by A WHITE · 2003 · Cited by 30 — women in creating or disturbing solidarity in a casual conversation context. Two approaches are first presented, that attempt to define the sex differences in.

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2 1.0 INTRODUCTION It is quite easy to make the claim that men and women differ in th eir linguistic behavior. Assumed gender roles are contrastive, with men often thought as dominant speakers, while women are placed in a subordinate role during the conversation process. Important to realize in this issue, however, is the diffe rent perspectives the two sexes have in casual speech. ‚If women speak and hear a language of connection and intimacy,™ a clash of conversation styles can occur, when confronted with a men™s language concerned with status and independence. (Tannen 1990). Misinterpretation of the use of linguistic functions, thus, often arises. This paper will concentrate on the use of key linguistic functions, and their use by women in creating or distur bing solidarity in a casual conversation context. Two approaches are first presented, that atte mpt to define the sex differences in communicative competence, specifically from females™ position. With that theoretical research in mind, a sample of natural, casua l speech will be examined and discussed in terms of its use of specific linguistic items. 2.0 THE COMMUNCATIVE COMPETENCE OF WOMEN Early attempts to distinguish speech norms of different communities focused on sociological factors such as economical status, ethnic mi norities and age. Through this research, the belief that male and fema le speakers may somehow differ in their communicative behavior, and thus compose different speech communities, became the focus of researchers in the early 1970™s. Although lacking in empirical research, and influenced by bias about gender roles (Coates 1989: 65), this initial work on women™s language, specifically the usage of several linguistic features, proved influential toward becoming an important issue in the study of linguistics. (see Lakoff and the Dominance Approach, section 2.1). Research since these early works has focused empirically on a variety of features, such as the use of ta g questions, interruptions , questions, standard forms and minimal responses. It is now understood that men and wome n differ in terms of their communicative behavior (Coates 1989). In explaining these differences, however, Montgomery (1995)

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3warns that there is a sense of variation in speech differences between men and women. One sociological point to be remembered, he states, is that ‚speech differences are not clear-cut™ and a set of universal differences does not exist. (p.166). Gender, as a ‚dimension of difference™ between people should always be thought of in relation to other dimensions of difference, such as those of age, class, and ethnic group. A second point he stresses is that linguistically one must be clear as to what is being identified as a difference between the sexes. Unless examini ng identifiable linguistic behavior, such as interruptions or tag questions, it is difficult to validate gene ralized claims of dominance, politeness or subordinance. Even then, ‚the formal construction of utterances is no consistent guide to what function they might be performing in a specifi c context. (p.167). Reinterpretations of gender-differentiated language fall into one of two approaches, which reflect contrasting views of women in society. The dominance approach considers language differences to be a reflection of traditional social roles, that of men™s dominance and women™s subordination. The difference approach, in contrast, focuses on sex speech differences as outcomes of two different subc ultures. Women, it is claimed, come from a social world in terms of solidarity and in timacy, while men are more hierarchal and independent minded. Contras ting communicative styles ar e born out of these two subcultures. 2.1 LAKOFF AND THE DOMINANCE APPROACH The dominance approach to sex differences in sp eech is concerned with the imbalance of power between the sexes. Powerless speech features used by women help contribute to maintaining a subordinate position in soci ety; while conversely, men™s dominance is preserved through their linguistic behavior. Early research that regards imbalance of power as a main factor toward gender speech differences can be attributed to Robin Lakoff, and her influential work ‚Language and Woman™s Place™ (1975). Although relying heavily on personal observation, and later criticized for its feminist bias and lack of empirical research, Lakoff™s definition of ‚woman™s language™-both language used to de scribe women and language typically used by woman (cited in Fasold 1990:103), created an initial theoretical framework which

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4would be critiqued and expanded by future researchers. Lakoff provides a list of ten linguistic features which characte rize women™s speech, as follows: 1. Lexical hedges or fillers, e.g. you know, sort of, well, you see. 2. Tag questions, e.g. she™s very nice, isn™t she? 3. Rising intonation on declaratives, e.g. it™s really good? 4. ‚Empty™ adjectives, e.g. divine, charming, cute. 5. Precise color terms, e.g. magenta, aquamarine. 6. Intensifiers such as just and so, e.g. I like him so much. 7. ‚Hypercorrect™ grammar, e.g. consistent use of standard verb forms. 8. ‚Superpolite™ forms, e.g. indirect requests, euphemisms. 9. Avoidance of strong swear words, e.g. fudge, my goodness. 10. Emphatic stress, e.g. it was a BRILLIANT performance. (cited in Holmes 2001:286) Consistent in Lakoff™s list of linguistic features is their function in expressing lack of confidence. Holmes (2001) divides this list into two groups. Firstly, those ‚linguistic devices which may be used for hedging or redu cing the force of an utterance,™ such as fillers, tag questions, and rising intonation on declaratives, and secondly, ‚features which may boost or intensify a proposition™s for ce™ (p.287), such as emphatic stress and intensifiers. According to Lakoff, both hedging and boosting modifiers show a women™s lack of power in a mixed-sex interaction. Wh ile the hedges™ lack of assertiveness is apparent, boosters, she claims, intensify the fo rce of a statement with the assumption that a women would not be take n seriously otherwise. For Lakoff, there is a great concordan ce between femininity and unassertive speech she defines as ‚women™s speech.™ According to he r, in a male-dominated society women are pressured to show the feminine qualities of weakness and subordinance toward men. Thus, fiit is entirely predictable, and given the pressure towards social conformity, rational, that women should demonstrate these qu alities in their speech as well as in other aspects of their behavior.fl (Cameron, McAlinden and O™Leary 1989:76). Although Lakoff™s claims were revolutiona ry- there was no substantial work on gender and language before her work- her lack of em pirical data left the door open for further research into her substantive claims. More recent work has focused on several of the linguistic features she first introduced, including the use of the hedge, ‚you know™ (Holmes 1986), hyper-correct grammar (Trudgill 1983, Coates 1986; Cameron and Coates 1989), tag questions (Dubois and Crouch 1975; Holmes 1986; Cameron,

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5McAlinden and O™Leary 1989), and commands (Goodwin 1980; Tannen 1990, 1994; Holmes 2001). 2.2 THE DIFFERENCE APPROACH Rather than assuming speech differences am ong men and women are related to power and status, the more recently emerging difference, or dual-culture, approach views sex differences as attributable to contrasti ng orientations toward relations (Montgomery 1995:168). For men the focus is on shari ng information, while women value the interaction process. Men and women possess different interactiv e styles, as they typically acquired their communicative competence at an early age in same-sex groups. According to Maltz and Borker (1982), who introduced this view which values women™s interactional styles as different, ye t equal to men™s, fiAmerican men and women come from different sociolinguistic subcultu res, having learned to do different things with words in a conversation.fl (cited in Freeman and McElhinny1996:239). They cite as an example the different interpretations of minimal responses (see section 3.3, The Function of Minimal Responses), such as nods and short comments like umhm and yes. For men, these comments mean ‚I agree with you™, while for women they mean ‚I™m listening to you- please continue.™ Rather than a women™s styl e being deficient, as Lakoff would believe, it is simply di fferent. Inherent in this position is that cross-cultural misunderstanding often occurs in mixed- sex conversation, as ‚individuals wrongly interpret cues according to th eir own rules,fl (ibid:240). Tannen (1986,1990,1994) provides much resear ch on the concept of misunderstanding in the dual-culture approach. According to her, the language of women is primarily ‚rapport-talk™, where establishing connections and promoting sameness is emphasized. Men, on the other hand, use language described as ‚report-talk,™ as a way of preserving independence while exhibiting knowledge and skill. (1990:77). The contrasting views of relationships are apparent: negotiating with a desire for solidarity in women, maintaining status and hierarchical order in men. The fr ustration that occurs between women and men in conversation can be better understood ‚by reference to systematic differences in how women and men tend to signal meaning in c onversation. (1994:7). When these meaning signals are misunderstood, commu nication breakdown occurs.

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6 Tannen describes metamessages- information about the relations and attitudes of the speakers involved- as common signals wh ich are misinterpreted in mixed-sex conversation. Metamessages depend for their meaning on subtle linguistic signals and devices. These signals and devices and how they work (or fail to), are at the core of the difference approach. 3.0 THE ANALYSIS OF A MIXED-SEX CONVERSATION SAMPLE In this section I will examine a sample of natural, spoken conversation among three native speakers of English. Of special interest are several relevant linguistic features, many of which were first provided by Lakoff, and their use in controlling or facilitating the interaction of the speaker s. The participants, two men and one woman, are co-workers of equal status in a casual conversation over lunch. While examining the linguistic features of this conversation sample, specifically those of the female™s, I will comment on what approach they tend to suggest. Does the woman™s use of key features stem from deficiencies in her language, as the dominance approach suggests, or is her speech usage simply different, caused from a different interactional style? 3.1 INDIRECTNESS: WOMEN™S USE OF QUESTIONS The function of a command can be described as an utterance designed to get someone else to do something (Montgomery 1995). Se veral studies (Goodwin 1980; Cameron, McAlinden and O™Leary 1989; Tannen 1990, 1994; Holmes 2001) have commented on the different ways men and women phrase comm ands. Men tend to use simple, direct statements, whereas women rely on ‚couching th eir commands as inclusive suggestions for action.™ (Montgomery 1995:160). Consider th e following two examples, taken from my conversation sample: 57. Jody: Mmm–home phone. 58. Andy: What home? 59. Jody: My home. What™s my phone number? Are you gonna plug it in? 91. Jody: Mmm–How many? Do you want it small? 92. Andy: Smallish. 93. Ian: I like this stuff.

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8 65. Jody: Looks good–huh? (falling intonation) 66. Andy: Mmm. 79. Jody: You didn™t get scissors, ehh? (rising intonation) 80. Ian: It™s like talking to a machine. She obviously had this spiel– Holmes (2001) describes four different f unctions of tag questions, three of which do not follow Lakoff™s original proposal of tags expressing tentativeness. They are expressing uncertainty , facilitative , softening , and confrontational. In my first example I have labeled the tag as softening . Considering the falling intonation, its function is affective , or addressee-oriented. It is not seen as expressing uncertainty, but rather softening an informative out of concern for the addressee. (Holmes 1984). The second example, ‚Looks good–huh?™ I have decided to include as a tag form, taking in account the casual context of the recorded conversation. An equivalent tag would be, ‚Looks good–doesn™t it?™ It follows the classic facilitative strategy of providing a way into the discourse for the addressee, thus creating so lidarity with the speaker. It is an expression of personal opinion, generally by someone in a leadership role (Holmes 2001), in which confirmation is not required, bu t is elicited. This can, however, be interpreted as a method of ‚fishing for approval or verification.™ (Tannen 1986:39). Cameron, McAlinden and O™Leary, in their article ‚Lakoff in context: the social and linguistic functions of tag questions™ (1989), state that although facilitative tags contain no informational function, their interactional function of including others is important. That the woman in my conversation sample provide s the only facilitative tag device may support the claim that women are more attentive at keeping a conversation going (see also The Function of Minimal Responses, section 3.3) , being ‚co-operative conversationalist who express frequent concern for other participants in talk.™ (Cameron, et al:83). The third tag example I have categorized as confrontational, although the function of this tag is not as clear-cut as the other two. According to Holmes, the function of a confrontational tag is not to hedge but rather to ‚stren gthen the negative force™ of an utterance. Unlike the other two examples , which are affective, this one is modal, in that it is requesting information or confirmation of information. With the rising intonation, the ‚ehh?™ can be translated into ‚did you?™, as in ‚You didn™t get scissors, did you?™ (Jody is Canadian, and I interpret the regional variation ‚eh?™, as having all the features of a tag

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9question.). If falling intonation had been used, the criticizing force w ould have been more powerfully signaled. However, with the rising intonation, it is difficult to determine, and she may simply be questioning whether the addr essee is in possession of scissors. Holmes acknowledges this ambiguity, st ating ‚a primary function is often identifiable, but not always. Different functions often overlap and classification into different types is not always straightforward.™ (2001:310). It is interesting to note that in tag examples one and two, both of which are addressee- orientated and act as positive politeness device s, the addressee chooses to respond to the question, in these cases with the minimal re sponse ‚mmm.™ In doing so, the interactional process is strengthened. The confrontational tag in example three, however, goes ignored, possibly because the addressee has noticed an ac cusatory tone in the remark and wants to avoid further criticism. The tag question, howev er, still lessens the accusation and allows the current speaker to hold his turn. (see section 3.3.2 Overlaps, example 2). 3.2 WOMEN AND STA NDARD LANGUAGE Sociological studies have shown that women are more likely to use linguistic forms thought to be ‚better™ or more ‚correct™ than those used by men. Trudgill (1983) provides two reasons for this. Firstly, women in our soci ety are generally more status-conscious than men, and therefore more sensitive to linguistic norms- an idea known as hyper-correction. Secondly, fiworking-class speech–has connotations of or associations with masculinity, which may lead men to be more favorably disposed to non-standard linguistic forms than women.fl (p. 87). This lower-class, non-standa rd linguistic variety has been defined by sociolinguist W. Labov as covert prestige . Linked to social class, the differences in how men and women gain, or attempt to gain status through opposing speech patterns is noticeable. In my sample, I find two cases in which th e woman has self-correct ed herself as a show of sensitivity toward standard speech, while the men show no such effort. According to Montgomery, self-correction can be defined as th e various ways utterances are reworked in the process of uttering them. 46. Jody: Ummm. I have to do gas–uh– call Mira and get them to do the gas–uhh–electricity–water–What el se is there? I don™t know.

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1053. Jody: Telephone. Everything has to be about six. I mean–I get six bills every month–so I guess all the bills have to be– Studies in hyper-correction and covert prestige are generally concerned with sex in relation to social class. (For example, Trudgill 1972, 1983; Macaulay 1977; Milroy 1980; Nichols 1983). In my recorded sample, however, the three participants are of equal social status, all working at the same university as language teachers. I cannot, therefore, make the claim that Jody™s self-co rrections are a reflection of being status-conscious. A more likely explanation is that her standard language use stems from the social roles that are expected from men and women, and the behavior patterns that fit those assumptions. As Trudgill states, women™s language is not only different, it is ‚better,™ and is a ‚reflection of the fact that, generally speaking, more ‚correct ™ social behavior is expected of women.™ (1983:88). 3.3 THE FUNCTION OF MINIMAL RESPONSES Minimal responses (also known as back-channel speech, positive feedback and assent terms) can be defined as the brief, suppor tive comments provided by listeners during the conversation interaction. They are a feature of jointly produced text, and show the listener™s active participation in the conversation. (Coates 1989). Common examples include mmm, uh huh, yes, yea and right. Usage in my data is abundant, with both the men and woman producing examples: 41. Ian: It™s laying on my mind // 42. Jody: // Mmm. 43. Ian: So I think if I do it now and get it over and done with I can relax. 44. Jody: Yea–I have to // 45. Ian: // pay ever after the phone. 46. Jody: Mmm. 129. Andy: High energy–You probably know him–Australian. 130. Ian: Mmm. 131. Andy: Is he a national hero or–does anyone really care? 132. Ian: Uhmm–He was for awhile but–I dunno. I think he™s more popular outside Australia now. 133. Andy: Mmm–an export. 134. Ian: Yea. 135. Jody: How do you think about this now? Do you think it™s ready? 136. Ian: It probably is ready and its beef so–

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11 137. Jody: Yea. Several researchers have found that, in casual conversation, it is women who take on the role as facilitator. (Zimmerman and We st 1975; Fishman 1980; Holmes 2001; Tannen 1990). Men, it has been demonstrated, are less sensitive to the intera ctional process. One study which Holmes recounts found that women ga ve over four times as much of this kind of positive feedback as men (Holmes 2001:297). Fo r women, then, ‚talk is for interaction.™ (Tannen 1990:81). In examining my data, however, contra sting results were discovered. Jody, in 59 utterances, provided 11 instances of minima l responses, for an 18.6% rate. Andy, in 39 utterances, gave 3 minimal responses, for a 7.7% rate. Ian, the second male, however, in 47 utterances provided 15 instances, thus giving some form of minima l response 31.9% of the time. What conclusions can be drawn from this data? One interpretation is that Ian goes against the norms of male speech strategies by bei ng more supportive and less competitive in the discourse process. A deeper analysis of this view, however, should consider the influence of context. Being a small group conversation in a casual context, the goals of this conversation sample are most likely focused on group solidarity (rather than control), which follows women™s strategy of being cooperative conversationalists. According to Holmes, ‚the norms for wo men™s talk may be the norms for small group interaction in private contexts, where the goals of the interaction are solidarity stressing- maintaining good social relations. Agreemen t is sought and disagreement avoided.™ (2001:297-298). However, more research into Ian™s high percentage of supportive minimal responses would have to be done for any conclusive results to be reached. 3.3 SIMULTANEOUS SPEECH The turn-taking procedure enables conversation to continue without everyone talking at once, as studies by Sacks et al (1974) have shown. It is sometimes claimed, though, that women break the rules of the turn-taking pr ocedure less frequently than men do, and conversely, are interrupted more than men are. Of importance, however, is to examine this

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