Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Language Barrier?

There's a series of three extracts from Deborah Cameron's new book The Myth of Mars and Venus in The Guardian this week, which should be essential reading for all AS and A2 students (and teachers!).

As she outlined in this piece last year, Cameron isn't really a fan of those linguists who argue that there are inbuilt differences between male and female language. For one - she argues - there are more language differences between different men or women within their own sex than there are between the sexes. For two - she argues - the myth of gendered differences is being used to make women feel that they need to adjust their speech to become more "assertive" and "direct". For three - she argues - an industry has sprung up around the whole myth, crystallising these rather dubious ideas as scientific "fact".

They're convincingly researched and persuasively argued points, and part of a much wider debate about gender and language which affects us all. As Cameron puts it in today's extract:

The idea that men and women metaphorically "speak different languages" - that they use language in different ways and for different reasons - is one of the great myths of our time. Research debunks the various smaller myths that contribute to it: for instance, that women talk more than men (research suggests the opposite); that women's talk is cooperative and men's competitive (research shows that both sexes engage in both kinds of talk); that men and women systematically misunderstand one another (research has produced no good evidence that they do).

The three pieces can be found here, here and here.

Recent research detailed here supports Cameron's findings and suggests that males and females actually talk about as much as each other on average. But as Cameron is quick to point out in her book, what is an "average" male or "average" female? We are all different and use language in many different ways in different contexts.
Useful for:
ENA3 Male and female conversation
ENA6 Language Debates

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