English language

Dominance framework

Dale Spender(1980: 143), who created a feminist theory of language, states that "males, as the dominant group, have produced language, thought and reality." Following the lines of Sapir-Whorf, Spender identified English language as "man-made". Her central argument is that language reflects and perpetuates to gender inequality; men's dominance and women's subordination. She supports a fundamental view of language as expressing structures that emphasize male power. Work within this paradigm such as the work of Zimmerman and West also viewed the male dominance and Spender's idea of patriarchal order.

Spender (1980: 142) reiterates that "it has been the dominant group-in the case, males, who have created the world, invented the categories, construed sexism and its justification, and developed a language trap which is in their interest". In a more specific sense, feminism involves a reaction to power imposed by a male-dominated system, or partriarchy. (Backlund and Ivy, 1994: 12).

Spender also posits that we have been programmed by the rules of society, and the construction of the view that males are inferior, is a consequence of our failure to repudiate these man-made rules.

Thorne and Hanley (1975: 15) explained that "....in the culture of English speakers, men are more highly regarded than women. The male is associated with universal, the general, the subsuming; the female is more often excluded or is the special case."

Mario Pei (1967) writes in The Story of The English Language that "the English language is the result of a long series of accidents". But he makes an observation indicating that at least one constant has been operating: men have made the language (cited in Kramarae, 1981).

Difference framework

The basic concept of this perspective is originally from the work of John Gamperz. He explains the 'cross-cultural phenomenon' that girls and boys grow up in gender specific subcultures. Thus, they acquired different communicative goals and styles.

This theory was then postulated by sociolinguist Professor Deborah Tannen in her book You Just Don't Understand. It is compared with Dominance Theory. She discussed this theory with an article that contrasts the use of language between males and females in six different categories. She finally advised women to adapt their speech styles in order to improve their relationships with their male counterparts.

During the 1980s it would say that this model of language and gender became popular and gained ground over other models. Many theoretical works have focused on gender difference; more on psychological than political, economic or social issues. Variations on cultural 'difference' can be found in the works of Tannen (1991), Holmes (1995) and Coates (1996).

According to Coated (1986: preface) in Women, men, and language, "Linguistic differences are merely a reflection of social differences. And as long as a society views men and women as different and - unequal - then differences in the language of men and women will persist."

Henley and Kramarae (1991) argued that "the recent interest of so many researchers in studying male-female 'miscommunication' is a retreat from issues to do with power, and therefore represents a watering down of feminism."

Deborah Cameron says that wherever and whenever the matter has been investigated, men and women face normative expectations about the appropriate mode of speech for their gender. Cameron suggests that women have been instructed in the proper ways of talking. She called this proper speech style "verbal hygiene" and describes in her 1995 book.

Feminist Theory

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