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JAL355H5 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Masculinity, George Lakoff, Upper Class

Language Studies
Course Code
Derek Denis
Study Guide

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JAL355 Test 1 review:
What is Gender?
Gender is a social construct.
-learned, socialized, enforced by cultural norms
-masculinities and femininities (on a continuum)
Gender is something we do (West&Zimmerman 1987), something we perform (Butler 1990)
Gender differences in language
A categorical distinction in the use of language by men and women
-a male form and a female form
A statistical distinction in the use of language by men and women
-A form is used more by women/ more by men
Approaches to language and gender
-Deficit: the male form is regarded as the standard or norm, whereas the female form is
regarded as less than (or a deviation) from the norm. Thus, most early research describes a
deficit in women’s language.
-Difference: this approach states that women’s and men’s language are simply different styles of
communication as a result of both biological differences and differences in socialization.
PROBLEM: this approach disregards the role of power and subordination as related to
or a consequence of the aforementioned differences each group shares.
-Dominance: Language differences as a result of cultural concepts such as male dominance or
privilege and female subordination
PROBLEM: context is critical- men are not always dominant of women in all situations,
this argument requires more sophistication.
-BOTH the difference and dominance approaches regard female and male as two distinct
groups, rather than focusing on linguistic similarities. (Erasure: focusing on the distinction
between two groups or categories like the difference or speech between men and women hides
the differences within each category itself like linguistic differences among women.)
-Performative: Gender is something we do- linguistic practices draw on feminine or masculine
qualities and as such is a performance of gender itself
Example: Pitch-men use less of a pitch range than woman as a result, in part, of their biology,
but it is also performative of gender where men are assumed to take on a lower pitch than
How gender is linguistically indexed
-non-exclusive: linguistic relations that index gender, often index more than just gender.
-indirect index: it generally does refer to male and female differences, but is often unclear in
stating why. The difference requires more inference to figure out why it points to male or female
1) Indirect indexing is the idea that very few linguistic features (see below) have a direct
gendered 'meaning'. That is most linguistic features 'index'/'point to' gender (have a gendered
'meaning') only indirectly.
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