Relationships Between Language And Gender Identity English Language Essay

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Communication Phenomenon

The women's language features are important for other to realize the gender identity through socialized gender talking rules. The social acceptance as a suitable woman is generally based on the way she speaks. (Bucholtz, 2004) It is defined that language study cannot be restricted by the linguistic usage on particular linguistics forms but the critical investigation of social and cultural life. (Murphy, 2010) Before there is no internet, theorist defined female would follow all of the women norms in all context.

Technology Influence

The popular of internet technology provides another communication channel and gradually effects on women's new language uses, such as the creation of emotional characters, new internet terms and meaning (E.g. unfriend, tag). The instant messaging tool creates another way for genders to communicate indirectly.

Aim of the Paper

Due to this new technology existed and influenced on women's communication style, it is worth to discuss through the language features of women to understand how communication channels influence on linguistics and women's communication style.

Flow of the paper

Begin from introducing the research methodology and analyzing method, the paper includes the literature review of the relationship between gender identity and language features. In addition, the women social status in Hong Kong and the characteristics of two communication channels are introduced in background of research. Then, there are the presentations of dialogue findings and analysis. It is expected to observe the contrast with choices of words from speeches. The paper ends with general summary of analysis and illustrates the limitations of this paper. There are some personal opinions expressed based on the research.

Scope of the paper

There are theorists' researches listed various characteristics on women's conversational style and defined the effects of gender identity on language. From the language usage perspective, this paper analysis covers the comparison on features of rules of politeness between face-to-face and computer online circumstances in Hong Kong. The analyzing conversations are picked from Hong Kong online website, drama and movie in face-to-face circumstances and in real-time messaging tool MSN. The time frame of gathering secondary sources limited to recent 10 years so the books, movies, journals and internet sources are able show the reflections on language changes and the social view on women.

While two parties in a conversation is the simplest way to observe the language use and features. (Sidnell, 2010) 'Gender different discourse' enables genders to be normative in social role and communication rules. (Bucholtz, 2004) To explicit the contrast, men and women dialogues are used for analysis as women's language socially constructed and judged by society.

Qualitative Research

A qualitative research is defined as focus and smaller investigation on a particular research which concern the human behavior and the reason behind. (Wooffitt, 2005) For this paper, it is aimed to through a small number of samples to observe the reason of channel differences affecting the use of women language. Hence, 3 dialogues are collected for particular discussion.

Analyzing Aspects

There are two aspects of analyzing three dialogues, language use of politeness in online MSN texting channel and face-to-face channel. There is an expectation for people to observe the gender identities through language characteristics in conversations. Hence, this research focuses on the channel influences women's language use in the dialogue in reflecting their gender identities.

However, to explicit the language use of women features, the non-verbal factors in face-to-face interaction such as facial expression, body language and intonation are omitted. Due to rule of politeness reflecting the social distance, social identity and power status between communication parties (Bucholtz, 2004), the dialogues gathered are in a friend relationship which smaller the influence of two other factors except social identity.

Research Background

Gender Discourse (Relationships between Language and Gender Identity)

Gender discourse is the cultural stereotype on talking behavior of men and women. (Bucholtz, 2004) 'Gender differences discourse' is affirming the existence of basic differences on use of languages between women and men. (Cameron, 1996) Fenstermaker and West (2002) see gender as "an achieved status that an individual carries out 'man' or 'woman' ". The communication rules are expected to follow in socialization for others to realize the gender identity. (Holmes, 1999)

Traditional Chinese Culture on Genders Status

From monarchy age to now, men acted as a dominant group in a society. (Bucholtz, 2004) The traditional view on gender judgments tends to imposed by men's value. (Bucholtz, 2004) Hence, the traditional think is male is superior to the female. (Appendix 3) Female is the accessories for men. (Kwok, 2010)

Gender Identity in Hong Kong

Although the percentage of female officials is increasing, there is a phenomenon of male dominant in society. (Appendix 2) In Chinese view on identity carries the moral aspect and realization of roles. Female acted as a mother, caring and supporting role in a family for years. (Kwok, 2010) Hence, society expected women polite as a lady. The rules of politeness applied in Hong Kong society in reflecting women's gender identity. Relatively, men determine the women's identity through applying polite conversational rules.

Women's Language Characteristics

Women's language features on talking with hedges and superpolite forms. (Bucholtz, 2004) According to Bucholtz's definition, the hedges form includes more instances of "well", "y know" and giving opinion with "I guess", "I think" declarations. The superpolite forms require women to speak more politely than men. The careful expressions such as "please", "thank you" are frequently used in conversation. The use of intensifier like "so", "very" is another emotional expression on women's language features. These language uses reflected the women identity and men adjudged women performing the same act in the same circumstances. (Murphy, 2010)

Face-to-Face Verbal Communication

Most of the communication theories are based on conversational analysis. Beside the context of words, intonations, body language and facial expressions are implied as non-verbal message. Through using tone of voice and the force, the attention of audience is more focus and greater language impact. (Wooffitt, 2005)

Computer-mediated Communication

It is assuming the investigation used real-time messaging tool without web-cameras or headsets. Hence, the interaction is limited as text-based messages. Computer-medicated communication included some written communication features such as heavily relied on choice of words and mutual shared understanding without the intonations, body language and other facial factors. (Woofitt, 2005) Metz pointed out that interacting in the computer-mediated environment, the presence of nonverbal messages results the creation of emoticons and plenty used of internet chat acronyms. (Wood, 2001)

Define MSN Messenger

It is a software collection with Mircosoft platform which provides the instant messaging service from 1999. (, 2011) Link with email account, user can login and connect with others by text communication. It is one of the key social tools for Hong Kong youngsters especially university students to communicate with each other. (Appendix 1)


Dialogue 1 from Face-to-face Conversation

(Bold - Women language Features, Underline - Colloquial Language Features)

(Movie) A Decade of Love - Dialogue Transcript (Comrade Relationship)

Alex: You want some coffee?

Anna: No, thank you. Oh, that's kind of heavy for a small chat.

Anna: Could you pass the sugar to me, please? Thank you.

Alex: No, that's okay. I am able to help. I know a guy at my office who can handle it.

Anna: Are you kidding, aren't you? Oh, well, this is so unexpected.

Alex: I can do that. Yeah. It's gonna be okay.

Anna: Great, thank you so much.

Dialogue 2 from Face-to-face Conversation

(Drama) Speech of Silence - Dialogue Transcript (Buddy Relationship)

Andy: I said this will be alright on Tuesday and Kelly says 'amm…I don't think we'll be here on Tuesday' that's the words she said.

Mandy: Oh yeah well all I know is that ah ah the Jim said to us at the dinner on Friday night that the office staff would possibly be there for twenty eight days.

Andy: Oh right.

Mandy: That's a month. I think it's a good time.

Andy: Right.

Mandy: And if they'll be they'll probably stay on there to do that I'd work with him I'd probably glean more about the situation….I didn't say very much to be honest with ya because do you know I was kind of watching Joe and his reactions, don't you?

Women's language Features

From two dialogues, it is obvious to see the question tag "aren't you" and "don't you" are frequently used by women speakers. Question tag appears when making an assertion on one-self's viewpoint. (Bucholtz, 2004) From the speech, both question tag used after a statement. Obviously women seek for an agreement on her assertion. Another word "kind of" is found in both speeches as a common hedge in daily conversation. This hedge functions similar with "probably", "very much", "possibly" and "so" as modifier on the assertions for enhancing or lightening the force. Together with the use of "I think", "be honest with" and "all I know", it is popular for lady to use in expressing option in a polite way which less vulnerable to be challenged. (Bucholtz, 2004)

On the other hand, the empty adjectives like "Great", "good" are seldom used by men but relatively common in women's language. Actually, it is difficult to measure the level of "great" and "good". The functions of these words are presenting appreciation on things but the adjectives are too general and lack of concrete description. "Well" is also a hedge that meaningless but noticing listener what she is saying or cannot ensure the accuracy of the statement. (Bucholtz, 2004) These two kinds of hedges are critical in women's speech for signaling the message indirectly. Ladies voice thankfulness through embedding "thank you", "please" and low possibility modality "could", "would". These are the superpolite form as mentioned. As a woman, it is a sociality of using polite words and upholding the other's social conventions. (Bucholtz, 2004)

Dialogue 3 from MSN Conversation

(Bold - Women language Features, Underline - Computer-mediated Language Features)

(Internet posted) - Dialogue Transcript (Classmate Relationship)

[03:01] Roxie: Which football term will u support?

[03:01] Jason Ivercourt: Espana

[03:02] Roxie: me2 ^-^

[03:02] Jason Ivercourt: bueno

[03:03] Roxie: Done ur hw?

[03:03] Jason Ivercourt: No

[03:04] Roxie: OMG! We need it tom! Sigh

[03:04] Jason Ivercourt: OK…I'll handle it.

[03:04] Roxie: Well, ASAP. =.=

[03:04] Roxie: Who's Paul on the list?

[03:04] Jason Ivercourt: My best friend, wuzup?

[03:05] Roxie: He's a funny guy. lol

[03:05] Jason Ivercourt: yes, gtg

[03:06] Roxie: c u later! 886

Women's language Features

From the dialogue, there are hedges in woman's party such as "OMG" and "Well". These hedges are expressing her acknowledge and her surprised feeling. As "women are interested in interpersonal feelings and emotions" (Bucholtz, 2004), inserting hedges like "lol", "sigh" and emoticons "^-^", "=.=" are aimed to implied their emotions on assertions. However, there are hardly found the other women language characteristics in this online dialogue.


Colloquial Conversation Features in Dialogue 1 & 2

Compare with written text, colloquial language contains the frequent usage of interjections like "oh" and "yeah". The interjections carry the emotional and sentiment functions on the part of speaker. (Wooffitt, 2005) "amm", "ah ah" and "ya" are another form of interjections as a filled pause in the sentences. As mentioned women uses hedges to notice listener what she is saying, the frequently appears of interjections in women speakers reflected women sometimes use it functioned as hedges.

MSN Conversation Features in Dialogue 3

Compare with colloquial language, the online MSN dialogue contained many online acronyms and emoticons. Emoticons like "^-^" and "=.=" are using the punctuation to pictorially represent the facial expression. (Wood, 2001) These are the eastern style of emoticons which is anime-like. "^-^" expressed the happiness and "=.=" contained the meaning of bored or annoyed. (Ptaszynski, 2010)

Internet acronym is a kind of internet slang words in cyberspace. There are many examples appeared in this text and commonly seen in instant chat dialogue. (Wood, 2001) It is through abbreviation to shorten words and save typing time. According to, these acronyms can be used as representing a noun, such as the word "OMG" means "oh my god", "u" means "you", "ur" represents "your" and "hw" refers to "homework". Sometimes, the acronyms able to represents a clause or a phrase like "wuzup" means "what's up", "me2" means "me too" and "gtg" is "got to go". It is easy to confuse internet acronyms with daily acronyms like "ASAP" which is the common appears in daily business terms to represent "as soon as possible".

All of these acronyms are common in both western and eastern cyberspace. However, there are some western acronyms carries different meanings in eastern context. For example "lol" in western is "laughing out loud" but in Hong Kong context, it is closer meaning as "haha". The level of happiness expressed is slightly different. In addition, Hong Kong contains its own creation of acronyms such as "c u" means "see you" and "886" symbolizes the intonation of "colloquial Cantonese of good-bye". (Appendix 4)

Channel influences on women's languages

From the findings, there are usage differences between face-to-face colloquial language and online texting language. Besides intonation, body language and facial expressions, face-to-face interactions enable people to infer the identity based on our gender, race and clothing. (Wood, 2001) As this paper omitted the effects on non-verbal behavior in spoken conversation, people can still determine the gender identity through the characteristics of language use. Some researches illustrated the relationship between linguistic construction of identities and social relations are interrelated. (Murphy, 2010)

It is obvious to see Anna and Mandy who spoke with male addressee follows the rules of politeness through embedding hedges as a strong women language features. Their speeches are exaggerated on reactions and feelings like "are you kidding me?" In addition, the women speeches contain superpolite forms which make the indirect declarations such as "I would probably". These clauses suit the stereotypes of women speech as unclear, indirect and exaggerated impressions.

Compared to the MSN dialogue, there are relatively less women language features being observed than the face-to-face dialogue. Only hedges on emotional expression are shown in the text. Although the women language features obviously used by Roxie, there is no superpolite forms, empty adjectives and intensive modifiers which represent the woman identity. Wood pointed out that the online instant technologies offer us "the possibility of controlling more aspects of our identity for public consideration." As people represent their identities through language use and icon photos in cyberspace (Wood, 2001), the identity that addresser wanted to deliver or being impressed can be controlled. From another viewpoint, without the concern on identity, there is a relatively low necessity for female to use women language in reflection of her identity which constructed by social value and stereotype on women's interaction. Hence, there is less existence of hedges but relatively common in using internet slangs.


This paper aimed to compare the differences on channels that influencing women's language use. In the theorist research proved that gender identity can be described as social practices that are constructed in interaction so that it becomes "a distinct organizing principle of social relations."(Ridgeway, 2004) Through the language use, people can determine speaker's gender identity and continue the conversation with the recognized identity. As Hong Kong social value still supports the traditional view on gender identity that female has an inferior status in society (Appendix 3), cultural stereotype on women still supports rules of politeness. Through the analysis, it is clear to see Hong Kong women follow this norm in face-to-face interaction but relatively less limit in the MSN platform. It is proved that the communication channel influence on women's language is because of social expectation on gender identity.

Nevertheless, there are limitations on this paper. Due to the time limit, the quantitative comparison on two channels reflecting on hedge uses cannot be implemented. The ages, social status, income and educational background elements which effect on language use are omitted in this paper. The face-to-face conversation omitted the intonations, body language and facial expression that also the factors of women's conversational behaviors. The MSN is an instant texting tool for communication but the real user is hardly to tell in the internet. This problem is always existed in other non face-to-face interaction. This paper is not affected by the identities of users but the language use for users to show their identities.