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LINGUIST List 19.907

Tue Mar 18 2008

Qs: Phonological Differences and Biological Gender

Editor for this issue: Catherine Adams <catherinlinguistlist.org>

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        1.    Mark Jones, Phonological Differences and Biological Gender

Message 1: Phonological Differences and Biological Gender
Date: 18-Mar-2008
From: Mark Jones <markjjoneshotmail.com>
Subject: Phonological Differences and Biological Gender
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Dear Linguists

It's clear that male and female speech differs for a variety of reasons.
Some of these reasons can be attributed to biological sex factors like the
size of the vocal folds and the size and proportion of the parts of the
vocal tract, though the consequences of these naturally-occurring
differences may be enhanced through learnt sociolinguistic behaviour
patterns. In addition, there are more obviously learnt socioindexical
differences reflected in language-specific patterns of fine-grained
phonetic detail. It's also apparent that, in some languages at least, males
and females might show different conversational behaviours and stylistic
devices, even to the extent of different lexical items and morphological
forms in e.g. Japanese.

This query though is about robust and categorical sex differences in the
selection of phonemes/constrasts/segments within identical lexical items.
For example, in an entirely fictitious case, males may say /takwa/ and
females may say /tapa/ in the same word meaning 'obvious sex-based
phonological difference'.

I was wondering what examples there were of this phenomenon in different
languages and what references were available on this topic, with regard to
both synchronic patterns and diachronic developments. I will post a summary
of responses.

Many thanks

Mark J. Jones
British Academy Post-doctoral Research Fellow
Department of Linguistics
University of Cambridge

Linguistic Field(s): Phonology

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