Gender Biased Conversation English Language Essay

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Do men and women speak the same language. Can they ever really communicate. These questions have been around for so many years but it's since early 1990's that it has been gaining predominant importance. There has been an indefinite psychology book written in which, men and women are portrayed as alien beings and their conversation as a catalogue of misunderstanding. The prominent among them being "You Just Don't Understand" by Deborah Tannen and "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" by John Gray (Cameron, 2007).

It is a well recognized fact that understanding a people includes understanding their society. The media in their various forms function as the major channels of cultural communication, the molders and perpetrators of social images. Through the media, whether the press or the radio or the television or the film, it is possible to reach out to the vast majority of the population of a country with the least effort and this possibility makes media a critical and significant force in the discourse of social formation. The television, or TV, as it is popularly known in India, is the medium of mass communication that is of extreme interest and consequence to the society to women, in particular. The area of its influence and reach is not only wide in the spatial sense but also in the sense of the family circle as well. This source of mass communication occupies the private and the personal space of the home, conventionally regarded as the domain of women. As schooling or specialized understanding of the visual discourse is not a prerequisite for viewership, TV is easily accessible to the woman subscriber, irrespective of whether she is a householder, student or a person working outside home. Here economic compulsions, social norms, communal considerations or gender bias do not hinder her TV viewership in any way. As a form of entertainment and education, this medium provides a high degree of access to women (Usha, 2004).

Taking into account these factors, advertisers and producers of the soap operas (serials or mega-serials in the terminology of the Indian television world) mainly target in most of their parts, women as their consumers. Kerala has remained in the forefront of the developing states in India in matters of socio-political awareness and development, for the past several decades. Statistics on male-female population ratios or literacy levels lend support to this contention. The character of Sthree (soap opera), enjoyed a unprecedented popularity as the first mega-serial made in Malayalam. It broke all records and celebrated the subordinate position of women in the Malayali psyche (Basheer, 2002). It is a self-effacing saga of female to her beloved children, on whom she is emotionally dependent, after the fickleness of her husband, for the selfish personal pleasure of her former husband and his second wife. Her totally submissive position has evoked a wide range of responses from women viewers ranging from revulsion at her passivity to admiration of her capacity to suffer. This topic has been chosen for research since it provides one of the closeness resemblances of language gender difference that's been followed in my community in India and to bring out the male and female language variance in communication, having said that Kerala society always loved a submissive behaviour of a woman. It would be no exaggeration to state that every day life in Kerala came to a standstill at 7:30 pm prime time.

Statement of problem:

This research focuses on conversation between male and female genders, their identities and their relationship to a particular family social setting. It aims to explore the use of discourse analysis as a methodology to investigate to what extent men and women are responding to the changing nature of their identities in an Indian cultural perspective with different gender regimes. Although this research explores wider questions of similarities and differences between male and female language, it would specifically explore the strategies of discourse topic initiation and the success rate in gaining an appropriate response and how this discourse topic is maintained or shifted. Such an exploration will reveal how this discourse work is done in cross-sex conversation in my community and would provide evidence that different discourse models are held by male and female speakers. It also suggests that these linguistic strategies are acts of power used for the purpose of attaining and achieving effective communication.

Literature Review:

Since male and female speakers of a language have different experiences, social roles and personal needs particular to their culture, it can be only expected that the sexes develop different strategies and skills of speech to operate and cope in their society. In recent years a considerable number of studies has emerged that has devoted more to this issue of sexual differentiation in language and speech. By these researches, insight has been gained on the varied ways in which males and females verbally interact with one another and the discourse problems that occur between the sexes because of it. The most popular explanation given for these differences is that the disparate verbal skills held by males and females are reflections of the disparate conditions of the sexes in society. The proponents of this theory view power as a measure of dominance and control, which is established and enforced by the norms of appropriate behaviour dictated by society. Hence this power or control is held and used by males but withheld from females. A hierarchical male-female relationship, then, is seen to exist in society and manifested in cross-sex discourse (White, 2003).

For example, the way the woman thinks is often in terms of closeness and support but they struggle to preserve intimacy. On the other hand, the male gender is more towards status and tends to focus more on independence. These traits can lead women and men to starkly different views of the same situation. Tannen gives the example from an women perspective, its usual that they inform their husbands before inviting a guest to show a trait of liking and further informs her friend about the closeness in their relationship whereas in the case of husband he invites a friend without asking his wife to show his friend that he holds that status in home (Tannen, 1991). Hartsock (1981) suggests that power in language discourse is 'energy, effective interaction, and empowerment'. In verbal interactions no compulsion is present other than the force of discourse itself. Here domination is absent and reciprocity pertains between and among participants. In this sense power is not understood as a system of dualism - powerful vs powerless or dominating vs dominated, but is seen in terms of effective social interaction. Power is presented as a strategy that affirms the patterns found in females' and males' speech. In other words, power is seen as the ability to effectively communicate and to accomplish successful discourse (Elshtain, 1982).

Data Collection

The material collected for this research was in the form of documentary secondary data of a previous video recording. This recording was later on viewed, listened carefully, analysed and transcribed into written text.


Discourse is when language is used in communication between people. Generally a communication, even if it is successful, that do not involve competent linguistic speech is not considered as discourse. Discourse is a process resulting in a communicative act which in itself takes the form of a text. A text is commonly thought of as consisting of written or printed words on a page but a text may also consist of sign language or spoken words or it may comprise only the thoughts of a writer or speaker on one hand or a reader or listener on the other. In addition to words, a text may consist of other symbols, sounds, gestures or silences, in any combination that is intended to communicate information such as ideas, emotional states and attitudes. Analysis of discourse is a methodology for examining texts and the communicative process that gives rise to them. Its primary purpose is to enable discourse analysts to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of texts. Because most texts are goal oriented, part of the purpose of discourse analysis is to enable people to recognize the intended goal of the writer or speaker and thus achieve some measure of control over the discourse (Gumperz, 1982). The term control implies a power relationship between those who produce texts and those for whom these texts are intended. Discourse has instructive, descriptive and narrative uses that help people to understand, appreciate and create their world. In this sense, discourse provides individuals with a sense of belonging and continuity by passing down the history, folk wisdom and values of the cultures and groups to which they belong. As art, the discourse of literature provides pleasurable ways of discovering who people are in relation to the world and to the various social and cultural groups it contains. As conversation and correspondence, discourse cements ties among people and helps individuals maintain connections within networks of family and friends. A model of discourse must, therefore, be some kind of workable simplification of reality. The model presented here views discourse as consisting of two interacting dimensions: Context and Language. Each of these is subdivided into its main components or elements and each component enables individuals, as analysts, to focus specifically on one aspect of discourse (Chimombo & Roseberry, 1998).

Data Analysis and Findings

In majority of communications between the male and the female speaker there arises issues of power and solidarity, power can arise based on relationship and the context of speech. In the below passage both the husband and wife have different but equally valid style. "The women must realize that when the man answers yes or a no, he is not making a non negotiable demand. In understanding what went wrong, the man must realize that when a woman asks what he would like, she is not asking an information question but rather stating a negotiation about what both would like. Women and men should both make adjustments into a claim that, women must make a unilateral effort to understand men. Informing women that what they alone must "realize" implies that a man's way is right and a women's wrong" (Tannen 1991, p15).

The context between a husband Vijayan now referred to as (V) and wife Shama referred to as (S) the female speaker calls her husband (Vijayaettan is an affectionate was to call ounces husband in my community) the husband is a primary school teacher school teacher, and S ia home maker they have two daughters the husband is not going for the job and is roaming amount his friends, the reason being a teachers job which would not fetch a life of his desires which he feels a business can provide doing he had attempted various types of business ventures which was unsuccessful and had lost money, I'm analyzing malayalam for both male and female speakers using conversational discourse analysis the analysis concentrates on the gender differences in my community on the power of male and female speaker and topic flow and shift and differences in the verbal skills held by both genders' in reference to my community. Since the analysis is being done in view of the above a part of the conversation is taken to stress these aspects


Argument starts between husband and wife, the husband get irritated by a gesture shown from his wife and he expresses his feeling by saying

"egane abhinayachirunuengil epzhayara award kittiyanaa" (If you had acted in this manner you would have won an award), when she heard this there was an emotional reaction on her face, seeing that he asked "feel cheyathoo?" (Did you feel bad?)

Replying to that she responds back "veenda veenda, nyan abhinakiyaa, vijayaettan agane thanne parayanum" (Don't try to convince me you shouldn't have said that I'm acting) and shows a gloomy face. Out of curiosity she further continues by asking

"namada randu pennkutikal valaranu varunuondu yennu vijayaettan epoyzhaengilum orathutuoondoo? (Have you ever thought that our two daughters are growing up?)

He pauses for a while and shows an act of ignorance "haa" and continues by asking back "athum awardum ayittu enthu bendham?" (What has that to do with award?)

She then angrily replies back "nyanum vijayaettanum ayittu bendham ondoo? (Does this have anything to do with our relation?)

He in a jovial mood replies "aa bendhathil ninnu aanaloo namakku randu penn makal ondayathaa" (It's from this relation (only) that we have two daughters)

Reacting to the baseless utterance from her husband she makes a humming noise "hmmm" and goes on to say

"nalla thalluinte koravau annu vijayettan ollathu, allaengil maashu pannium kalananittu eganna nadakumoo?" (You need to get a nice trashing, otherwise, would you leave the teacher job and roam around like this?)

Surprised by her comment he says "ente achanum oru school maash ayirunuu" (My father was also a school teacher)

Responding instantly she asks "ennittu enthu kozhapaam patti? aa joollie kondu allaee ningalaekka oru nellayil ethichathu" (So what happened? It is because of that job he made you all reach a good position) and confines to her stand.

He laughs "haha hee" by her statement and strongly reacts "enthu nellayil ethichu?" (WHAT POSITION REACHED?), he then pauses for a while and continues by saying "thaelli thaelli padipichu enna oru economics bhirithadhari aakki, bhiritham kazhaynnu porathaa erangiyapool annu manasilayathu keralathil thaengaya katti bhirithadharikal ondaennu, oru pannium cheyan arrunukoodathaa bhirithdhari, avasanam TTC kazhinnu primary school maasha aayyi, padipikkunna vishayazhagal malayalamum samhokiya paadamum, padichathu enthoo padipikunnu vera enthoo, enikku sheri avaolaa" (By repeatedly scolding he made me an economic graduate. It's after graduation that I realized in Kerala there are more graduates that coconuts a graduate who doesn't know a job, at last after doing a teachers training program became a primary teacher, the subjects teaching are Malayalam and social science, learned something and teaching something, this won't work for me), showing a sign of dissatisfaction about his job.

Observing him dissatisfied, she remarks "athaa, vijayaettanu onnum sheri avillaa, madiyaanaa annaa madiyaan, adankii oothanki enthangil paani edakan vazhyaa, ennittu nyan ethaa business thoodakaan pokunnu kaash varazhaan pokunnu ennu parayanu theeka vadaaku nadakum" (That's true nothing works out for you, lazy, lazy as an elephant, no intention in doing a proper job and for that you say about starting a business and making lot of money, by saying that you are roaming around east and west)

Getting irritated by her remark, he stares and goes on to say "athu nee parayarathu, epoo nee eniku korchu kaash thaa, nyan kanichu tharaam eganeeaa business cheyinathu ennu" (You don't tell me that, now you give me some money, I will show you how to do business)

By playing down his utterance, she casually says "ethu varaa cheyathaa businessil olla laabham pootaa, moothalengilum nashatapadayirunal kollaamayirunnu" (Leave aside all the profit, it would have been better at least if the investment was recouped)

Hearing that, a gush of air comes out from his mouth "Ahh" and he turns aside as if he never liked her when she spoke in this manner

Noticing his anger towards her statement, she hastily tries to convince him "atha ellam pottaa" (Lets leave all that) and tries to grab his attention "namku innu oru theermanam edakam, naalla vijayettan schoolil join cheyainnu, enthaa? (Lets take a decision today, tomorrow you will join the school, what do you say?)

Acknowledging to what she remarked, he lovingly said "entee shaama, athu matharam parayallaa, eekaalathu oru melagathi ondakanamengil businessaa raksha ollu (My dear, please don't tell me that, in today's world, the only way to prosper is by doing business)

Trying to convince him further she affectionately said "vijayaettan daa shudhaa manasinin business patella" (For your innocent heart business won't work out)

Hearing her affectionate talk, he tries to comfort her "manasu koonda anno business cheyaunatha, budhium panamum obheyichu alla?" (Do we do business with heart, don't you think it's done with brain and money), after a pause, he continues "nyan enthu mathram economics padichathaa, athil korchaengilum jeevadathil prayogathil varathaan sadhikendaa?" (I have studied a lot of economics at least few of that shouldn't I be using in my life?).

He now goes on to give an example to support his argument "kendra manthri Manmohan Singh aaru ayirunnu? Economics professor" (Who was central minister Manmohan Singh, an economics professor)

He further adds to that and tries to pursue her "oru rashtra thinntee mootham samabathigaa kariyingal angaree kaikarium cheyathengil ee oru cheriya townil oru cheriya business nadathaan enna kondu sadhikugailla, parayu?" (If he could handle the whole countries financial aspect won't I be able to run a small business in this small town tell me?)

Perplexed by his knowledgeable thought, she replies "Vijayaettan innu kazhivuu ekka ondu ennu enikka ariyaam" (I know that you have the capability to do that)

Showing a sign of relief "aaah" he says " athu mathi" (that's enough)

Going back to the beginning of where she started from, she says "bakshaa namakku randu penn makal annu" (But remember we have two daughters)

Hearing her surprised comment, he anxiously asks "athu koonda business cheyan padillaa?" (Does that mean business can't be done?)

She replies calmly "ennu allaa" (Not that way)

He comforts her "ente shaama, nee kadannu orakaan nookku" (My dear, you try to sleep)

Getting annoyed, she replies "enikku agane orakaanpattum?"(How can I sleep?), after a brief pause and thinking "ee kuttigaludaa kariyam alochikumbol" (When I think of our children), pausing again "naalaa ooru ooru thanda kooda parayan ayikandathu alle" (one day they need to be married to someone)

Comforting her again, he shares his thoughts of pre-married life "ente shaama, nanku ariyamoo, nyan orikallum oru kalayanam kazhikum ennu vicharichathu alle, ennuttu kalayanam kazhichillaa, kuttigal ondavumoo ennu shamshiyum ayirunnu, ondayillaa onnu allaa randu, enne ee kuttigaludaa kalayanam allaa, athum athindaa samayathu keirthium aayyi nadannu erikum" (My dear, you know, I never thought I would married, didn't I! Never thought would have children, didn't I! not one but two, now about the marriage of this children, that will definitely happen when the time comes)

In the above passage, utterances 8, 10 & 28 exhibit female speaker S's use of question forms. In these circumstances the speaker S is not seeking a verbal response from her husband V, the male listener. Her question are usually within her discourse turn for which she is not expecting any response from her husband, i.e., her questions are used as conversational maintenance question. Speaker S's verbal strategy of using these question forms, function into maintaining contact with her husband V and to let him know that she is continuing his discussion and providing him with support. In contrast, the use of utterances 4, 21 & 24 which are question forms of the male speaker V, functions to gain response from the female listener S and these questions are viewed as a call for information by her. Speaker S replies appropriately in utterances 22 & 26 and administer her comments by acknowledgement of belief, surprise and other supportive linguistics devices. Similarly, in the utterances 11, 13, 19 & 29, when the male speaker initiates the discourse topic with a statement, this provides adequate requirement to grab the attention of the female speaker S. However when female speaker S initiates discourse topic with a statement, as in utterance 14, she is mostly not successful in gaining necessary attention from the male speaker V. Speaker S's use of statements serves the purpose of continuing the talk with speaker V and not as a strategy for gaining topic acceptance and conversational control.

Comparing the different linguistics usages of topic flow and shift by male and female speakers in the utterance 3, the female speaker S introduces a topic by saying "namada randu pennkutikal valaranu varunuondu yennu vijayaettan epoyzhaengilum orathutuoondoo?" (Have you even thought that our two daughters are growing up?). By this, she is alerting her male listener V to extend the talk and in fact the female listener continues her talk revolving around the same theme and by indicating the male listener that she has completed her turn and it's now him to take over. In order to sustain the flow of talk the female speaker uses certain linguistics strategies which include a warning of a forth coming incident i.e., growing up of their daughters. Moreover to maintain contact with speaker V and for supporting the conversational flow she uses the same conversation repeatedly by saying "bakshaa namakku randu penn makal annu" (But remember we have two daughters), in utterance 24. The female speaker S and the male speaker V are discussing the subject of livelihood by doing business. A sudden topic shift is introduced by the female speaker S in utterance 16. The male speaker V recognises this abrupt shift in the topic and resumes his turn by sticking with the old one. Although it seems that the female speaker S has given up her new topic shift, she still continues her talk by proceeding with the male speaker V's topic. Similarly in utterance 27, the male speaker introduces a topic shift which is recognised by the female speaker but she still continues to stick on to her old one.

Furthermore by analysing similar cross -sex conversation in my community, it can be found that the female speaker in a conversation tends to focus around joint sharing of experiences, providing support & confidence and offering reassurances without being argumentative or authoritative where as, the male speaker tends to act as an expert by giving advice, expressing facts and explaining reasons.


This research focused on number of different points and raised various issues. In general, the female speaker appears to be the maintainers and supporters where as the male speaker appears to be the conveyors of message and coordinators of events in a cross sex conversation. The observation is of significance and the strategies adopted by the male and female speakers cannot be seen as system of dualism but as two separate dimensions of power. Further in-depth examination of cross sex conversation brings to light a differential use of discourse strategies. Both the gender has varied rates of introducing discourse topic both by questions and statements forms.

On the part of female speakers questions and statement forms acts as a conversational maintenance device that are meant to sustain and support the flow of discourse topic whereas on the part of male speaker questions are exemplified as a demand for information and statements forms as adequate to start discourse topic.

The female speaker enroots and shift discourse topic suddenly or unexpectedly from one topic to another whereas the male speaker narrowly describes the topic and usually the shift is cut off.

To manage and organize social interaction between both the speakers, a particular set of linguistic devices are used by each participants as an expression of concentration and appreciation. The female speaker complete, clarify, repeat and stress the previous utterances whereas the male speaker, to grab attention and reaction disregard the female speaker's explanation and efforts for a uninterrupted talk, express expert knowledge, adopt listener's overall elements and selection items to accept verbal deference and acknowledgement.

Hence the varied use of discourse strategies and linguistic patterns in this context can only be made clear by taking into account the native social setting of my community in India. The cross sex conversation between both the genders demonstrates that each speaker have different discourse strategies. These abilities are stimulated differently and have separate purpose for each gender in our community. In short, these strategies are representation of power that may not require the domination of a particular gender. The fact that a certain linguistics capability is adopted for interaction by a gender doesn't mean that the speaker of that gender is socially powerful or powerless, each of these strategies are an act of strength in itself, which are defined differently by each gender for attaining a common objective of effective communication in a cross sex platform.