Lakoff and Women’s Language
A Critical Overview of the Empirical Evidence for Lakoff’s Thesis
In Language and Woman’s Place (1973), Robin T. Lakoff argues that women’s subordinate position in society is manifested in and maintained by their tentative speech style. Since the publication of the study, this claim has achieved great attention in the field of language and gender, and various scholars have examined the features of Lakoff’s ‘women’s language’ empirically. This article creates a critical overview of four studies investigating specific features of tentative language, primarily tag questions, and discusses to what extent their findings support Lakoff’s thesis. While all the studies find that women employ more tentative features than men, they also observe that tentative language serves facilitative functions in interaction. Thus, tentative language cannot be understood exclusively as a deficient contrast to assertive language. A nuanced understanding of tentative language requires a functional perspective that recognizes the efficient social functions of the speech style.
Copyright (c) 2019 Leviathan: Interdisciplinary Journal in English
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
You are free to share (copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format).
You may not use the material for commercial purposes.
You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you may not distribute the modified material.
You may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits.