SEX, POLITENESS AND STEREOTYPES
Robin Lakoff argued that women were using language which reinforced their subordinate status; they were colluding in their own subordination by the way they spoke.
Below are the features of women’s language suggested by Lakoff:
- Lexical hedges or fillers
- Tag questions
- Rising intonation or declarative
- ‘Empty’ adjectives
- Precise colour terms
- ‘Hypercorrect’ grammar
- ‘Super polite’ forms
- Avoidance or strong swear words
- Emphatic stress
She claimed that women use hedging devices to express uncertainty, and they use intensifying to persuade their addressee to take them seriously. Both hedges and boosters reflect women’s lack and confidence.
According to Lakoff, tag questions can express affective meaning and have a function as facilitative or positive politeness, devices, providing an addressee with an easy entree into a conversation. A tag may also soften a directive or a criticism. It also may be used as conferential and coercive devices. Women put more emphasis than men on the polite or affective functions of tags, using them as facilitative positive politeness devices.
According to research, women got interrupted more than men and men interrupt others more than women do. Some boys also start practising this strategy for dominating the talk at a very early age. For feedback, the evidence shows that women provide more encouraging feedback to their conversational partners than men do. Women students were also more likely than men to enlarge on and develop the ideas of a previous speaker rather than challenge them. Research reveals that women as cooperative conversationalists.
Gossip describes the kind of relaxed in-group talk that goes on between people in informal contexts. It is a characteristic of women’s interaction. Its function for women is to affirm solidarity and maintain the social relationships between the women involved. Women’s gossip focuses on personal experiences and personal relationships, on personal problems and feelings. However, community attitudes toward different speech sryles reflect the status of those who use them.
Language conveys attitudes. Sexist attitudes stereotype a person according to gender rather than judging on individual merits. The study of sexist language is concerned with the way language expresses both negative and positive stereotypes of both women and men.
Feminist have claimed that English is a sexist language. It means that English language discriminates against women. English metaphor available to describe women includes an extraordinarily high number of derogatory images compared to those used to describe men. One of the example is animal imagery that the images of women seem considerably less positive than those for men. English also renders women invisible is the use of forms such as he and man as generic forms.
The relative status sexes in a society may be reflected not only i the ways in which women and men use language, but also in the language used about women and men. The linguistic data supports the view that women are often assigned subordinate status by virtue of their gender alone, and treated linguistically as subordinate, regardless of their actual power or social status in a particular context.