I authorize the LSA to make available materials for my course Ling. 190 "Language and Gender" taught at Carleton College, for the use of other scholars. I retain copyright to all original material.

Ling. 190 Language and Gender Spring 2000

3A: MW 11:10-12:20, F 12:00-1:00

Instructor: Laurie Zaring

Office hours: to be announced

Office: Goodsell 101B

Email: lzaring@carleton.edu

Course description:

As social beings, we order our existence according to characteristics that link us to and distinguish us from each other. One of the most salient of these is gender, and since language is the primary symbolic system by which we express our experiences, it is no surprise that language and gender interact in intricate ways. This course explores the relationships between language, gender, and society. In what ways do men and women use language differently? How do these differences reflect and/or maintain gender roles in society? While the course takes primarily a linguistic perspective, it will also draw on insights from anthropology, sociology, psychology, and women's studies. No prerequisite.

Course goals:

1. To become familiar with the ways in which gender and language interact, the extent to which these surface in our everyday lives, and the explanations proposed by various fields for their existence.

2. To gain hands-on experience with techniques for sociolinguistic research.


Because the issues of language and gender are closely related to our daily lives, your questions, comments, and personal observations will play an important role in our exploration of them. Our class meetings will be discussion-oriented (as befits a course of this type) and the course assignments will provide structured exercises in data collection and analysis:

1. Attendance and participation: 15%

2. Reaction essays (3-4 pages), based on two readings: 10%

a. Hofstadter, Douglas R. (1985) ÒA Person Paper on Purity in Language,Ó ch. 8 in Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern. Basic Books, NY, 159-167.

b. Treichler, Paula A. & Cheris Kramarae (1983) ÒWomenÕs talk in the ivory tower.Ó Communication Quarterly 31: 118-132.

3. Project I: conversational analysis: 30%

a. Part A: recording and transcription of a conversation

b. Part B: analysis 1: interruptions and minimal responses

c. Part C: analysis 2: tag questions and fillers

d. Part D: analysis 3: expletives and topics

4. Project II: fieldwork study (15-20 pp.): 45%

a. Project proposal

b. Oral presentation of project

c. Term paper

Just for the record:

This course is meant to be an individual and group exploration, not a competition among individuals. As a result, I encourage you discuss the readings and the assignments together, both in and outside of class. My only proviso is that the written assignments which you hand in should be yours and/or your teamÕs alone. In other words, feel free to talk things over as much as you like, but when it comes time to put your thoughts down on paper, all work must be individual or confined to the team. I strongly discourage late assignments, although I will gladly give extensions provided that you contact me before the assignment is due and your lateness is due to matters beyond your control (sickness, death in the family, etc.). I will accept late assignments otherwise, but be advised that they will receive low priority for grading and my evaluation of them will take into account the degree to which they are late. Please do feel free to come talk with me about questions, comments, suggestions or frustrations at any point.


There are three required texts, available in the bookstore:

Coates, Jennifer and Deborah Cameron (1988) Women in Their Speech Communities. London: Longman. (WITSC)

Johnson, Sally and Ulrike Hanna Meinhof (1997) Language and Masculinity. Oxford: Blackwell. (LAM)

Tannen, Deborah (1990) You Just DonÕt Understand. New York: Ballantine Books. (YJDU)

There are also a number of readings and articles not included in these texts. Most of these are located in course packets obtainable from the bookstore, although some readings will only be available on reserve in the library.

Tentative Schedule

Topic Readings

Week 1 M: Introduction to the course ÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐ

W: Topic I: Introduction to L&G; Kay & Kempton (1984)

Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

F: Topic I (con.): Gender in Hofstadter (1985)


1st Reaction Essay due

Week 2 M: Topic I (con.): Epicene pronouns Khosroshahi (1989)

& masculine generics Crawford & English (1984)

W: Topic II: Dominance & Lakoff (1975), YJDU ch. 1, 2;

Difference WITSC, ch. 1, 2, 6

F: Topic III: Communicative Sacks et al. (1974) (reserve)

Interaction Grice (1975) (reserve)

Project IA due

Week 3 M: Topic III: minimal responses Reid (1995)

Fishman (1983)

W: Topic III: interruptions West & Zimmerman (1983), Bresnahan

and Cai (1996), YJDU ch. 7


Project IB due (1st analysis)

Week 4 M: Topic III: tag questions and Cameron et al. (WITSC ch. 7)

hedges Coates (1996), ch. 7 (reserve)

W: Topic III: fillers Holmes (1986)

Holmes (1990) (reserve)


Project IC due (2nd analysis)

Week 5: M: Topic III: topics of conversation Kipers (1987), YJDU ch. 4

Coates (1988) (WITSC ch. 8)

Johnson & Finlay (1997) (LAM ch. 7)

W: Topic III: expletives de Klerk (1992), de Klerk (1997)

(LAM ch. 8)


Project ID due (3rd analysis)

Week 6 M: no class (midterm break) ÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐ

W: Topic III: floor control YJDU ch. 3, 5

Coates (1997) (LAM ch. 6)

Coates (1996), ch. 6 (reserve)

F: Topic IV: speech acts; Levinson (1983), ch. 5 (reserve)

compliments Herbert (1990)

Project II Proposal due

Week 7: M: Topic IV: apologies and obliges Rundquist (1994), Sachs (1987)

W: Topic IV: conflict talk Sheldon (1993)

Killen & Naigles (1995) (reserve)

F: Topic V: power Woods (1988) (WITSC ch. 10)

Kiesling (1997) (LAM ch. 4)

Week 8: M: Topic V: constructing gender Johnson (1997) (LAM ch. 1)

Cameron (1997) (LAM ch. 3)

Coates (1996), ch. 10 (reserve)

W: Project II presentations ÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐ

F: Project II presentations ÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐ

Week 9 M: Project II presentations ÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐ

W: Project II presentations ÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐ



W: Topic VI: Pulling it together YJDU, ch. 8, 10; Uchida (1992)

2nd Reaction Essay due Treichler & Kramarae (1983)

Final paper due in my office no later than Monday, June 5, 7:00pm

Course Outline:

(T=in one of the texts, CP=in the course packet, R=on reserve)

Topic I: Introduction to Language and Gender Issues

We begin by considering why gender in language and society is an issue worthy of examination, and what it means to take a linguistic perspective in studying it. Almost immediately, the role of language in defining and perpetuating social divisions enters the picture: some people, following the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, claim that language determines, or at least influences, social structure and our perceptions of it. Others argue that language merely reflects what is present in our society and culture. The article by Kay & Kempton (1984) explains the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, providing a ruler against which to measure gender roles as we progress through the se,. The reality of gender inequities in language and society is illustrated in the parody by Hofstadter (1985), who, in a rather shocking manner, opens the readerÕs eyes to the possibility that languages themselves can be gender-biased. Finally, Khosroshahi puts the two together in a study designed to test the role of gender-biased language and the reality of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, while Crawford and English explore the effect which language and perception of gender have on memory.

Crawford, Mary and Linda English (1984) ÒGeneric Versus Specific Inclusion of Women in Language: Effects on Recall.Ó Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 13.5: 373-81. (CP)

Hofstadter, Douglas R. (1985) ÒA Person Paper on Purity in Language,Ó ch. 8 in Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern. Basic Books, NY, 159-167. (CP)

Kay, Paul and Willett Kempton (1984) ÒWhat is the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis?Ó American Anthropologist 86: 65-79. (CP)

Khosroshahi, Fatemeh (1989) ÒPenguins donÕt care, but women do: a social identity analysis of a Whorfian problem.Ó Language in Society 18:505-525. (CP)

Topic II: WomenÕs language and menÕs language: dominance and difference

The idea that women and men speak and use language differently, especially in terms of how much each talks, is a time-honored tradition. Consider the English proverb: ÒMany women, many words; many geese, many turds.Ó In the realm of linguistics, Otto Jespersen was perhaps the first to compile anecdotal evidence of the way men and women differ in pronunciation, in vocabulary, in correctness of grammar, etc. Lakoff (1975), working from a feminist perspective, continued the list, detailing differences in conversational strategies, and imputing the reason for their existence to the social domination of women by men. The readings in Cameron (1988) and Coates (1988) provide summaries of the putative differences between menÕs and womenÕs language, as well as critiques of the dominance theory proposed by Lakoff. As documentation of menÕs and womenÕs use of language has progressed, however, many scholars, including Tannen (1990), have noted that dominance theory goes both too far and not far enough: there are differences for which dominance is only one of many factors, and differences for which dominance is not a factor. Another explanation for gender differences in speech which has developed as a result says essentially that boys and girls in a particular society are socialized so differently that communication between them (and consequently between men and women) is like communication between two different cultures.

Cameron (1988), ÒIntroductionÓ, WITSC, chapter 1. (T)

Coates (1988), ÒIntroductionÓ, WITSC, chapter 6. (T)

Cameron, Deborah & Jennifer Coates (1988) ÒSome problems in the sociolinguistic explanation of sex differences.Ó In WITSC, chapter 2. (T)

Lakoff, Robin (1975) Language and WomenÕs Place. New York: Harper & Row. (CP)

Tannen (1990), YJDU, chapters 1 and 2. (T)

Topic III: WomenÕs and MenÕs Language in Communicative Interaction

Any attempt to explain differences between menÕs and womenÕs language rests crucially on establishing whether and what type of differences exist. Much of the most reliable data on gendered language behavior has come from the realm of conversational analysis--observation of the strategies used to initiate and maintain conversations. We start with Sacks et al. (1974) and Grice (1975) to get an idea of how conversations work, before moving on to Fishman (1983), who examines a wide variety of strategies, including use of questions, pauses, statements, etc. The remaining studies examine these strategies in depth: minimal responses (Reid 1995), interruptions (West & Zimmerman 1983, Bresnahan & Cai 1996), tag questions (Cameron et al. 1988), hedges (Coates 1996, ch. 7), fillers (Holmes 1986, Holmes 1990), topics (Kipers 1987, Coates 1988, Johnson & Finlay 1997), expletives (de Klerk 1992 and 1997), and floor control (Woods 1988, Coates 1996, ch. 6, Coates 1997). It becomes increasingly clear that when they exist, gender differences are quite subtle, that dominance and difference both play a role, and that global generalizations about gender differences are impossible: any generalization about gender is limited to a particular community in a particular social stratum in a particular culture.

Bresnahan, Mary I. and Deborah H. Cai (1996) ÒGender and Aggression in the Recognition of InterruptionÓ, Discourse Processes 21: 171-189. (R)

Cameron, Deborah, Fiona McAlinden & Kathy OÕLeary (1988) ÒLakoff in context: the social and linguistic function of tag questions.Ó In WITSC, chapter 7. (T)

Coates, Jennifer (1988), ÒGossip Revisited: Language in All-Female GroupsÓ, ch. 8 in WITSC. (T)

Coates, Jennifer (1996) ÒÔYou know so I mean I probably . . . : Hedges and HedgingÓ, ch. 7 in Women Talk. Oxford: Blackwell. Pp. 152-173. (R)

Coates, Jennifer (1996) ÒÔThe feminine shape . . . is more melding in together: The Organization of Friendly TalkÓ, ch. 6 in Women Talk. Oxford: Blackwell. Pp. 117-151. (R)

Coates, Jennifer (1997) ÒOne-at-a-Time: The Organization of MenÕs TalkÓ, ch. 6 in LAM. (T)

Fishman, Pamela M. (1983) ÒInteraction: the work women do.Ó In Thorne, Barrie, Cheris Kramarae & Nancy Henley (eds.) Language, Gender & Society. Rowley, MA: Newbury House. Pp. 89-101. (CP)

Grice, H. P. (1975) ÒLogic and ConversationÓ, in Cole, P. and J. L. Morgan (eds.) Syntax and Semantics, vol. 3, Speech Acts. New York: Academic Press. Pp. 41-58. (R)

Holmes, Janet (1986) ÒFunctions of you know in womenÕs and menÕs speech.Ó Language in Society 15: 1-22. (CP)

Holmes, Janet (1990) ÒHedges and Boosters in WomenÕs and MenÕs SpeechÓ Language and Communication 10, 3: 185-205. (R)

Johnson, Sally and Frank Finlay (1997) ÒDo Men Gossip? An Analysis of Football Talk on TelevisionÓ, ch. 7 in LAM. (T)

Kipers, Pamela S. (1987) ÒGender and TopicÓ Language in Society 16: 543-557. (CP)

de Klerk, Vivian (1992) ÒHow Taboo are Taboo Words for Girls?Ó Language in Society 21: 277-290. (CP)

de Klerk, Vivian (1997) ÒThe Role of Expletives in the Construction of MasculinityÓ, ch. 8 in LAM. (T)

Reid, Julie (1995) ÒA Study of Gender Differences in Minimal ResponsesÓ Journal of Pragmatics 24: 489-512. (CP)

Sacks, Harvey, Emanuel Schlegoff and Gail Jefferson (1974) ÒA Simplest Systematics for the Organization of Turn-taking in ConversationÓ, Language 50: 696-735.

Tannen (1990), YJDU, chapters 3, 4, 5, 7. (T)

West, Candace & Don H. Zimmerman (1983) ÒSmall Insults: a study of interruptions in cross-sex conversations between unacquainted persons.Ó In Thorne, Barrie, Cheris Kramarae & Nancy Henley (eds.) Language, Gender & Society. Rowley, MA: Newbury House. Pp. 103-117. (CP)

Topic IV: Speech Acts

If men and women differ in the strategies they use for constructing conversations, it stands to reason that they may also differ in the language they use to perform various social functions. These are known as speech acts, and range over a wide variety of functions, including requesting, thanking, warning, etc. Levinson (1983) provides a detailed discussion of the issues involved in studying speech acts, while the other readings focus on specific ones: compliments (Herbert 199), apologies (Rundquist 1994), obliges (Sachs 1987). Finally, we look at the language used when social relations are threatened by conflict (Sheldon 1993, Killen & Naigles 1995).

Herbert, Robert K. (1990) ÒSex-based Differences in Compliment BehaviorÓ Language in Society 19: 201-224. (CP)

Killen, Melanie and Letitia R. Naigles (1995) ÒPreschool Children Pay Attention to Their Addressees: Effects of Gender Composition on Peer DisputesÓ, Discourse Processes 19: 329-346. (R)

Levinson, Stephen C. (1983) ÒSpeech ActsÓ, ch. 5 in Pragmatics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 226-283. (R)

Rundquist, Suellen (1994) ÒApologies: A Gender StudyÓ Manuscript, St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, MN. (CP)

Sachs, Jacqueline (1987) ÒPreschool BoysÕ and GirlsÕ Language Use in Pretend Play.Ó In Philips, Susan U., Susan Steele & Christine Tanz (eds.) Language, Gender and Sex in Comparative Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 178-188. (CP)

Sheldon, Amy (1993) ÒPickle Fights: Gendered Talk in Preschool DisputesÓ In Tannen, Deborah (ed.), Gender and Conversational Interaction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Pp. 83-109. (CP)

Topic V: Back to Difference vs. Dominance

As important as it is to catalog the existence of gendered-language behavior, the ultimate questions remain: why does such behavior exist? What do we do in our every-day lives to perpetuate it? How can we change it? Clearly, the difference and the dominance hypotheses attempt to address these questions, but two aspects of them are particularly important, and difficult to pin down. First is the question of power: the dominance approach maintains that gender differences stem ultimately from power differences, and that by advancing women to positions of power, we expect gender differences to equalize. Woods (1988) and Kiesling (1997) address this issue by examining the language used by and to men and women in positions of dominance and of subordination. The second issue of importance is the definition of gender: many studies assume that sex equals gender, but as Coates (1996, ch. 10), Johnson (1997), and Cameron (1997) point out, humans donÕt so much have gender as they do gender. This leaves open the possibility that there exists a multitude of varieties of masculinity and femininity which vary independently and (perhaps?) dependently with sexual orientation.

Cameron, Deborah (1997) ÒPerforming Gender Identity: Young MenÕs Talk and the Construction of Hetersexual MasculinityÓ, ch. 3 in LAM. (T)

Coates, Jennifer (1996) ÒÔThank God IÕm a WomanÕ: The Construction of Differing FemininitiesÓ, ch. 10 in Women Talk. Oxford: Blackwell. Pp. 232-262. (R)

Johnson, Sally (1997) ÒTheorizing Language and Masculinity: A Feminist PerspectiveÓ, ch. 1 in LAM. (T)

Kiesling, Scott (1977) ÒPower and the Language of MenÓ, ch. 4 in LAM. (T)

Woods, Nicola (1988) ÒTalking Shop: Sex and Status as Determinants of Floor Apportionment in a Work SettingÓ In WITSC, chapter 10. (T)

Topic VI: Pulling it together: where do we go from here?

We finally return to the Whorfian problem: do gendered-language differences have any influence in the way we view men and women and their respective roles in society? Could it be that they aid in perpetuating gender inequality? If the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is false, then attempts to change our conversational strategies and our use of false generics are useless, resulting in nothing as far as social change is concerned. On the other hand, if it is even partially true, then language change may eventually aid in producing social change. Intricately involved in all of this, of course, is the reason for which social gender differences exist: is it dominance or difference, or is it both and more? The readings below address these issues: Tannen (1990) claims that difference is at issue, while Uchida (1992) claims that both difference and dominance play a role. Finally, Treichler & Kramarae (1983) examine the implications of these questions for our roles as teachers and students in academia.

Tannen, Deborah (1990) ÒDamned if You DoÓ (ch. 8), ÒLiving with Asymmetry: Opening Lines of CommunicationÓ (ch. 10), YJDU. (T)

Treichler, Paula A. & Cheris Kramarae (1983) ÒWomenÕs talk in the ivory tower.Ó Communication Quarterly 31: 118-132. (CP)

Eckert, Penelope & Sally Mc Connell-Ginet (1992) ÒThink Practically and Look Locally: Language and Gender as Community-Based PracticeÓ Annual Review of Anthropology 21, 461-490. (CP)