The language is the way in which people express their thoughts or ideas and is a media for people to communicate with one anther, which has the profound function in the social life. Owing to the differences of their genders, social status, backgrounds, living habits and their values, the languages used by different individuals in the society vary from each other. Among them, the gender differences of languages exist in almost every language of different cultures, thus becoming the eternal topic of language research. Based on the famous American television sitcom–Friends ,this paper tries to tries to anatomize the phenomena and causes of gender differences reflected in language by comparing the language features in Friends.
Key words: gender differences, language
In April 1944 New York University in the United States, the “Language and Gender” was put into a comprehensive discussion as the central issue by the 44th annual International Language Institute Committee. This fully shows that linguists in modern society regard the “Gender differences reflected in language” as one of the important indispensable element in sociolinguistic studies. With the development of social linguistics and driving of feminism, the research on gender differences in language has entered the golden age. Gender differences reflected in language shows the differences of people’s cultural traditions, thinking modes and values, researches on this issue have practical significances on the construction of a harmonious, successful language communication between men and women.
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Firstly, the gender differences of language reflect in the pronunciations. Social linguists think that women compared with the men of same ages are closer to the standard style and have more elegant accents so as to make them look like more educated, and enjoy higher social levels. For instance, the pronunciation of the vowel “r” is a kind of typical expression of gender differences in pronunciation. In American English, the pronunciation of the vowel “r” is the symbol of people who have higher education and higher social status, and is the tag of the upper class. Comparing the pronunciations of the heroes and heroines in Friends, we can found that Phoebe, Monica and Rachel tend to use rigorous, elegant and standard pronunciations. However, Chandler and Joey tend to omit or replace one or more syllables, especially the “th” sound. For words like “Thank and Thing “,women tend to have a correct and standard fricative sound¼»Î¸¼½¼Œwhile men like Chandler and Joey tend to have the blasting sound ¼»t¼½.
Furthermore, the gender differences of language reflect in the intonations. In language¼Œintonation refers to the variation of tone when people speak. As for the same words, phrases, and sentences, the differences of the intonations will finally cause the totally widely different expressions. Through the researches on th corpus, the social linguists have fund that women are more likely to use doubtful intonations to show their hesitations, requisitions, and uncertainties¼Œbesides they may have changeable fluctuations. This is a kind of reflection their backwardness, sympathy and psychological characteristics which shows euphemism, kind and tender of women. On the contrary, men are more likely to use falling tone or flat tone to show their firmness and certainty. Besides, their intonations are stable and invariable which shows men’s aggression, decisiveness and authority.
For example, when people are been asked ,”When is he coming back?”or”When does the store open ?”.Women would likely give the answer like “oh¼Œâ€¦around six o’clock?”with rising ton, while men may give an answer like this”half past six”in the falling tone with affirmative meanings .
Generally speaking, men and women usually stress the different words of the same sentences. For instance, the sentence “I wish you’d do it”. When men are speaking, they highest tone must be put on the most important word “do”. Women, on the contrary, will reverse the stress. They will read the most important word “do” in the lowest tone. The reason why women do so is that they want to put out the hint: Although this is very important, yet they don’t want to interpose the listener, and it is up to the listener to make a decision. This fully shows the gentle personality of women. In Friends, we can see many examples like this. In the television sitcom, the frequency of the heroines use doubtful intonations is far higher than men, which just suits their female temperament.
Men and women also differ from one another in the choice and use of the vocabulary. In general¼ŒThe vocabulary of women are much richer and more changeful than men, appropriately showing their delicate feelings. For example, women often use words like “super, fantastic, marvelous, splendid and empty” these adjectives to express their great excitement and satisfaction, men will only use some simple words like “good, well, etc” on the contrary. Women’s sensitive also urge them to have a closer observation of the colorful world than men do. Thus making them master a sight of color terms and pay attention to the use of these words. Take the color “red” for example, women may choose to use “peach, blossom, pink, plum, crimson, and salmon pink”. Men may seldom use or even know about these words only if they often make paintings, decorations, or to do other things which are closely connected with color terms. In the daily life, in order to express their feelings, women often use some adverbs like “so, very, quite, much” to emphasize the things so as to strengthen the tone. However, words like “so, very, quite, much” is lengthy and jumbled for men because that their existences will have nothing to with the meanings of the whole sentences. Besides, words like “adorable, charming, divine, sweet, lovely, etc” are said to be the typical characteristics of women. In friends, the heroines often use vocabulary stressing on the dress on dressing, clothing, chores, children and friendship these little things, while men prefer to use vocabulary involving the sports, politics, economy, culture and also education, etc. As for the use of “adorable, charming, divine, sweet, lovely, etc” these words, the frequency for women to use these vague words is almost three times as much as men’s.
Certainly, the difference of language use between men and women also reflects in many places, for example, in syntactic structures. In order to shoe the fully respect to others, women talk in a polite way. They prefer to use “isn’t it, aren’t we or don’t you” in a sentence to offer suggestions, while men would like to use statements to directly express their opinions, commands or requirements, etc.
In brief, there are many factors that cause gender differences in language such as personality, culture backgrounds, social experiences and so on, which summarized as the following three aspects.
Generally speaking, the physiological factor comes first. According to the modern science research, scientists have found some credible evidence that can explain the difference between men and women in the physiological aspect which finally determines the gender differences in language. The research report shows that men and women tend to use different parts of their brains to learn the language which naturally causes the different use of language. Men’s and women’s different vocal organs also lead to a significant gender differences in language. Men have a big throat, long vocal cords and the vibration for men is slow, therefore the voice of male is apparently low and vigorous. On the contrary, women have a much higher intonation and tone than men do.
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What comes secondly is the cultural and psychological factor. Almost in every country of different cultures, people have different criteria for the men’s and women’s behaviors. Women are asked to speak like a lady, to be more specific, to have accurate pronunciation and gentle voice, while the vulgar language of men is often accepted by all. Finally, men and women develop into totally different dictions.
Lastly, the social factor is also the key that cause the gender difference in the use of language. In people’s eyes, women are subordinated to the men and enjoy a quite low social position in society. To this point, men and women play different gender roles in their daily life which finally leads to the lack of confidence of women. Obviously, the reason why women’s language style is different from men’s is closely related to the traditional social values.
Gender differences have been in language use for a long time. And many researches have shown that language, gender, and society are closely connected with each other. Thus, in a nutshell, the development of the research on the gender differences in language will finally disclose the more detailed difference between men and women speakers and truly it is of great value in cross-gender communication.
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