Monday, 4 July 2016

Hold your tongue

Lots of preconceptions exist about the way women and men use language. Many speakers, for example, believe that women are more polite than men, or that men speak more confidently than women. In Chapter 8 of Women Talk More Than Men: …And Other Myths about Language Explained, Abby Kaplan debunks these notions.

First of all, Kaplan shows that speakers’ ideas about language use depend on context. In the U.S., for example, women’s speech is considered ‘indirect and polite’ and men’s ‘direct and blunt’, whereas in Madagascar ‘it’s men who … act appropriately and maintain good social relationships’ and [w]omen [who] … display anger and behave in other socially inappropriate ways’ (160-1). Speech is therefore linked to social norms not biology.

This is confirmed by Kaplan’s analysis of related empirical research; in line with Western social expectations studies show that ‘men engaged in more task-oriented behavior’ and ‘women engaged in more social-emotional behavior’ (167). In short, women use language more cooperatively. However, in contrast to the popular belief that women talk more overall, research finds that it is men who ‘took significantly longer turns than women’ (171). It is bias which flags up (any) female speech and masks male monologues as ‘normal’.

Kaplan provides a fascinating and accessible insight into sex/gender and speech research. I really recommend the chapter, ‘Women talk more than men’, as both an entry point to the field and a useful overview of related empirical studies. It also includes prompts for further reflection and an in-depth bibliography – making it a valuable resource for students and scholars. To get a copy see the ISBN etc. below!

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Title: Women Talk More Than Men: …And Other Myths about Language Explained
Author: Abby Kaplan
Publication Date: 21st April 2016

ISBN: 9781107446908 (paperback) - £15.99/US$24.99
ISBN: 9781107084926 (hardback) - £59.99/US$94.99

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