LINGUIST List 23.3585

Mon Aug 27 2012

Review: Sociolinguistics: Coates & Pichler (2011)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 27-Aug-2012
From: Stephen Mann <>
Subject: Language and Gender
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EDITORS: Jennifer Coates and Pia PichlerTITLE: Language and GenderSUBTITLE: A Reader, 2nd editionPUBLISHER: Wiley-BlackwellYEAR: 2011

Stephen L. Mann, Department of English, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

SUMMARYThis book is the second edition of the popular anthology originally published byBlackwell (1998). One of the first noticeable changes is the addition of PiaPichler to the editorial team. There are also two completely new sections and 22new papers across all sections. Additionally, 11 papers present in the firstedition are no longer in the second. The book is arranged into ten thematicsections, each of which begins with an introduction written by the editors.These introductions summarize the papers, explain how they fit together, andcontextualize them by discussing their historical, methodological, and/ortheoretical importance to language and gender research. The editors have alsoincluded a general introduction to the new edition. As with the originaledition, many of the papers are abridged versions of the originals, butomissions are indicated with ellipses.

The general introduction provides the justification for the new edition, itsgoals, its layout, and the editorial criteria for paper selection. It alsoprovides a brief discussion of the trajectory of language and gender researchfrom its inception (e.g., Lakoff 1972) to the present day, while at the sametime explaining how the different sections of the reader fit into thattrajectory historically, methodologically, and theoretically.

Part I ("Gender Differences in Pronunciation and Grammar") is one of only twosections in the reader to remain intact from the previous edition. The sectionincludes classic earlier papers that explore "gender-exclusive" and"gender-preferential" language variation. Gender-exclusive language variation isthe focus of "Yanyuwa: 'Men speak one way, women speak another,'" in which JohnBradley discusses the different male and female dialects of the Australianlanguage Yanyuwa. The other papers are all situated within the quantitativevariationist sociolinguistic paradigm and focus on gender-preferential variationin either phonology (Peter Trudgill's "Sex and covert prestige" and PenelopeEckert's "Gender and sociolinguistic variation") or morphosyntax (JennyCheshire'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 differentconversational strategies employed by women and men. Two papers from the firstedition (Penelope Brown's "How and why are women more polite: Some evidence froma Mayan community" and Susan Gal's "Peasant men can't get wives: Language changeand sex roles in a bilingual community") have been excluded from the newedition, while Janet Holmes' "Complimenting -- A positive politeness strategy"and Marjorie Harness Goodwin's "Cooperation and competition across girls' playactivities") remain unchanged. One new addition to this section is "Expressionsof gender: An analysis of pupils' gendered discourse styles in small groupclassroom discussions," in which Julia Davies explores the difference betweengirls' collaborative discourse styles and boys' "cacophonous" use of derogatoryterms and defamatory statements. The second new addition is Carol Waseleski's"Gender and the use of exclamation points in computer-mediated communication: Ananalysis of exclamations posted to two electronic discussion lists," whichchallenges the notion that women's use of exclamation points in electronicdiscourse is primarily to indicate speaker/writer excitability.

Asymmetric power relationships and conversational dominance are the foci of PartIII ("Gender, Power, and Dominance in Mixed Talk"). All of the papers from thefirst edition remain: Candace West & Don H. Zimmerman's "Women's place ineverday talk: Reflections on parent-child interaction," Victoria LetoDeFrancisco's "The sounds of silence: How men silence women in maritalrelations," Joan Swann's "Talk control: An illustration from the classroom ofproblems in analysing male dominance of conversation," and Susan C. Herring,Deborah A. Johnson, & Tamra DiBenedetto's "Participation in electronic discoursein a 'feminist' field." The new paper in this section moves beyond linguisticstrategies for conversational dominance (e.g., interruptions) to actual physicalviolence. In "Zuiqian 'deficient mouth'": Discourse, gender and domesticviolence in urban China," Jie Yang explores Chinese ideologies of domesticviolence in which domestic violence is viewed as retaliation for women'ssupposedly "deviant" conversational practices.

The papers in Parts IV and V are substantially different from the previousedition. Part IV ("Same-Sex Talk") addresses the ways in which multiplefemininities and masculinities get constructed in same-sex interactions. Theonly two papers from the first edition are Jennifer Coates' "Gossip revisited:Language in all-female groups" and Deborah Cameron's "Performing genderidentity: Young men's talk and the construction of heterosexual masculinity." Nolonger present in the new edition are Fern L. Johnson & Elizabeth J. Aries' "Thetalk of women friends," Jane Pilkington's "'Don't try and make out that I'mnice!' The different strategies women and men use when gossiping," and KoenraadKuiper's "Sporting formulae in New Zealand English: Two models of malesolidarity." The first new addition to the section is Mary Bucholtz' now classic"'Why be normal?': Language and identity practices in a community of nerdgirls," which explores the ways in which a non-mainstream identity, i.e.,"nerd," gets linguistically constructed by adolescent girls. Also added is apaper by the new co-editor. In "Hybrid or in between cultures: Traditions ofmarriage in a group of British Bangladeshi girls" Pichler examines theconstruction of hybrid British Asian identities through an analysis ofadolescent British Bangladeshi girls' discourses on arranged marriage. A secondpaper by Jennifer Coates ("Pushing at the boundaries: The expression ofalternative masculinities") highlights the linguistic strategies that men use tocreate "alternative masculinities" despite pressure to adhere to norms of"hegemonic masculinity." The final paper is Scott F. Kiesling's "Playing thestraight 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 thepublic sphere, or, more specifically, in the workplace. The papers in thissection often reflect the "damned if she does, damned if she doesn't" message inRobin Lakoff's (1972:48) seminal text, while also presenting contexts that maycomplicate or challenge it. This section is the most changed from the previousedition, with the only paper remaining being Katsue Akiba Reynolds' "Femalespeakers of Japanese in transition." No longer included are Bonnie S.McElhinny's "'I don't smile much anymore': Affect, gender and the discourse ofPittsburgh 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 predominantlyfemale research teams." The first new paper is "Governed by the rules? Thefemale voice in parliamentary debates," in which Sylvia Shaw examinesparliamentary debate in the British House of Commons and the effect of femaleMembers of Parliament adhering to the rules of parliamentary debate. In "'Doingfemininity' at work: More than just relational practice," Janet Holmes &Stephanie Schnurr examine the different roles and outcomes of indexingfemininity in various types of corporate professional environments. Similarcontrastive analyses are present in the paper by Ana Cristina Ostermann("Communities of practice at work: Gender, facework and the power of habitus atan all-female police station and a feminist crisis intervention center inBrazil"), but Ostermann focuses solely on all-female work environments. Thefinal paper in this section is Susan Ehrlich's "Trial discourse and judicialdecision-making: Constraining the boundaries of gendered identities." Ehrlichprovides an analysis of trial discourse for a sexual assault case, showing how atrial participant's performed identity may differ from the identity given to herby attorneys and judges.

Part VI ("Language, Gender, and Sexuality") is one of the two completely newsections added to the reader for this edition, and all these papers were writtenafter the publication of the first edition. This section highlights theimportance of sexuality as a key variable in language and gender research,drawing from a body of research in queer linguistics, which has seenconsiderable growth in recent years. The first two papers (Hideko Abe's "Lesbianbar talk in Shinjuku, Japan" and Kira Hall's "Boys' talk: Hindi, moustaches andmasculinity in New Delhi") present ethnographic accounts of the linguisticconstruction of lesbian identities. In "Queering Gay Men's English," William L.Leap discusses the importance of queer theory to language and gender researchfor understanding the discursive formation of gender and sexual identities.Rusty Barrett's "Indexing polyphonous identity in the speech of African Americandrag queens" examines intersections of gender, sexuality, and race in thelinguistic practices of African American drag queens who adopt language featuresassociated with what Barrett labels "white-woman style." The section ends withMarisol del-Teso-Craviotto's "Language and sexuality in Spanish and Englishdating chats," which differs from the other papers in the section due to itsfocus on the construction of sexual desire rather than sexual identity.

The next three sections focus on some key theoretical debates in language andgender research. Part VII ("Theoretical Debates (1): Gender or Power?")addresses the question explored in many early studies of whether the linguisticphenomena observed by language and gender researchers is actually the result ofthe amount of power a speaker holds rather than her gender. This section remainsunchanged from the previous edition. The first paper is William M. O'Barr &Bowman K. Atkins' "'Women's language' or 'powerless language'?". This paper, anearly response to Lakoff (1975), examines the use of so-called "women'slanguage" by both women and men in a courtroom setting and link its use to theamount of power held by the speaker within the current context. Patricia J.Wetzel's "Are 'powerless' communication strategies the Japanese norm?' drawscomparisons between women's language use in the United States and the languageused by Japanese businessmen in their professional interactions with U.S.Americans. In "When the doctor is a 'lady': Power, status and gender inphysician-patient encounters," Candace West explores the possibility that gendermay have more effect on determining status relationships than factors such asprofession.

Part VIII ("Theoretical Debates (2): Difference or Dominance?") presents anotherimportant early debate in research on language and gender, i.e., whether toexplain gender-related language differences as stemming from asymmetrical powerrelationships between women and men or from different language socializationexperiences. 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 Tannenpaper published in the first edition ("Talk in the intimate relationship: Hisand hers"). These three papers highlight the trajectory of the differenceapproach from its introduction through its rise in the popular media withTannen's (1990) popular book (the source of the paper included in this newedition) to its reception by researchers employing the dominance approach.

The second completely new section for the new edition is Part IX ("TheoreticalDebates (3): When is Gender Relevant?"). Emanuel A. Schegloff's paper ("Whosetext? Whose context?") questions the use of gender as an analytic variable whengender is not being highlighted in the discourse being analyzed. The remainingtwo papers respond to Schegloff's argument. In "Gender relevance intalk-in-interaction and discourse," Ann Weatherall argues that gender is tooimportant a social category to ignore its effects. Joan Swann's paper ("Yes, butis it gender?") encourages the reevaluation of the "warrants" researchers use todetermine 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 thetwenty-first century" (569). Understandably, therefore, this section hasundergone significant revision from the previous edition. Because of itslong-lasting methodological influence -- evident in many of the new papersincluded 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 ofsociolinguistic universals" and Janet M. Bing & Victoria L. Bergvall's "Thequestion of questions: Beyond binary thinking." The first addition is DeborahCameron's "Gender and language ideologies," which highlights the importance ofunderstanding the effect that ideologies of language and gender have onlinguistic practices and linguistic analysis. Finally, in "Socialconstructionism, postmodernism and feminist sociolinguistics," Janet Holmesargues that there are certain contexts in which "we need to put women back atthe centre of language and gender research" (606).

EVALUATIONIn the introduction, the editors state that the general reaction to theirdecision to produce an updated version was not fully enthusiastic. Coates &Pichler needed to make editorial decisions, therefore, that maintained theoriginal volume's intent and retained the classic papers important to thehistory of language and gender research, while at the same time bringing it inline with current scholarship. Some papers are notably absent (e.g., Gal'sclassic analysis of language shift in Austria) and the inclusion of some couldbe questioned, but, for the most part, the reasons for additions and deletionsis evident. The papers now vary to a greater extent in their geographicalcoverage. They also treat computer-mediated communication more than was possibleor necessary in the first edition. The key historically important papers (e.g.,the variationist approaches in Part I) have been retained, but there are nowmany more papers that employ a social constructionist approach consistent withmore recent treatments of language and gender. In several cases, a scholar'searly work has been replaced with her more recent scholarship, allowing hercurrent perspective to be highlighted. Also, now that there exists a much largerbody of literature from which to draw, several sections could be greatly revisedto 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 nowhas a much broader coverage of same-sex interaction. The two new sections onqueer 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 gendermonographs, e.g., Lakoff (1975) or Spender (1980). Texts such as these areimportant to the historical trajectory of language and gender research. Lakoff'stext is readily available (2004 edition), but Spender's monograph is currentlyout of print. It would be useful for newer scholars in the field to haveanthology access to key historical texts that are no longer being published.

Overall, this new edition is successful. Readers familiar with the originalversion will hopefully find the changes warranted and in line with the goalsoutlined by the authors in their introduction. It remains a highly useful textfor graduate and advanced undergraduate courses in language and gender and foranyone interested in the historical and current theoretical and methodologicalapproaches to research on gender and language.

REFERENCESCoates, Jennifer (ed.) 1998. Language and gender: A reader. Oxford, UK:Blackwell Publishers.

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 REVIEWERStephen L. Mann earned his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in2011 and is now Assistant Professor of Linguistics and Grammars in theDepartment of English at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Hisresearch uses folk dialectological and social psychological methods toexplore the factors that shape gay men's attitudes toward gay male ways ofspeaking American English, both actual linguistic practices andstereotypes. Current projects consider such factors as regionalaffiliation, connectedness to family of origin and created kinshipnetworks, and participation in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered,and/or queer networks and practices.

Page Updated: 27-Aug-2012