University of Washington
ANTHROPOLOGY 450 / LINGUISTICS 458 / WOMEN STUDIES 450
LANGUAGE AND GENDER
Professor Laada Bilaniuk
Office: Denny Hall M37
Office tel.: 543-5393
Do men and women talk differently? How, and why? What are the implications of differences in language use on social relations? How can we research these questions?
In this course we will explore the relationships between language and gender, and how gender ideologies shape and are shaped by language use. The intersection of gender and power will be central in our examination. How are certain ways of Òdoing genderÓ empowering or disempowering? To what extent are we constrained by subconscious gendered norms of language, and to what extent can we be creative agents in the construction of gender through language?
In pursuing these questions, we will confront the problems of defining gender in different cultural contexts. It is often difficult, if not impossible, to pull apart the effects of gender from those of class, race, ethnicity, age, profession, regional background, sexuality, and other aspects of identity. We will study various theoretical approaches and methodologies that deal with the complex layerings of identity, including approaches that challenge the binary categorization of gender.
Further, we will address the question of how language shapes how we think. We will examine sexism in language and culture through both satirical and academic writings. Can language be changed to make it less sexist? How do changes in language affect society? Readings will consider several feminist theories of gender relations in which language plays a prominent role.
Throughout this course we will explore how language can be studied systematically on many levels, using both quantitative and qualitative methods. We will discuss studies that focus on variation in phonology, lexicon, syntax, prosody, discursive features, and body language. Through both readings and in-class analyses, students will hone their awareness of linguistic features and their analytical skills, to be applied in their own field research projects on language and gender. All students will complete two small ethnographic exercises: one involving the collection of quantitative data on language use, and one involving taping, transcription, and analysis of a segment of conversation. Students may build on either approach for their final project.
Course Requirements and Grading
Course requirements include:
40% Class participation (including participation in discussions, occasional quizzes, brief homework assignments)
30% 2 field research exercises (15% each): 1) quantitative study; 2) transcription and conversational analysis. Write-up for each should be 3-4 pages (plus transcript for second exercise).
30% Final Project. May be a more extensive development of one of the fieldwork projects done earlier in the quarter. The analysis should address theoretical issues introduced in the class. Write-up should be 7-8 pages.
Coates, Jennifer, ed.
1998 Language and Gender: A Reader. Blackwell.
1977 (transl. 1985) EgaliasÕs Daughters: A Satire of the Sexes. The Seal Press.
1985. Feminism and Linguistic Theory. MacMillan press
Other required articles, from a variety of sources, are listed in the following course schedule. Additional articles may be announced and will also be made available at the Roy Webb Library.
Week 1: Introduction: Directions in language and gender research
Historical overview of studies of language and gender
Levels of linguistic analysis
Searching for sociolinguistic universals
The complexity of contexts: Òthinking practically, looking locallyÓ
Questioning binary categories
Week 2: Theoretical debates: gender/power, difference/dominance
Week 3: Intersections of gender with other identities: Quantitative studies
Intersections of gender with class, age, social group, status, profession
Optional: articles 2, 5
Trudgill, Peter. Sex and covert prestige.
Nichols, Patricia. Black women in the rural south: conservative and innovative.
Week 4: Structural and functional analyses of interaction:
Conversational dominance, cooperation and competition
Tues.: Field research exercise #1: write-up due in class.
Week 5: Strategies in same-sex talk
Styles and structures of gossip
Language and constructions of masculinity
Week 6: WomenÕs talk in the public domain
Performativity and power
Reconsidering structure and function, text and context
Week 7: Sexism in language
Tues.: Transcript exercises due. Bring 3 copies of transcript, one for professor and two to pass to other students.
Tues.: discussion of sexism in language
Thurs.: In-class discussion of analyses of transcript exercises.
Week 8: Language and Sexuality
Thurs.: Movie(s): ÒParis is BurningÓ; and/or ÒYou DonÕt Know DickÓ
Weeks 9 & 10: Gender, language and power: feminism and linguistic theory