ENG 380, W/GS 380 Professor Kathryn Remlinger

Language and Gender 143 LSH, x 3122

Fall 1997 Office hrs: M, W 3-4:30, & by app’t

M, W, F 2-2:50 remlingk@gvsu.edu

104 ASH

The syllabus and policies are subject to change with notice.

Required Texts

Bergvall, V., Bing, J., Freed, A. (1996). Rethinking language and gender research: Theory and practice. London: Longman.

Cameron, D., Ed. (1990). The feminist critique of language: A reader. London: Routledge.

Cameron, D. (1992). Feminism and linguistic theory, 2nd ed. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Talbot, M. (forthcoming). An introduction to language and gender. Draft.

Recommended Texts

Spender, D. (1980). Man made language. London: Pandora.

Selected texts on reserve in Zumberge Library.

Course Description

This course is a comprehensive introduction to the study of language and gender. Students need not have any previous linguistic or gender studies training to enroll in the course, however, those with some background in each field will probably reap additional benefits from the course. The course examines the role of gender in a variety of spoken and written language situations and styles, with particular attention to our local community. The course has a strong theoretical as well as practical focus. We will consider the theoretical debates in sociolinguistic studies of gender and use these frameworks to conduct our own investigations of language and gender. Our study of the relationship between language and gender will also include an examination of the influence of other social elements such as age, ethnicity, race, sexuality, and class. Questions we will attempt to answer include: Do women and men use language differently? If so, how, to what degree, with what effect, and most importantly, why?

Course Objectives

¥ To acquire an understanding of the theoretical approaches to language and gender.

¥ To develop an understanding of some of the principle feminist theories as viewed from sociolinguistics.

¥ To develop an understanding of sociolinguistic and feminist concepts and terms as they are used and useful in studies of language and gender.

¥ To understand how language reflects and constitutes gender.

¥ To learn the methods used in data-gathering and analysis of sociolinguistic fieldwork and practice them through fieldwork exercises and research projects.

¥ To obtain data and research skills that may be useful in future projects (course research, theses, dissertations).

¥ To encourage further study of both linguistics and gender.

Attendance Policy

Do not miss class.

Be on time.

Regular attendance is the only way to keep up with the pace of ideas and information in this class. This is not the kind of class that you can make up if you are absent. Frequently I will present topics that are not covered in the texts, yet that will be part of assignments. The success of the class as a whole and of your individual progress depend on your active participation: you cannot actively participate if you are not here or are late to class.

Do not schedule other appointments or meetings during any part of this class hour. Consider this time slot already booked, an engagement that cannot be broken. I do not distinguish between "excused" and "unexcused" absences. If you miss more than three class meetings, your grade may be lowered by one full letter grade. If you miss more than six classes, you may be in danger of failing the course. If you do miss a class, you are still responsible for the material you miss--arrange with someone to deliver your assignments to me before class, to pick up handouts, or lend you notes. I do not accept late work.


Active participation is not simply attending class. Active participation is a combination of being prepared for class and productively interacting with others in the class. I expect you to come to class having read and completed all assignments, ready to talk about assignments--this means completing readings, thinking and taking notes of your thoughts prior to class, and completing written assignments before class.


We often do our best work in collaboration with others. In fact, we learn through linguistic interaction--by reading, listening, and talking to each other. Several minds working together can almost always come to better results than one mind working alone. For these reasons, I encourage you to work with others on the research project. However, to take someone elseÕs work or ideas and pass it off as your own is academic theft, i.e. stealing, plagiarism. If you plagiarize in any work that your do, oral or written, you will receive an F for that work. (This includes copying someone else's homework assignment.) In addition to failing that particular assignment, you could be expelled from the course, thus failing the course, which would result from me reporting your conduct to the Dean of Students. (See the GVSU catalogue for details.)

In your writing a good rule to follow is "When in doubt, cite". The best way to guard against plagiarism is to acknowledge the source(s) of your ideas. Many good scholars use othersÕ ideas, and they give credit to these other sources. If you borrow someone elseÕs ideas, whether you use a direct quote, summary, or paraphrase, clearly indicate who it belongs to. In your writing you will use APA style documentation (American Psychological Association--the format used by social science researchers). In your speaking you can just say from whom and from where you got the information. Please talk with me if you have difficulties in deciding if you are in danger of plagiarism with any work that you do. You will find the APA guidelines in the reference stacks of Zumberge and on the internet in the library's homepage via GVSU's homepage.

Course Requirements

All papers must be typed in 12 point font, double spaced, with 1 inch margins and citations in APA format.

You will be required to read, write, and talk extensively in this course. The readings, writing, and discussions will be groundwork for required assignments: reading responses, fieldwork exercises, the research project, and class discussions and presentations. There will be no tests--I see your writing and talking about the subject as "tests" of your knowledge.

Your writing is a way of communicating with me your understanding and knowledge of various aspects of language and gender from a sociolinguistic perspective. How you present your ideas--how you write--affects my understanding of your ideas and analyses. Therefore, take time and care to develop a main idea or thesis; use quotes, summaries, and paraphrases from readings to support your ideas (be sure to document your sources); take care to proof-read for content and clarity; title your paper to hint at this main idea. My evaluation of your papers will include responses to both your ideas (thoughtfulness, content) and your writing (organization, style, mechanics). Feel free to come talk with me about your ideas for papers, about your writing, and to discuss drafts and revision strategies. Consultants in the Writing Center, 200 Student Services Bldg., are also available for writing help. Walk-in hours are 9-5 M-Th, and 9-4 F.


I will evaluate the six fieldwork assignments, five critical response papers, research project proposal, and final report. This work will earn letter grades of A-F. My evaluation of your work is based on the following:

Fieldwork exercises (6 @ 8.3 % each) 50 %

Critical responses (5 @ 5% each) 25 %

Research proposal 5 %

Research report 20 %

Fieldwork Exercises*

During the semester you will complete six assignments based on fieldwork exercises. These exercises will take you out into the community to examine various ways in which language reflects and constructs gender. You will complete the exercises throughout the semester and turn them in for evaluation on the dates listed below. For the assignments due week 3 and Y you must choose one of the two exercises included here--you aren't required to do both. The six exercises make up 50% of your final grade. You will need to plan ahead for these exercises--they will take time and energy for you to collect and analyze data and to write up your observations and findings. In some cases you will need a tape recorder and cassette tapes. You will also need written permission from participants whose talk you tape record. (I will provide you with a sample permission form.)

1a. Extralinguistic constructions of gender OR

1b. Politeness Due by end of week 3

2. Transcription Due by end of week 5

3. Quantitative analysis Due by end of week 7

4. Narrative Due by end of week 9

5a. Interruptions OR

5b. Hedges Due by end of week 11

6. Sexism in language Due by end of week 12

I will provide you with handouts detailing the assignments. Included with each exercise will be a list of further optional readings--these are not required. You will be able to satisfactorily complete each exercise without referring to these readings. I provide them here in case you want to read further on your own or in case you want to expand one of your exercises into a final paper. Most of the readings are on reserve or in the stacks at Zumberge.

* These exercises are adapted from Shirley Brice Heath and Bonnie McElhinny's 1991 syllabus for their course Language and Gender, Departments of Anthropology and Linguistics, Stanford University. In The COSWL Collection of Language and Gender Syllabi, Eds. Elizabeth Hume and Bonnie McElhinny (1993). Washington, DC: Linguistic Society of America.

Critical Responses

You will write 5 short (1-2 typed pages), critical responses based on various topics from assigned readings. We will use the responses in several ways to spark discussion during class. See the assignment schedule for topics and due dates.

These short essays are to be critical analyses of particular topics in language and gender. These responses are not to be summaries--I've read the articles too--but rather considerations of some point in more detail--illustrating it with data from your own study or experiences, questioning it, offering an alternative interpretation, relating it to other reading we've done. In your writing, I expect you to intelligently discuss the "hows" and "whys" of the specific topic. These papers are to be academic conversations with me about ideas presented in our readings and class discussions. Your writing should thoughtfully examine and analyze the reasons behind the subject at hand. You should go beyond what's given to explore deeper reasons, question assumptions, problematize previous research, theories, and methods. Title each response paper: including a title will help highlight the focus of the paper.

Research Project

Due dates

Project proposal: By 3 October

Report draft: By 21 November

Presentation: Weeks 13-15

Final report: By 8 Dec., 4 p.m.

You will conduct a study that examines how language (naturally occurring speech or written texts, but not made up talk) reflects and constructs gender in our local community. The foundation of your study will be the qualitative analysis of spoken and/or written texts, however, you may want to augment your study and analyses with ethnographic data such as interviews and participant observations. In addition, you may want to include quantitative analyses showing percentages and counts. The focus of your study will be the examination of the interplay of cultural elements and linguistic features. Linguistic features include pragmatics (interruptions, overlaps, topic control, extended development, tag questions, and hedges); prosodic elements (intonation and loudness); pronunciation (range of casual and careful speech and dialect/code switching); semantic (meanings and content), and genre (narratives, reports, memos, jokes, etc.).

The project will be a combination of field and library research. The project will include a research proposal, a 10 minute roundtable presentation of your study and findings, a report draft, and a final written report of about 10 pages that you will submit to me finals week. The draft and presentation are not graded elements of the project, but essential aspects of the learning/writing process. I will give you extensive written and verbal feedback on your report draft, through comments on the draft and in conference with you. I and other class members will also give you feedback on your presentation. The feedback from the draft and presentation will help you revise your final report so that is will be a strong piece of writing and information.

The research paper topic is one for you to select, but that I will approve of (see below for topic ideas). You may carry out the research project individually or in a group of up to three class members. This paper may be an extension of one of the fieldwork exercises or an investigation of some issue not addressed in class readings. Write the paper in first person (I, we) and in active voice--more on this later.

The written report should include the following sections:

I. Introduction: A general discussion of what you report on in the paper and a brief literature review (previous studies of the topic, the reasons why this topic has been investigated, what gaps there are in the research, how your study fills this gap). This section will be an expanded revision of your research proposal.

II. Methodology:

A. How you collected the data.

B. Where you collected the data. (Context description).

C. Who the participants were and what their relation was to each other and you, etc.

D. Problems you encountered.

This section will also be an revision of your research proposal.

III. Discussion of Data (What "story" about gender your data tells):

A. Findings: Include definitions and procedures for analysis.

B. Provide examples of your data and how these illustrate your findings.

C. Provide tables, charts, graphs if appropriate.

IV. Interpretation/Analysis of Data and Conclusions

V. Appendix: A transcription key and transcription of all (or most) of your data.

VI. References

Collaborative Projects

I encourage you to collaborate other class members (groups of up to 3 members) in researching, writing, and presenting your study. A collaborative effort helps ease research and writing and helps develop strong ideas. With a partner or team you will be able to pool resources such as data collection time and places, equipment, data corpus, interpretations, etc. However, collaboration demands good teamwork--equal participation and communication among members--choose your partners carefully. Each group will turn in one proposal and report. Members will divide presentation time among themselves. I will evaluate group reports as single endeavors but at the same time I will take into consideration individual participation. For example, if certain students are slacking in their duties, they will be graded accordingly. I will evaluate each member's work with the group through confidential evaluations written by each member and through conferences throughout the semester. The written evaluations are due with the final paper.

The Project Process

The purpose of your research and writing is to learn in detail about how language reflects and constructs (producing, reinforcing, resisting) gender in our local community--the university or the greater Grand Rapids area. In your investigation you will want to make connections between language and gender and cultural expectations and values. You may also want to examine how other cultural elements such as age, race, ethnicity, and/or sexuality play a role in the construction of gender. Your study should go beyond merely describing differences in talk between women and men to examine deeper issues that question why as well as how. If you choose a topic that we've discussed and read about in class, it's imperative that you go beyond previous studies to examine a different aspect or issue related to that topic. I suggest that you select a topic early so that your research and writing go hand in hand, and because only one student or group will research a particular topic.

We will begin the research process by talking about our research ideas as a class. Next you will submit a proposal to me, explaining what you want to study, how you plan on studying the topic, and why the topic is important to research. Week 13 I will collect a draft of your paper. The draft should be a nearly complete version of your paper, including a working reference list. I will respond to this draft so that you can develop your ideas and writing for the final paper and presentation. Beginning week 13 you will present your study and findings to the class in a 10 minute roundtable presentation. (I will hold your talk strictly to the time limit--practice beforehand so I don't cut your talk short.) The roundtable will consist of other researchers studying similar topics. Your talk should focus on what you did your project on, how you collected data, what you found about language use and the construction of gender, how you interpreted your results, and final conclusions you can draw from your study. Consider how you might use visuals (overheads, video, taped talk, posters, charts, etc.) to enhance your presentation. You must at least have overheads of example data. The roundtable will follow with an open discussion by panelists and class members. Class members and I will write responses to your talk, which will help you revise the final paper.

The final copy of your paper should be about 10 pages long and should include at least 8 relatively current outside sources. These sources should be primary texts rather than second-hand accounts of other studies. Your sources should include a balanced combination of scholarly books, book chapters, and journal articles. For reasons of credibility, I prefer that you rely on library texts (books, journals) rather than electronic ones. You will use the American Psychological Association (APA) style of documentation. I will provide you with handouts detailing the various elements of the project.

Suggested Topics

One option for your study is to expand one of the fieldwork exercises. Even if you don't expand one of the exercises, consider using the data that you collect--this will save you hours of collecting, transcribing, and analyzing other data. However, you will most likely have to collect some addtional data tailored to your research question. As you collect and look at your data, think of what it is "saying" about gender, what story it's telling about how language reflects and constructs gender in our community. Another way to go about integrating your fieldwork exercises and research project is to keep your research topic in mind as you complete the exercises, thus collecting data in a particular context and keeping your research question in mind. Our textbooks also provide many examples of studies--you may want to use the methods from one of these studies to examine some aspect of the construction of gender. Another source for ideas is a library search (using the on-line catalogue; browsing linguistic and language reference books and the gender, linguistics, language, and communications stacks; skimming journals from the fields of linguistics, gender, and communication; and looking through bibliographies of books and journal articles). Zumberge Library has a good collection of sources for your projects and I have put many additional sources on reserve. For those must-have sources not in Zumberge, check other local university libraries or use inter-library loan.

Keep in mind that you will start your project with a question rather than hypothesis; the question should begin with how and include why . Think of your study as an exploration rather than a hypothesis your must prove. You'll look for patterns in your data that demonstrate how talk (spoken or written discourse) in our local community reflects and/or constructs gender. The following is a list of suggested topics:

How children are socialized through discourse (talk between parents and children, dinner conversations, bedtime stories, school texts and materials, story books, etc.)

How classroom talk (preschool, elementary, jr. high, high school, university) reflects and constructs gendered ideology.

How the school "teaches" gender (through classtalk, school materials, staffing patterns, textbooks, use of space, student publications, groups, posters, etc.)

How texts and policies of a particular church/religion reflects/constructs gender.

How talk in the workplace reflects/constructs gender.

How talk between parents and children reflect/construct gender.

How conversations (at dinner, for example) among family/friends reflects/constructs gender.

How narratives (courtship, family lore, how's your day, etc.) reflect/construct gender.

How service encounters (talk between servers and diners, servers and customers at a deli counter or coffee house, clerks and customers at a grocery or department store) reflect gender/power relationships. Note that these contexts make it very difficult to obtain written permission from participants, which you MUST have.

How e-mail discussion group messages reflect/construct gender.

How the activities and talk of student organizations (at meetings, events) reflect/construct gender.

How newspaper articles, ads, letters to the editor, editorials reflect/construct gendered ideology.

How doctor-patient interactions reflect/construct gender.

How dictionaries reflect/construct gender.

How sexual harassment policies reflect gender.

How radio programming and talk reflects/constructs gender.


I don't accept late work. If you miss class the day an assignment is due, make arrangements with me prior to your absence or ask someone to turn your work in for you before class.

The following schedule is the course calendar of events. The schedule indicates the day's topic for discussion and assignments (due that day). I will provide you with details throughout the semester.

Week 1

25 Aug., M Introductions

27 Aug., W The study of language and gender: What is gender? Do we need to consider sexuality? What is language? What is discourse?

29 Aug., F Read Talbot, Chapter 1

Read Bergvall et al., Introduction by Bing and Bergvall, pp. 1-30

Week 2

1 Sept. M No class: Labor Day holiday

2 Sept., W A feminist approach to gender and discourse

Read Cameron (1990), Introduction, pp. 1-28

Read Cameron (1992), Introduction, pp. 1-17

4 Sept., F Read Cameron (1992) Chapters 1 & 2

Critical response #1 due (Respond to reading from weeks 1 & 2)

Week 3

8 Sept., M Gender and discourse: A semiotic approach

Film: Dreamworld

10 Sept., W Women, men, and language: stereotypes and early studies

Read Talbot, Chapters 2 & 3

Read Cameron (1990) selections from Jesperson (pronounced "Yesperson") and Lakoff

12 Sept., F Fieldwork exercise #1 due: Extralinguistic constructions of gender OR politeness

Discussion of experiences and findings

Week 4

15 Sept., M Language and ideology: Reflecting and constructing gendered ways of being and thinking

Read Cameron (1992), Chapters 3 & 4

17 Sept., W Read in Cameron (1992), Chapter 5

Read in Cameron (1990), selection by Bodine

19 Sept., F Read Cameron (1992), Chapter 6

Read Cameron (1990), at least TWO of the following selections: Spender, Black & Coward, Schulz, or Kramarae & Treichler

Critical response #2 due (based on readings from weeks 3 & 4)

Week 5

22 Sept., M Empirical studies of language and gender: Narratives

Read Talbot, Chapter 4

Read Bergvall et al., article by Polanyi & Strassman

24 Sept., W Researching language and gender

Discuss research project ideas and methods

26 Sept., F Fieldwork exercise #2 due: Transcription

Class discussion of fieldwork and transcription experiences

Week 6

29 Sept., M Empirical studies con't: Conversation

Read Talbot, Chapter 5

Read Bergvall, et al., article by Greenwood

1 Oct., W Read in Bergvall et al, articles by Freed and James

3 Oct., F Research proposal due

Critical response #3 due (based on reading from weeks 5 & 6)

Week 7

6 Oct., M Public Talk: The institutionalization of gender

Read Talbot, Chapters 6 & 10

Read Bergvall et al., article by Bergvall

8 Oct., W Read Bergvall, et al, article by Erlich & King

10 Oct., F Fieldwork exercise #3 due: Quantitative analysis

Discussion of data and analyses

Week 8

13 Oct., M Theoretical debates: Difference, Dominance, and Dynamic

Read Talbot, Chapter 7

15 Oct., W Read Cameron (1992), Chapter 7

17 Oct., F Read Cameron (1992), Chapter 8

Critical response #4 due (based on readings from weeks 7 & 8)

Week 9

20 Oct., M Theoretical debates, con't

Read Cameron (1990), selections by Woolf, Donovan, Kaplan,

22 Oct., W Read Cameron (1992), Chapter 9

24 Oct., F Fieldwork exercise #4 due: Narrative

Discussion of data and analyses

Week 10

27 Oct., M Theoretical debates, con't

Read Bergvall et al., article by Cameron

29 Oct., W Read Talbot, Chapter 8

31 Oct., F Critical response #5 due (based on readings from weeks 9 & 10)

Week 11

3 Nov., M The (often forgotten) complex nature of gender: Issues of class, race, age, sexuality, and ethnicity

Read Bergvall et al., articles by Hall & O'Donovan and Buckholtz

5 Nov., W Read Talbot, Chapter 9

5 Nov., F Fieldwork exercise #5 due: Interruptions OR hedges

Discuss analyses and findings

Week 12

10 Nov., M Making challenges and changes: Creating awareness, reclaiming language

Read Cameron (1992), Chapter 10

12 Nov., W Read Talbot, Chapter 11

14 Nov., F Fieldwork exercise #6 due: Sexism in language

Discuss experiences and findings

Week 13

17 Nov., M Roundtable presentation

19 Nov., W Roundtable presentation

21 Nov., F Roundtable presentation

Research report draft due

Week 14

24 Nov., M Roundtable presentation

Week 15

1 Dec., M Roundtable presentation

3 Dec., W Roundtable presentation

5 Dec., F Roundtable presentation

Course Evaluation and Wrap Up

Finals Week

8 Dec., M Research report due by 4 p.m. (Group projects must include sealed evaluations.)