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Differences according to gender

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Men and women, on average, tend to use slightly different language styles. These differences tend to be quantitative rather than qualitative. That is, to say that women make more minimal responses (see below) than men is akin to saying that men are taller than women (i.e., men are on average taller than women, but some women are taller than some men). The initial identification of a women's register was by Robin Lakoff in 1975, who argued that the style of language served to maintain women's (inferior) role in society ("female deficit approach"). A later refinement of this argument was that gender differences in language reflected a power difference (O'Barr & Atkins, 1980) ("dominance theory"). However, both these perspectives have the language style of men as normative, implying that women's style is inferior.

More recently, Deborah Tannen has compared gender differences in language as more similar to 'cultural' differences ("cultural difference approach"). Comparing conversational goals, she argued that men have a report style, aiming to communicate factual information, whereas women have a rapport style, more concerned with building and maintaining relationships. Such differences are pervasive across media, including face-to-face conversation (e.g., Fitzpatrick, Mulac, & Dindia, 1995: Hannah & Murachver, 1999), written essays of primary school children (Mulac, Studley, & Blau, 1990), email (Thomson & Murachver, 2001), and even toilet graffiti (Green, 2003).

Communication styles are always a product of context, and as such, gender differences tend to be most pronounced in single-gender groups. One explanation for this, is that people accommodate their language towards the style of the person they are interacting with. Thus, in a mixed-gender group, gender differences tend to be less pronounced. A similarly important observation is that this accommodation is usually towards the language style, not the gender of the person (Thomson, Murachver, & Green, 2001). That is, a polite and empathic male will tend to be accommodated to on the basis of their being polite and empathic, rather than their being male.

Modern Literature on Sociolinguistics:



1) R.A. Hudson, Sociolinguistics, Cambridge University Press, 1996.

This new edition of Richard Hudson's widely acclaimed textbook Sociolinguistics will be welcomed by students and teachers alike. To reflect changes in the field since publication of the first edition in 1980, the author has added new sections on politeness, accommodation, and prototypes; and he has expanded discussion of sex differences, culture and general theory. There remains coverage of classic topics such as varieties of language, speech as social interaction, the quantitative study of speech, and linguistic and social inequality. Like the first, the second edition of Sociolinguistics is an exceptionally clear and helpful overview of the relationship of language and society.

2) Florian Coulmas, Sociolinguistics, Cambridge University Press, 2005

This accessible new textbook provides a clear introduction to sociolinguistics, the study of why we speak the way we do, and the social factors that influence our linguistic decisions. Based on the notion of choice - that as speakers we select from the options open to us - it provides a solid theoretical framework to deal with the most fascinating characteristic of language: its variability and diversity. Topics covered include dialects, gender and age specific speech forms, professional jargons, diglossia, bilingualism, code-switching, pidgin languages, and language planning, all of which are unified by the common theme that speakers, by making choices, create their language. Drawing on linguistic variation from a wide range of societies and their languages, this is set to become a key text for all students of sociolinguistics, and will be welcomed by anyone interested in the complex interaction between language and society.

Chapter Titles: 1. Introduction: notions of language; Part I. Micro Choices: 2. Standard and dialect: social stratification as a factor of linguistic choice; 3. Gendered speech: sex as a factor of linguistic choice; 4. Communicating across generations: age as a factor of linguistic choice; 5. Choice and change; 6. Politeness: cultural dimensions of linguistic choice; Part II. Macro Choices: 7. Code-switching: linguistic choices across boundaries; 8. Diglossia and bilingualism: functional restrictions on language choice; 9. Language spread, shift and maintenance: how groups choose their language; 10. Language and identity: individual, social, national; 11. Language planning: communication demands, public choice, utility; 12. Select letters: a major divide; 13. The language of choice.

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3) Terminology is the study of terms and their use — of words and compound words that are used in specific contexts.

This is the system of terms belonging or peculiar to a science, art, or specialized subject; nomenclature: the terminology of botany.

Terminology also denotes a more formal discipline which systematically studies the labelling or designating of concepts particular to one or more subject fields or domains of human activity, through research and analysis of terms in context, for the purpose of documenting and promoting correct usage. This study can be limited to one language or can cover more than one language at the same time (multilingual terminology, bilingual terminology, and so forth).

Terminology is not connected to Information Retrieval in any way. "Terms" (i.e. index terms) used in an Information Retrieval context are not the same as "terms" used in the context of Terminology.

As a discipline, terminology is related to translation alongside which it is often taught in universities and translation schools. Large translation departments and translation bureaus will often have a terminology section, or will require translators to do terminology research.


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