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Does The Fabled Womens Language Really Exist English Language Essay

In recent studies and experiments, scientists found that there are differences between women and men’s language. However, these results have been challenge by many authors. Below we will go through different passages and try to compare the different perspectives and give an answer to the question. To begin with education or social conditioning, can influence the gender attitudes in speaking and writing. For example to make speech more or less politically correct there are objective differences between the language of men and women that we couldn’t ignore. Studies of language and gender often use two models or paradigms, the dominance and the difference. The first is associated with Pamela Fishman and the second is associated with Deborah Tannen. Below we examined them in more details.

To start with the dominance theory is that in mixed-sex conversations men are more likely to interrupt than women. Deborah Tannen (1992) in her book ‘You Just Don't Understand’ she use six contrasts that show the differences: status vs. support, independence vs. intimacy, advice vs. understanding, information vs. feelings, orders vs. proposals, conflict vs. compromise.

In status versus support she talks about men that they grow up in a world in which they learn conversation is competitive. Men try to have the upper hand and to prevent themselves from being dominated. Unlike women, talking is often a way to increase confirmation and support for their ideas. Men see the world as a place where people try to gain status and keep it; Women see the world as “a network of connections seeking support and consensus.” (Tannen, C 1992:25)

For independence versus intimacy women often think in terms of closeness and support, and struggle to preserve intimacy. Men, are concerned with status, tend to focus more on independence. These traits can lead women and men to starkly different views of the same situation. Deborah Tannen gives an example of a woman that when she wants to invite someone over to her house, she ask her husband because she like to say to her friends that would check with her husband first. On the other side, the man will invite a friend without asking his wife because if he tells to a friend that he has to ask his wife he would loss his status (Tannen, D 1992:131). I think that women are doing this just because they are more polite and sensitive. Men they don’t because they think of it as a sign of weakness, if they had to ask for permission, and as Deborah Tannen mention they don’t want to lose their status.

In the advice versus understanding, for example a wife will say with indirect way that she does not feeling well so her husband will think to take her to the doctor, women are trying to find sympathy.

In the information versus feelings she compares a phone call that a young man and a young woman can have. She states that when a mother will ask her son what was the phone call about, he will provide his mother with a detail answer. On the other hand when the mother ask her daughter about the phone call that she was talking for half an hour, she won’t receive any details. The daughter will say we were talking “you know” “about stuff”. The conversation will be grooming-talk and comment on feelings (Tannen,D 1992:111). I don’t agree as I believe mother and daughter relationship should be closer and freely have a conversation about any topic. We can see below a similar point from Aki Uchida that women choose to speak to their close friends rather to their husbands. But she added that historically, men's concerns were seen as more important than those of women, but today this situation may be reversed and that the giving of information and brevity of speech that is considered of less value than sharing of emotions and elaboration.

Orders versus proposals when women often suggest that people do things in indirect ways: “let's”, “why don't we?” or “wouldn't it be good, if we...?” but men may use, and prefer to hear, a direct imperative (Tannen,C 1992:44).

The conflict versus compromise, “In trying to prevent fights,” Deborah Tannen writes, “some women refuse to oppose the will of others openly. But sometimes it's far more effective for a woman to assert herself, even at the risk of conflict. ” This situation is easily observed in work-situations where a management decision seems unattractive. Men will often resist it vocally, while women may appear to accept it, but complain subsequently (Tannen,D 1992:150).

However, other authors giving their ideas if women’s language really exist, Otto Jespersen is using examples on historical ethnographic to support his believes if they are differences in language between men and women. Otto Jespersen is mentioning in his chapter some distinct sex dialects of the Caribs or Caribbean’s of the small Antilles whereas Dominican Breton the Dictionnaire Caraibe-francais (1664) says that the Caribbean chief had exterminated all the natives except the women who had retained part of the ancient language. Dominican also mention that women kept their own language and they taught it to their daughters, however the boys could understand the speech of the mothers and sisters but they were follow their fathers and brothers and conform to their speech from the age of five to six (Cameron, D 1998:225).

Rochefort who spent a long time among the Caribbean in the middle of the 17th century (Rochefort 1665:449ff) he finds some differences, and some of them are: Men have many irregular expressions to them and the woman can understand them but they are never pronounce themselves. Women have words and phrases that the men never use or they would be laughed, also in women conversations were seemed that they had another language than the men.

Also old Caribs when they were on war path they were using number of mysterious words which women were not allowed to learn, and the young men could not pronounce them until they were passing certain tests of bravery and patriotism that was called a verbal taboo. Also another verbal taboo was from Bantu people of Africa where a Zulus wife was not allowed to use the name of her father in law and of his brothers and she must substitute something else of similar meaning that was happening in a case that the names mean something like ‘the son of the bull’ and these words should be avoided, if a woman broke this rule she would be indicted for sorcery and put to death (Cameron, D 1998:227).

Jespersen states that women are more conservative than men, they keep the traditional language that they learnt from their parents and they hand on to their children, while innovations are due to the initiative of men (Cameron, D 1998:229). Jespersen also mentioned that differences between the language spoken of men and women could also found in many countries where two languages are struggling for supremacy. He gave an example of German and Scandinavian immigrants who are in America, and men who are exposed to English speaking population have the opportunity to learn English rather than their wives. And last but not least Albanian women generally know only Albanian but men are often bilingual (Cameron, D 1998:229).

However Otto Jespersen also is using the Sanskrit drama, where women talk Prakrit and men talk Sanskrit. The difference between Sanskrit and Prakrit is that Sanskrit is the language of gods, kings, princes, Brahmans, ministers and few women of special religious importance, while Prakrit is spoken by men of an inferior class, like shop keepers, low officers, fisherman and by nearly all women. The differences of the two languages is the degree, Sanskrit is higher more solemn, stiff and archaic and Prakrit lower, more natural, familiar, easy, for ordinary women (Cameron, D 1998:229). Until now we can see that Otto Jespersen gives his ideas through examples that might not be relevant this century and he is using specific countries but below he talks for more recent studies.

He point out that in phonetic and grammar there not much differences in the way men and women pronounce the words. But he is giving some examples, he state that in the pronunciation women were better than men because of the raising of the vowels in the direction of [i] and in France, women were tend to pronounce e instead of a. Also another difference in pronunciation was the weakening [r], in the sixteenth century in France women where pronouncing [z] instead [r] and old grammarians mention that this pronunciation was a characteristic of women and few men who imitate women. Although in present day there still few differences in pronunciation between the two sexes, according to Daniel Jones, men pronounce ‘soft’ with a long vowel [s:ft] and women with a sort vowel [s:ft], also in the word ‘girl’ women pronounce it [g l] and men [g:l]. Otto Jespersen state that “from the phonetic point of view there is scarcely any difference between the speech of men and that of women: the two sexes speak for all intents and purposes the same language” (Cameron, D 1998:232).

Otto Jespersen found more differences in vocabulary and style. Greenough and Kittredge mentioned that “The use of common in the sense of ‘vulgar’ is distinctly a feminine peculiarity. It would sound effeminate in the speech of a man. So, in a less degree, with person for “woman”, in contrast to “lady”. Nice for “fine” must have originated in the same way” (1901:54) (Cameron, D 1998:232). Also he indicates some other examples that men usually will say “it's very good of you’ and women will say ‘it's very kind of you’. As well other differences found, women are sensitive to mention parts of their bodies and they usually using more innocent and euphemistic words and paraphrases but men are direct and sometimes might also sound rude, especially young men (Cameron, D 1998:233). I will agree in the last statement, especially young men are more open to talk for part of their bodies, but women are shyer in a way. Women avoid to swearing as Otto mentioned: men will say ‘He told an infernal lie’ and women will say ‘He told a most dreadful fib’. Also women are using ‘ever’ to add emphasis to an interrogative pronoun, like ‘Whoever told you that?’ or ‘Whatever do you mean?’ and they avoid words like ‘who the devil’ or ‘what the dickens’. These parts can be called sexual taboo that is intended by the women themselves, or by older to them (Cameron, D 1998:234).

Some other differences are that men dislike using common words and sometimes they replace them with older ones or expressions or inventing new words. An example is the verb ‘weorpan’ that they believed it was weak and they replace it by the word ‘cast’ and after some centuries was replaced again by the stronger word ‘throw’, and now it changed again from boys and became ‘chunk’ and ‘fling’. These innovations are counted as slang and some of them never make it to the received speech but women in vocabulary are less extensive than men, women choose the basic words ‘the central field of language’ (Cameron, D 1998:235).

Another point is that the male authors books are more difficult to read than female authors because men are using more rare words, dialect words and technical terms. An experiment of this declares took place in 25 universities by the American professor Jastrow. The experiment was in classes in both sexes and training and they should write 5000 words. In the results men used 1375 different words and women 1123. The group of words that men wrote was the animal kingdom and for women was wearing apparel and fabrics, also men use 53 words belonging to the class of food and women used 179. Havelock Ellis (1904:189) state “In general the feminine traits by this study are an attention to the immediate surroundings, to the finished product, to the ornamental, the individual, and the concrete; while the masculine preference is for the more remote, the constructive, the useful, the general and the abstract” (Cameron, D 1998:235).

Another point of Jastrow is that men use words that rhyme and alliterative words more than women, also men look more interested in words in their acoustic properties and women pay less attention. However woman is linguistically quicker than man: is quicker to learn, quicker to hear and quicker to answer, on the other hand, man is slower, he hesitates, he chews and thinks of the words, he tries to discover differences and similarities from other words, in sound and sense, thus he is looking for the fittest nouns and adjectives (Cameron, D 1998:236). However women are using more adjectives than men like pretty and nice. Otto Jespersen believes that women more often than men saying unfinished sentences, because they don’t think what they will say, an example of an unfinished sentence comes from Hankins plays: ‘Mrs. Eversleigh: I must say!’ and nothing comes out (Cameron, D 1998:237)

In an experiment that made from Romanes in rapidity perception the results prove that women were more successful than men. In this experiment women and men should read a paragraph of twenty lines in ten seconds and when the paragraph was removed they should write down of what they could remember. Women were quicker in the reading than men and they could give a better account of the paragraph. However they found out that rapidity is not a proof of intellectual power and some of the slowest readers were highly distinguished men. Ellis (1904:195) explains that: “the quick reader it is as though every statement were admitted immediately without inspection to fill the vacant chambers of the mind, while with the slow reader every statement under-goes an instinctive process of cross-examinitation; every new fact seems to stir up the accumulated stores of facts which it intrudes, and so impedes rapidity of mental action” (Cameron, D 1998:239).

Another author Robin Lakoff gives his own ideas; he says that when girls speak rough like boys won’t be accepted in society. Also believes that they are two different languages for boys and girls but when the children are under 5 years old and because the most of the time are with their mothers are learning the ‘women’s language’ but when boys grow up then they go through a stage of rough talks, Spock describe. Also children when they reach the age of 10 they split up in the same sexes groups, and boys stop using the original form of expression and they are adopt new expressions but girls keep the old way of speech. Here we can see what Otto Jespersen mention above that women keep the central language but men force to explore and use new language. Also Lakoff finds differences in the choice of lexical items, an example is when women using more names to describe colours for example, ecru, lavender, beige but men use the more basic names, but if a man use the other names of colours he might probably be a homosexual, interior designer or he just imitating women sarcastically, Lakoff believes that this is happening because women don’t have to take decisions on important things and that’s why are relegated in non crucial decisions (Cameron, D 1998:244).

As Otto Jespersen mention the adjectives also Robin Lakoff comes with more details, he bring up the ‘neutral adjectives’ and the ‘women’s only adjectives’, the ‘neutral adjectives’ are used by men and women like: great, terrific, cool, neat and the ‘women’s only adjectives’ are: adorable, charming, sweet, lovely, divine. Women can choose and use both types of adjectives but men usually are only using the ‘neutral adjectives’ (Cameron, D 1998:246). Also women are using more tag questions, and that it can be of the fact that you can make more polite statements.

Another author Pamela Fishman believes women do more questions than men because of the conversational power of questions and not of personality weakness. Also women are having difficulties to start a conversation when they are talking with men (Cameron, D 1998:255).

However Deborah Tannen bring up a research that says men talk more than women and dominate interactions stated by James and Drakich (1993) (Cameron, D 1998:272). In another research they also found that male speaker are competitive and are more likely to engage in conflict and females are cooperative and more likely to avoid conflict (Deborah, C 1998:274). In experiment that Penelope Eckert had on a high school she was told by boys that they usually start friendships because of a fight but girls never (Deborah, C 1998:277).

Aki Uchida agrees with Deborah Tannen that girls don’t start friendships through fights but they learn to create and maintain relationships of closeness and equality. Criticize of others with acceptable ways, and interpret accurately the speech of other girls but boys learn to assert one’s position of dominance to attract and maintain audience and to assert oneself when other speakers have the floor as Maltz and Borker mention (1982:205-207). Also Maltz and Borker 1982; Tannen 1986, Treichler and Kramarae 1983 agree that women’s speech has more back channeling, more personal and inclusive pronouns like ‘you’ and ‘we’ and use more signs of interest and attention (Cameron, D 1998:282).

In the part that Deborah Tannen cited ‘Boys and girls grow up in different worlds, but we think we’re in the same one, so we judge each other’s behaviour by the standards of our own’(1990b:254) (Cameron, D 1998:283), Uchida believes that her statement sums up the gist of the cross-culture miscommunication view, and that is too critical to say without more systematic observation as support (Cameron, D 1998:283). However she add a study that took place from Aries and Johnson(1983) for the same sex friends, they found that women prefer to talk with their friends about things than their husbands, and that happens because they feel will be judge if they speak to their husbands (Cameron, D 1998:283). Some problems of difference and dominance are that power can do with what happens in conversations between socially equal females and males, maybe that’s the reason women prefer to talk to close friends than to their husbands (Cameron, D 1998:285) also the dominance theory is that in mixed-sex conversations men are more likely to interrupt than women.

Jennifer Coates mention that we spend our lives of think of gender and you rarely aware of ‘doing’/perform gender. However she states women are not always the same, they change in different situations, for example because of the audiences and sometimes women are like the performing a different role (Cameron, D 1998:296). Also in difficult situation girls to support each other they might start crying all together because one of the friends was crying, they are doing that to show support, and crying is a stereotypical way of performing femininity (Cameron 1998:298). Jennifer Coates agree with the state of Aki Uchida that women prefer to talk to their close friends than to their husbands, and Coates also saying not only prefer to talk to their women friends but they also allow space to each other to complain, talk for problems but also to talk for successes and feelings of achievement. In the end Jennifer Coates state that “dominant in our society teach us to see ourselves in relation to men, dominant discourse place men at the centre of the universe, then women are always marginal and only have meaning when fulfilling roles that are significant for men, as mother, as partner, as daughter” (Cameron, D 1998:301).

Kira Hall in the chapter ‘Lip service on the fantasy lines’ gives examples of how women use the language and how it defers from men language. Women language is bought sold and custom tailored to secure caller satisfaction, they use language as powerlessness to gain economic power and social flexibility and men language are powerful. Robin Lakoff (1975) argues that “sex differences in language use both reflect and reinforce the unequal status of women and men in our society” (Cameron, D 1998:321).

Otto Jespersen, Robin Lakoff and Kira Hall agree in the fact women are using adjectives like charming, cute and tag questions in place of declaratives and hedges like sort of, kind of, hypercorrect and polite linguistics forms (Cameron, D 1998:321). Lakoff suggested that “the association of indirect speech with women s language and direct speech with men’s language is the reflection of a larger cultural power imbalance between the sexes” (Cameron, D 1998:322). Kira Hall also argues the type of language the employees in lips service define sexual and the economically powerful is what is be defined by Lakoff theories of ‘powerless’ (Cameron, D 1998:322). However men are dominant (powerful, penetrating and intellectual) and women are submissive (powerless, penetrated and emotional) (Cameron, D 1998:328). Kira Hall finishes by saying “are women really powerless in sexual interaction or are powerless when they play a role as subordinate in a conversation?” (Cameron, D 1998:341).

Deborah Cameron is using the claims of Butler that “ ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ are not what we are, nor traits we have, but effects we produce by way of particular things we: ‘Gender is the repeated stylization of the body, a set of repeated acts within a rigid regulatory frame which congeal over time to produce the appearance of substance, of a “natural” kind of being’ ” (Cameron, D 1997:49). However men’s talk is competitive, try to gain status and do report talk and women’s talk is cooperative, talk to forge intimacy and connection and do rapport talk.

In conclusion, there are cross believes and theories if the women’s language really exists. I believe this is a very complicated matter, which we can get many answers depends on the way we look at things. Some authors could comprehend the woman’s language and some other’s they could not. However, from my point of view and my understanding is that women’s language existed and it still exists, maybe we don’t born with a different language but the society make us follow specific rules, of how to behave as a women.


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