Critical Overview: Gender and Tentative Language

  • Kristina Sommerlund Aarhus University
Keywords: sociolinguistics, gender differences, women, tentative language, hedging, English Linguistics 3

Abstract

This article is concerned with the relationship between tentative language and gender. In 1975, linguist Robin Lakoff hypothesized that women tended to use unassertive speech forms because of their inferior and powerless position in society. On the basis of these assertions by Lakoff, this article seeks to create a critical overview of various studies that have consulted the issue of women’s use of tentative language. Specifically, the article is concerned with hedging, investigating whether women have been found to use this linguistic device more often than men. The article consults five different studies on gender and tentative language, discusses the strengths and weaknesses of these studies, and finally, the article discusses whether the studies overall show any significant differences in the way men and women use unassertive speech forms.

References

Coates, Jennifer. 2013. Women, Men and Language: A Sociolinguistic Account of Gender Differences in Language. Third Edition. New York: Routledge.

Crosby, Faye and Nyquist, Linda. 1977. “The Female Register: An Empirical Study of Lakoff’s Hypotheses.” Language in Society 6 (3): 313-322. doi:10.1017/S0047404500005030.

Dixon, John A. and Foster, Don H. 1997. “Gender and Hedging: From Sex Differences to Situated Practice.” Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 26 (1): 89-107. doi:10.1023/A:102506420547.

Eckert, Penelope. 1989. “The Whole Woman: Sex and Gender Differences in Variation.” In Sociolinguistics, A Reader and Coursebook, edited by Nikolas Coupland and Adam Jaworski, 212-28. New York: Palgrave.

Holmes, Janet. 1987. “Hedging, Fencing and Other Conversational Gambits: An Analysis of Gender Differences in New Zealand.” Researchgate.net. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/246363637_Hedging_your_bets_and_sitting_on_the_fence_Some_evidence_for_hedges_as_support_structures. (Accessed 22-05-2017).

Lakoff, Robin. 1975. Language and Woman’s Place. New York: Harper and Row.

Leaper, Campbell and Robnett Rachael D. 2011. “Women Are More Likely Than Men to Use Tentative Language, Aren’t They? A Meta-Analysis Testing for Gender Differences and Moderators.” Psychology of Women Quarterly 35 (1): 129-142. doi:10.1177/0361684310392728.

Published
2017-09-01
How to Cite
Sommerlund, K. (2017). Critical Overview: Gender and Tentative Language. Leviathan: Interdisciplinary Journal in English, (1). https://doi.org/10.7146/lev.v0i1.96778
Section
Articles