Review of Language and Gender: A Reader, 2nd Edition
|EDITORS: Jennifer Coates and Pia Pichler
TITLE: Language and Gender
SUBTITLE: A Reader, 2nd edition
Stephen L. Mann, Department of English, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
This book is the second edition of the popular anthology originally published by
Blackwell (1998). One of the first noticeable changes is the addition of Pia
Pichler to the editorial team. There are also two completely new sections and 22
new papers across all sections. Additionally, 11 papers present in the first
edition are no longer in the second. The book is arranged into ten thematic
sections, each of which begins with an introduction written by the editors.
These introductions summarize the papers, explain how they fit together, and
contextualize them by discussing their historical, methodological, and/or
theoretical importance to language and gender research. The editors have also
included a general introduction to the new edition. As with the original
edition, many of the papers are abridged versions of the originals, but
omissions are indicated with ellipses.
The general introduction provides the justification for the new edition, its
goals, its layout, and the editorial criteria for paper selection. It also
provides a brief discussion of the trajectory of language and gender research
from its inception (e.g., Lakoff 1972) to the present day, while at the same
time explaining how the different sections of the reader fit into that
trajectory historically, methodologically, and theoretically.
Part I (“Gender Differences in Pronunciation and Grammar”) is one of only two
sections in the reader to remain intact from the previous edition. The section
includes classic earlier papers that explore “gender-exclusive” and
“gender-preferential” language variation. Gender-exclusive language variation is
the focus of “Yanyuwa: ‘Men speak one way, women speak another,’” in which John
Bradley discusses the different male and female dialects of the Australian
language Yanyuwa. The other papers are all situated within the quantitative
variationist sociolinguistic paradigm and focus on gender-preferential variation
in either phonology (Peter Trudgill’s “Sex and covert prestige” and Penelope
Eckert’s “Gender and sociolinguistic variation”) or morphosyntax (Jenny
Cheshire’s “Linguistic variation and social function,” Edina Eisikovits’
“Girl-talk/boy-talk: Sex differences in adolescent speech,” and Patricia C.
Nichols’ “Black women in the rural South: Conservative and innovative”).
Part II (“Gender and Conversational Practice”) focuses on different
conversational strategies employed by women and men. Two papers from the first
edition (Penelope Brown’s “How and why are women more polite: Some evidence from
a Mayan community” and Susan Gal’s “Peasant men can’t get wives: Language change
and sex roles in a bilingual community”) have been excluded from the new
edition, while Janet Holmes’ “Complimenting -- A positive politeness strategy”
and Marjorie Harness Goodwin’s “Cooperation and competition across girls’ play
activities”) remain unchanged. One new addition to this section is “Expressions
of gender: An analysis of pupils’ gendered discourse styles in small group
classroom discussions,” in which Julia Davies explores the difference between
girls’ collaborative discourse styles and boys’ “cacophonous” use of derogatory
terms and defamatory statements. The second new addition is Carol Waseleski’s
“Gender and the use of exclamation points in computer-mediated communication: An
analysis of exclamations posted to two electronic discussion lists,” which
challenges the notion that women’s use of exclamation points in electronic
discourse is primarily to indicate speaker/writer excitability.
Asymmetric power relationships and conversational dominance are the foci of Part
III (“Gender, Power, and Dominance in Mixed Talk”). All of the papers from the
first edition remain: Candace West & Don H. Zimmerman’s “Women’s place in
everday talk: Reflections on parent-child interaction,” Victoria Leto
DeFrancisco’s “The sounds of silence: How men silence women in marital
relations,” Joan Swann’s “Talk control: An illustration from the classroom of
problems in analysing male dominance of conversation,” and Susan C. Herring,
Deborah A. Johnson, & Tamra DiBenedetto’s “Participation in electronic discourse
in a ‘feminist’ field.” The new paper in this section moves beyond linguistic
strategies for conversational dominance (e.g., interruptions) to actual physical
violence. In “Zuiqian ‘deficient mouth’”: Discourse, gender and domestic
violence in urban China,” Jie Yang explores Chinese ideologies of domestic
violence in which domestic violence is viewed as retaliation for women’s
supposedly “deviant” conversational practices.
The papers in Parts IV and V are substantially different from the previous
edition. Part IV (“Same-Sex Talk”) addresses the ways in which multiple
femininities and masculinities get constructed in same-sex interactions. The
only two papers from the first edition are Jennifer Coates’ “Gossip revisited:
Language in all-female groups” and Deborah Cameron’s “Performing gender
identity: Young men’s talk and the construction of heterosexual masculinity.” No
longer present in the new edition are Fern L. Johnson & Elizabeth J. Aries’ “The
talk of women friends,” Jane Pilkington’s “‘Don’t try and make out that I’m
nice!’ The different strategies women and men use when gossiping,” and Koenraad
Kuiper’s “Sporting formulae in New Zealand English: Two models of male
solidarity.” The first new addition to the section is Mary Bucholtz’ now classic
“‘Why be normal?’: Language and identity practices in a community of nerd
girls,” which explores the ways in which a non-mainstream identity, i.e.,
“nerd,” gets linguistically constructed by adolescent girls. Also added is a
paper by the new co-editor. In “Hybrid or in between cultures: Traditions of
marriage in a group of British Bangladeshi girls” Pichler examines the
construction of hybrid British Asian identities through an analysis of
adolescent British Bangladeshi girls’ discourses on arranged marriage. A second
paper by Jennifer Coates (“Pushing at the boundaries: The expression of
alternative masculinities”) highlights the linguistic strategies that men use to
create “alternative masculinities” despite pressure to adhere to norms of
“hegemonic masculinity.” The final paper is Scott F. Kiesling’s “Playing the
straight man: Displaying and maintaining male heterosexuality in discourse,”
which examines the linguistic practices of fraternity members who must negotiate
“compulsory” heterosexual identities in an exclusively male environment.
Part V (“Women’s Talk in the Public Domain”) addresses women’s language in the
public sphere, or, more specifically, in the workplace. The papers in this
section often reflect the “damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t” message in
Robin Lakoff’s (1972:48) seminal text, while also presenting contexts that may
complicate or challenge it. This section is the most changed from the previous
edition, with the only paper remaining being Katsue Akiba Reynolds’ “Female
speakers of Japanese in transition.” No longer included are Bonnie S.
McElhinny’s “‘I don’t smile much anymore’: Affect, gender and the discourse of
Pittsburgh police officers,” Candace West’s “‘Not just doctors’ orders’:
Directive-response sequences in patients’ visits to women and men physicians,”
and Marie Wilson Nelson’s “Women’s ways: Interactive patterns in predominantly
female research teams.” The first new paper is “Governed by the rules? The
female voice in parliamentary debates,” in which Sylvia Shaw examines
parliamentary debate in the British House of Commons and the effect of female
Members of Parliament adhering to the rules of parliamentary debate. In “‘Doing
femininity’ at work: More than just relational practice,” Janet Holmes &
Stephanie Schnurr examine the different roles and outcomes of indexing
femininity in various types of corporate professional environments. Similar
contrastive analyses are present in the paper by Ana Cristina Ostermann
(“Communities of practice at work: Gender, facework and the power of habitus at
an all-female police station and a feminist crisis intervention center in
Brazil”), but Ostermann focuses solely on all-female work environments. The
final paper in this section is Susan Ehrlich’s “Trial discourse and judicial
decision-making: Constraining the boundaries of gendered identities.” Ehrlich
provides an analysis of trial discourse for a sexual assault case, showing how a
trial participant’s performed identity may differ from the identity given to her
by attorneys and judges.
Part VI (“Language, Gender, and Sexuality”) is one of the two completely new
sections added to the reader for this edition, and all these papers were written
after the publication of the first edition. This section highlights the
importance of sexuality as a key variable in language and gender research,
drawing from a body of research in queer linguistics, which has seen
considerable growth in recent years. The first two papers (Hideko Abe’s “Lesbian
bar talk in Shinjuku, Japan” and Kira Hall’s “Boys’ talk: Hindi, moustaches and
masculinity in New Delhi”) present ethnographic accounts of the linguistic
construction of lesbian identities. In “Queering Gay Men’s English,” William L.
Leap discusses the importance of queer theory to language and gender research
for understanding the discursive formation of gender and sexual identities.
Rusty Barrett’s “Indexing polyphonous identity in the speech of African American
drag queens” examines intersections of gender, sexuality, and race in the
linguistic practices of African American drag queens who adopt language features
associated with what Barrett labels “white-woman style.” The section ends with
Marisol del-Teso-Craviotto’s “Language and sexuality in Spanish and English
dating chats,” which differs from the other papers in the section due to its
focus on the construction of sexual desire rather than sexual identity.
The next three sections focus on some key theoretical debates in language and
gender research. Part VII (“Theoretical Debates (1): Gender or Power?”)
addresses the question explored in many early studies of whether the linguistic
phenomena observed by language and gender researchers is actually the result of
the amount of power a speaker holds rather than her gender. This section remains
unchanged from the previous edition. The first paper is William M. O’Barr &
Bowman K. Atkins’ “‘Women’s language’ or ‘powerless language’?”. This paper, an
early response to Lakoff (1975), examines the use of so-called “women’s
language” by both women and men in a courtroom setting and link its use to the
amount of power held by the speaker within the current context. Patricia J.
Wetzel’s “Are ‘powerless’ communication strategies the Japanese norm?’ draws
comparisons between women’s language use in the United States and the language
used by Japanese businessmen in their professional interactions with U.S.
Americans. In “When the doctor is a ‘lady’: Power, status and gender in
physician-patient encounters,” Candace West explores the possibility that gender
may have more effect on determining status relationships than factors such as
Part VIII (“Theoretical Debates (2): Difference or Dominance?”) presents another
important early debate in research on language and gender, i.e., whether to
explain gender-related language differences as stemming from asymmetrical power
relationships between women and men or from different language socialization
experiences. Two of the three original papers remain in this edition (Daniel N.
Maltz & Ruth A. Borker’s “A cultural approach to male-female miscommunication”
and Senta Troemel-Ploetz’ “Selling the apolitical). Deborah Tannen’s
“Asymmetries: Women and men talking at cross-purposes,” replaces the Tannen
paper published in the first edition (“Talk in the intimate relationship: His
and hers”). These three papers highlight the trajectory of the difference
approach from its introduction through its rise in the popular media with
Tannen’s (1990) popular book (the source of the paper included in this new
edition) to its reception by researchers employing the dominance approach.
The second completely new section for the new edition is Part IX (“Theoretical
Debates (3): When is Gender Relevant?”). Emanuel A. Schegloff’s paper (“Whose
text? Whose context?”) questions the use of gender as an analytic variable when
gender is not being highlighted in the discourse being analyzed. The remaining
two papers respond to Schegloff’s argument. In “Gender relevance in
talk-in-interaction and discourse,” Ann Weatherall argues that gender is too
important a social category to ignore its effects. Joan Swann’s paper (“Yes, but
is it gender?”) encourages the reevaluation of the “warrants” researchers use to
determine the relevance of gender to linguistic analysis.
The editors describe Part X (“New Directions in Language and Gender Research”)
as a “signpost [of] the way language and gender research is moving in the
twenty-first century” (569). Understandably, therefore, this section has
undergone significant revision from the previous edition. Because of its
long-lasting methodological influence -- evident in many of the new papers
included in this edition -- Penelope Eckert & Sally McConnell-Ginet’s
“Communities of practice: Where language, gender, and power all live” remains.
The two deleted papers are Janet Holmes’ “Women’s talk: The question of
sociolinguistic universals” and Janet M. Bing & Victoria L. Bergvall’s “The
question of questions: Beyond binary thinking.” The first addition is Deborah
Cameron’s “Gender and language ideologies,” which highlights the importance of
understanding the effect that ideologies of language and gender have on
linguistic practices and linguistic analysis. Finally, in “Social
constructionism, postmodernism and feminist sociolinguistics,” Janet Holmes
argues that there are certain contexts in which “we need to put women back at
the centre of language and gender research” (606).
In the introduction, the editors state that the general reaction to their
decision to produce an updated version was not fully enthusiastic. Coates &
Pichler needed to make editorial decisions, therefore, that maintained the
original volume’s intent and retained the classic papers important to the
history of language and gender research, while at the same time bringing it in
line with current scholarship. Some papers are notably absent (e.g., Gal’s
classic analysis of language shift in Austria) and the inclusion of some could
be questioned, but, for the most part, the reasons for additions and deletions
is evident. The papers now vary to a greater extent in their geographical
coverage. They also treat computer-mediated communication more than was possible
or necessary in the first edition. The key historically important papers (e.g.,
the variationist approaches in Part I) have been retained, but there are now
many more papers that employ a social constructionist approach consistent with
more recent treatments of language and gender. In several cases, a scholar’s
early work has been replaced with her more recent scholarship, allowing her
current perspective to be highlighted. Also, now that there exists a much larger
body of literature from which to draw, several sections could be greatly revised
to provide more breadth of coverage of a theme rather than depth. For example,
Part IV in the first edition was focused to a large extent on gossip, but now
has a much broader coverage of same-sex interaction. The two new sections on
queer linguistics (Part VI) and the relevance of gender to linguistic analysis
(Part IX) are especially important additions.
Still absent in the new edition are chapters from seminal language and gender
monographs, e.g., Lakoff (1975) or Spender (1980). Texts such as these are
important to the historical trajectory of language and gender research. Lakoff’s
text is readily available (2004 edition), but Spender’s monograph is currently
out of print. It would be useful for newer scholars in the field to have
anthology access to key historical texts that are no longer being published.
Overall, this new edition is successful. Readers familiar with the original
version will hopefully find the changes warranted and in line with the goals
outlined by the authors in their introduction. It remains a highly useful text
for graduate and advanced undergraduate courses in language and gender and for
anyone interested in the historical and current theoretical and methodological
approaches to research on gender and language.
Coates, Jennifer (ed.) 1998. Language and gender: A reader. Oxford, UK:
Lakoff, Robin. 1972. Language and woman’s place. Language in Society. 2.45-80.
Lakoff, Robin. 1975. Language and woman’s place. New York: Harper & Row.
Lakoff, Robin Tolmach. 2004. Language and woman’s place: Text and commentaries.
(Rev. and expanded ed., ed. by Mary Bucholtz). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Spender, Dale. 1980. Man made language. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Tannen, Deborah. 1990. You just don’t understand: Women and men in conversation.
New York: Ballantine Books.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
| ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Stephen L. Mann earned his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in
2011 and is now Assistant Professor of Linguistics and Grammars in the
Department of English at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. His
research uses folk dialectological and social psychological methods to
explore the factors that shape gay men’s attitudes toward gay male ways of
speaking American English, both actual linguistic practices and
stereotypes. Current projects consider such factors as regional
affiliation, connectedness to family of origin and created kinship
networks, and participation in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered,
and/or queer networks and practices.