York.
13. Lakoff, Robin (1972): “Language in Context”. Language 48/4: 907-927.
14. Lakoff, Robin: “The Social Context of Language Use”. (1973): Lecture delivered at the Linguistic Summer Institute. Ann Arbor.
15. Lakoff, Robin (1975): Language and Women’s Place. New York.
16. Maltz, Daniel/Borker, Ruth: “A Cultural Approach to Male-Female Miscommunication”. In: Gumperz, John (ed.) (1982): Language and Social Identity. Oxford: 281-312.
17. Martin, F.: “Some Subjective Aspects of Social Stratification”. In Glass, D. (ed.) (1954): Social Mobility in Great Britain. London.
18. Sacks, Harvey/Schegloff, Emanuel/Jefferson, Gail (1974): “A simplest Systematics for the Organization of Turn-Taking for Conversation”. Language 50: 696-735.
19. Sherman, Julia (1978): Sex-related Cognitive Differences: An Essay on Theory and Evidence. Springfield, IL.
20. Thorne, Barrie/Henley, Nancy (eds.) (1975): Language and Sex: Difference and Dominance. Rowley, MA.
21. Torres, Lourdes: “Women and Language. From Sex Differences to Power Dynamics”. In: Kramarae, Cheris/Spender, Dale (eds.) (1992): The Knowledge Explosion. New York: 281-290.
22. Zimmerman, Don/West, Candice: “Sex Roles, Interruptions and Silences in Conversations”. In: Thorne, Barrie/Henley, Nancy (eds.) (1975): Language and Sex: Difference and Dominance.
23. West, Candace/Zimmerman, Don: “Doing Gender”. In: Lorber, Judith/Farrell, Susan (eds.) (1991): The Social Construction of Gender. London: 13-37.[/size] … scope=page

Enjoy! :slight_smile:

All the best,

Hi Tamara,

Thank you very much for your reply and especially for taking time to translate Russian material into English for us. It has been very nice to read about the findings of these researchers. However, the ‘Why?’ question remains unanswered. Do you have any suggestions?

Hi everyone,
I think it’s important to know the sex of the other you talk to. People behave different if there is someone from the other sex, and it’s actually a healthy thing. I don’t say it’s right, or wrong, but it does matter.
It’s like in body language, if I say something to a man, it could be funny, but if I say the same to a woman, it might be offensive, rude.
As long as I don’t know the gender of the person, I have to be more careful not to insult him or her.
I know it’s nice to be nice to everyone, but if you team up with someone you better focus on the thing you are up to, not on your being acceptable in any cases, if you know what I mean.
If you make a contact to someone you’ll think of him or her as a he,or she anyway. That means you only confusing the other by being mysterious, and that’s gives you some advantage, but it’s dangerous 'cause you might be mistreated by the other.
Englishuser, until this very moment I’ve been thinking of you as a man, just because you didn’t refer to your gender.
If no one had mentioned this subject, I would still have thought of you this way. (women mostly give at least a hint :slight_smile: )
So what’s the point if someone thinks of you as a man, and you’re a woman?
Or someone thinks of you as a man, and you ARE a man, but they can’t be sure?
If you’ve ever read a book of body language, you probably know there is a lot of difference between man, and woman.
It’s not like being old,or young, black,or white, this difference has been found in our DNS, chromosomes,and in all the stuff like these.
Even animals would agree with me, if they were around.:slight_smile:
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind if you feel better not to show your cards to everyone who happens to be around by a chance, it’s thoroughly up to you, this is only my opinion about this subject, and that’s about it.
I was talking to Jamie for months when I realised he’s a man, not a woman. It took long till I finally adjusted myself to think of him as a man. I had probably misread his name at first, and my mind was too lazy to correct me every time I saw his name, or I don’t know what happened, (I don’t want to ask my shrink, I might have to kill him after,you know :slight_smile: ) but this proved to me, it’s better if you know for sure, guessing isn’t enough sometimes.

Hi Englishuser


Would you like me to find some more materials for you – now not from linguistics, but from (scientific) psychology area? :slight_smile:

Like the psychological book “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: A Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting What You Want in Your Relationships”
? :slight_smile:

Or would you like to read some analytical review on background and causes of feminism (they also give some good answers on your ‘Why?’).

Or maybe you just enjoy reading my poor English, as it is, making no any attempt to mention my mistakes to give me a chance to improve it a bit? :wink:

The same thing was with me (sorry, Jamie (K) :slight_smile: ) – because of the nickname, as well (and despite (!) the strongly man’s style of posts.)

‘Jamie’ for me, with my background, sounds rather as a female name, by default. (I think, mainly because of French ‘Jaimie’ which I know as a female name.)

And also let me note, that from my own experience, on the Internet I more often meet women who take man’s nickname and try to behave themselves in virtual reality, as men, than the contrary.

I think I can find study materials regarding language and gender pretty easily, but here I have an opportunity to discuss sociolinguistic issues with laypersons like you, which is worth a lot. I don’t really like pointing out people’s mistakes unless I’m hired to do so: mistakes start bothering me only when I find it difficult to understand the writer owing to poor language skills. And I have no trouble understanding you.

I can honestly say that I never thought of Jamie as a woman in spite of the name. Somehow Jamie’s posts seem very masculine to me (I hope you don’t find this insulting, Jamie).

I wouldn’t be so sure about that.

I see.
Quite comfortable attitude for language forum’s moderator. No trouble :slight_smile:

Hi Tamara,

I think I should mention that a mistake can be corrected in many different ways. One way is to point it out directly, which is appropriate sometimes (most especially if a student asks for corrections). However, I sometimes choose to repeat students’ sentences in my own writing (correctly written); this way a student is likely to realise that there was something wrong in their text. This way is more diplomatic than directly quoting and modifying a sentence accomplished by a student, something that can be quite ego-cracking.

‘Jaimie’ isn’t a French name, Tamara. You must confuse it with another one (Aim?e or Jeanne?) or with the phrase “j’aime” (I like/love) perhaps :slight_smile: ?

Now, you’ll find that American names may cause confusion, since our friends over the pond often use surnames for first names (and the other way round). Girls may also be given state names. Another American feature is that some names can be used both for boys and for girls, like ‘Jamie’.

Hi Englishuser

To be honest,

  1. What you ‘think you should mention’ is just re-telling of what Alan and other moderators wrote recently in the correspondent topic.

  2. If we took as a (conditional :)) example you and me, I would suggest that risk of cracking my ego (as your student’ :slight_smile: ) is very small and can be considered as insignificant :slight_smile:
    I just would be grateful you for your help.

  3. ‘Ego-cracking’ topic seems to be one of the most interesting for you, as you mention it quote often.
    But, as I think, demonstrating a care about learner’s ego, you actually reveal just classic projection (I use it here as a physiological term).
    Because your own ego (as you show it here) is very-very rigid & you seem to be unable to admit the fact, you are forced to defend it from cracking, doing your utmost.
    This (such kind of projection) occurs quite often.

Hi Conchita

Yes, Jamie’s got one of those names that goes both ways. I don’t know why, but I assumed from Day One that “our” Jamie was a lad. 8)

I found a French website that backs up your “Jaimie” information. Although the name exists in France, it is extremely rare (described on the website as: “tr?s rare” :lol:). … -8735.html

I’m eternally grateful to my parents that they saw fit to avoid doing that in our family. Seriously, though, although I agree that probably happens, I think it must be pretty rare if you exclude “Georgia”. On the other hand, my sister is named Nancy. Does that mean she’s named after a French city? :lol: