Sex Difference in Language
Can anyone tell as to whom between women and men talks more? This is one of the questions that have not been clearly answered. Different people have different perspective concerning gendered language. It attracts me to find out whether women and men speak similarly or whether one of the two sexes speaks more than the other. Different authors hold different opinions about gendered language. Kornheiser and Tannen both think that women and men use language in different way. For example, Deborah Tannen’s article talks about the different between women and men act in conversations. He argues that women tend to offer their experiences to agree with other people when they listening while men tend to give lecture and challenge other people and women always hide their expertise to offer agreement and men would choose to keep controlling position. They also have different body language and assume different attitude toward the things they do. However, some researchers like Holmes and Macaulay have different attitudes towards it. Janet Holmes in his essay debunks the stereotype of the talkative women; he claims that the amount of a talk depends on many factors, for example, the purposes of conversation, social confidence and social perception. Although many people tend to believe that women speak more than men，this assumption now has been subjected to rigorous analysis and research. There are three social factors influencing men’s and women’s language using: purposes, social perception and social confidence.
Before talking about the reasons why women and men actually use the same language, the opposite causes of why there are genders differences also need to be talked about fairly. Mainly, opponents claims from the biological differences, they believe because of the genetic factor and conditioning, women just want to talk more than men. Many people hold on the same point. For example, Deborah Tannen in her essay “’I’ll Explain It to You’: Lecturing and listening” puts forwards that men just like to have factual information, lecturing and like to challenge people with long explanations, they always comments on other people and have few listener responses, they just do not afraid to frustrated people, while women prefer to listen. (Tannen, 323-324). She needs a lot of her personal conversation with different men and women as evidences to support her argument. Meanwhile, Tannen also provides an English professor of Thoman Fox’s analysis paper of his women student and men student’s different behavior in language using. (Tannen, 327-328).
Kornheiser in his essay “No Detail is Too Small for Girls Answering a Simple Question” uses his daughter and his son as example to illustrate that girls talk more than boys and just have special genes for cheers, so do the women (Kornheiser, 305-307). From his point, women are just talkative for no reason. “There seems to be deep-seated desire to find essential differences between the speech of men and women or to genetic disposition. (Macaulay, 310) However, the assumption that men and women have genetic differences can be approved that it is just stereotype. Researchers used electronic recorder to collect data on about 396 students from 3 different university’s chat. After the estimated the number of words these students spoke daily, they found men and women students spoke almost equal number of words. (Swaminathan) This research can show that in fact, gender different has slight influence on language using, and social factors might be the root of the problem.
First, the purpose of the conversation can influence men’s and women’s language using. Men and women have different purposes when they talking with others and their purposes can influence their attitude and behavior in the conversation. Men want to dominate the talk to show their knowledge and enhance their social status. For them, they want to challenge other people’s authority and persuade others to make themselves become the people. However, women do not want to show their power and when they have conservation with others, they just want to reinforce relationship with people. Men dominate the talking time in committee meetings, staff meanings, seminars and task-oriented decision making groups (Holmes, 300). They have purposes to control the talk and convince people to listen to them in the important occasions. Margaret Franken found out that men took more than half of every occasion in an interview involving men and women expert. What’s more, Holmes found out that men dominated a public seminars involving analyzing a number of questions.
Women only featured out in seven of hundred seminars analyzed (Holmen, 300). Men are obviously more active at public conversation with their desire on proving themselves. However, these researchers cannot be the evidence that women does not talk. Rafelman found out that men only want to talk about business and do not want to get into personal stuff. Women dominate in private and relaxed settings. The study done by Deborah James and Janice Drakich shows that woman dominates two-third of informal talks (Rafelman 317). Therefore, women dominate in talks related to personal relationships; they want to reinforce relationships with people they talk with. Actually men and women have no genetic difference on talking; they just want to use talking to achieve their different goals. “Men’s goals in using language tend to be about getting things done, whereas women’s tend to be about making connections to other people. Men talk more about things and facts, whereas women talk more about people, relationships and feelings” (Cameron). With different goals, men usually talks a lot in the public place and women likes talk in private place, men tend to dominate in the formal talk and women just like to talk more about personal stuff. People cannot skimpily draw a conclusion from some situation they have seen, they need to need that men and women using language in a difference way just because they have different purposes.
Second, social confidence can be a reason explains “sex differences in language”. When a woman and a men having conversation, if the woman does not know the field they are talking about, it is difficult for her to give her own opinion or ask question because she does not have the confidence in this field. So she usually will choose to perceives herself as lesser and hence tend to avoid much talk when in mixed discussion. But no matter how much a man exactly know about a topic, he will still talk a lot. Holmes in his essay explains that the expertise or topic familiarity influences women’s talk, he uses several women economists as an example. In a small seminar on economy, the women economists who are invited to the discussion talks more than men (Holmes, 303).
This evidence shows that women does not talk less than men by nature, like these women expertise, the economy is their professional filed, so they have they own thoughts and ideas basic on their research, they have confidence on that. But when a woman does not familiar with the topic she is talking about, she feels less confidence so she will talk less to avoid making mistakes. Holmes also talks about feminist. When a woman is a feminist, she tends to talk more than her husband, no matter what they are talking about, and this is also because she feels confidence about herself as a woman. A research shows that women are not willing to talk about math because when they are girls, they usually have lower grades than boys in the math, so they began to lose confidence on math. This attitude towards math has carried into their adulthood; women tend to talk less when the conversation topic is about math (Kelley Holland).
Third, social perceptions can be an unaware factor of influencing gendered language. Because we are living in male-dominated society, boys and men consequently associated themselves with high social status and hence dominate classroom. From kindergarten through primary, secondary and tertiary education, men or boys dominate classroom talk because of the social perception.
In Holmes’s essay, he talks about that teachers have used to let the boys talk more in the class, but teachers do not aware of this problem. Only when they use tape to record or teachers just like girls more than boys then boys and girls can talks equal in the class (Holmes, 303). Therefore, people always think boys tend to contribute more and they are more active than girls. Growing up in this atmosphere, girls might have stereotype that boys are always talks more than girls and they should dominate the talk. When they have become women, they are unaware of the gender distribution of talk but they just get used to listen more and agree more when they talk with men rather than give their own advises. And there also have popular belief that girls just learn language quicker and talk more than boys because of their genetic (Macaulay, 310), this is also a prejudice. People always think women are talkative and want them to be more silence, but women actually does not that much than men.
The social perceptions make women to talk less in the public. Furthermore, in many countries, the social status makes people hold the opinion that men should dominate the talking and women just need to listen to women, talk less and agree to men’s opinions. For example, in China, because of the history influence, people just believe that men’s status is higher than women and women just need to agree to the men without doubt. If a woman talks a lot in the mix conversation, she will be considered to be too talkative and might be in disgust. Therefore, in China, a woman always does not talk much in the public and a quiet girl is considered to be a gentle woman because of the social perception. We cannot deny that the status differences between men and women are still existed in the society and there is no absolute gender equity, the social perception can always influence men and women’s language using.
In a conclusion, there is no sex difference in language. The “gendered language” is actually influenced by many social factors such as purposes, social perception and social confidence. When we talk about the gender pattern in language, we should avoid stereotype and make gender equality a priority. For the women, they should put stereotype aside and explain their opinions more in the public for themselves.
Cameron, Deborah. “What language barrier?” The guardian. The Myth of Mars and Venus, n.d. Web. 20 April. 2014.
Holland, Kelley. “The ‘uncomfortable’ subject women don’t talk about.” CNBC. CNBC, 2015. Web. 20 April. 2014.
Kornheiser, Tony. “No Details is Too Small for Girls Answering a Simple Question.” Exploring Language. Ed. Gary Gosharian. 11thed. New York: Longman, 2007. 365-67. Print.
Macaulay, Ronald. “Sex Differences. “ Exploring Language. Ed. Gary Gosharian. 11thed. New York: Longman, 2007. 307-13. Print.
Rafelman, Rachel. “The Party Line.” Exploring Language. Ed. Gary Gosharian. 11thed. New York: Longman, 2007. 317-21. Print.
Swaminathan, Nikhil. “Gender Jabber: Do Women Talk More than Men?” Scientific American. Scientific American, 2007. Web. 20 April. 2014.