Gender In Conversation

AS AQA Language and Gender theorists

  • Created by: Laurel
  • Created on: 25-03-11 10:32

What women talk about

Robin Lakoff (1975): Women's vocab includes trivial words because they are relegated to decisions about such trivial things

Mira Komarovsky (1962): 58 working class USA couples, women spoke about family, personal matters. Men spoke about money, business, sport, work, local politics.

Jennifer Coates (1996): Men prefer topics that allow participants to take turns at being the expert. Women are more personal.

Deborah Tannen (1992): Men usually assume role of information giver or fixer because this reinforces strength and status.

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Tag Questions

Robin Lakoff (1975): Adds uncertainty to a statement so a speaker doesn't impose her point of view

Pamela Fishman (1980): Women use 3 times more tags. NOT because of uncertainty but because they were trying to keep the conversation going.

Janet Holmes (1984):

  • Modal Tags - seek information
  • Affective Tags - softening/concern
  • Facilitative Tags - drawing listener in
  • 61% modal tags used by men, 75% facilitative tags used by women

 Cameron & Coates (1988): Monitor whether others are in agreement. Respect the face needs of others when discussing sensitive issues

Jennifer Coates (1996): Men use questions to seek information from each other

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Intensifiers, Qualifiers & Competition


Robin Lakoff (1975): Avoiding strong statements or committing to an opinion. Uncertainty.


Dale Spender (1980): Show uncertainty when used by women but certainty and authority when used by men.


Cameron & Coates (1988): The adversarial style of conversation where speakers vie for turns and where participants are more likely to contradict each other than build on each other's contributions

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Hedges + Imperatives


Robin Lakoff (1975): Punctuate speech with uncertainty

Fishman (1980): Women use 'you know' 5 times more than men. NOT uncertainty but again doing conversational work.

Cameron & Coates (1988): Help statements to become negotiable and even retractable, depending on the rest of the group's comments.

Jennifer Coates (1996): Men hedge less


Deborah Tannen (1992): Men use more. Use them to their sons more than daughters. Women used cloaked imperatives... "Let's"

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Hypercorrect Grammar + Co-operation

Hypercorrect Grammar

Robin Lakoff (1975): Women more likely to comply to grammatical rules

Peter Trudgill (1970): Norwich study showed women using correct pronunciation

Jenny Cheshire (1970s): Reading Study -  Even at an early age females are using more standard forms


Cameron & Coates (1988): Refers to a particular type of conversation, where speakers work together to produce shared meanings

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Silences + Minimal Responses


Zimmerman & West (1975):

  • Single sex conversation - 1.35 secs
  • Mixed sex conversation - 3.21 secs
  • Women kept being interrupted so spoke less

Deborah Tannen (1992): Women see listening and supporting as essential to group bonding. They assume a turn will be granted

Minimal Responses

Coates (1988): Women make well-placed minimal responses but the men make them too late. This indicated a lack of interest and support, which led to women falling silent.

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Great help! Thank you!

Paul Dutton


A helpful revision guide on gender in conversation.  Plenty of information, clearly presented.



great help!!!



Can you clear something up here because the first slide is confusing asf. Like what do u mean when the heading states 'what women talk about' and how that correlates with the theories listed?



Brief but informative guide to some important Cv Writing Service UK, useful for quick revision.

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