OCR A Level Theorists (Child Language Aquisition CLA, language and gender, language and power, language and technology and language change


English Language Theorists OCR AS/A Level


Language and Gender


David Crystal

  • Language is never neutral it reflects the cultural values of society.

  • If we live in a patriarchal society then this will be reflected in our language.


Deborah Tannen

  • 'You Just Don't Understand'- written in 1990.

  • Language use between men and women isn't related to inferiority and superiority.

  • The different language use is because men and women belong to different groups with different norms and expectations.

  • Believes that men use 'report' talk and women use 'rapport' talk

  • Report  vs     Rapport

  • Status               Support

  • Information       Feeling

  • Orders          Proposals

  • Conflict             Compromise

  • Independance  Intimacy


Zimmerman & West

  • A study conducted in 1975.

  • Found that 96% of interruption in mixed sex conversations caused by men.

  • The study is notoriously unreliable because of a small sample size.


Dale Spender

  • Wrote ‘Man-made language’ (1980)

  • Argues that language is the shaper of ideas and sustains patriarchal power.

  • Language we use is shaped by the values of men (indicates the influence of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.)

  • A counter argument is that, if language is really man made then how can Spender use language to attack this system.


Peter Trudgill

  • Suggests that female speech shows a desire for ‘overt prestige’.

  • Over prestige is prestige gained from using language and behaviour that is considered more ‘socially acceptable’, using more standard forms.

  • Whereas male speech shows a desire for ‘covert prestige’ or prestige gained from socially less acceptable language or behaviour. E.g. not using standard forms.

  • Standard forms= Standard English


Deborah Cameron

  • Wrote the book ‘The Myth of Mars and Venus’ (2007).

  • She suggests that there is as much variation within the language use of each gender as between men and women.

  • Challenges any attempts at binary classification and argues that we need to start thinking about gender in more complex ways.

  • Women held to higher standards of ‘verbal hygiene’.


Janet Hyde

  • She is an exponent of Gender Similarities hypothesis (2005).

  • Conducted a meta-analysis of language and gender.

  • A meta-analysis is a study of studies.

  • Concludes that there are very few differences between how men and women use language.


Julia Stanley

  • (1975)

  • Performed a linguistic analysis of terms for sexually promiscuous men and women.

  • She found that there are 20 words from a promiscuous man and 220 for women.

  • There are significantly more taboo lexical items for women.

  • Refers to how women exist in a ‘negative semantic space’.

  • For example, on TV the words ‘f**k’ and ‘s**t’ are frequently heard but the word ‘c**t’ is very rarely heard. Is this because it carries more taboo because it relates to women.


Norman Fairclough

  • Language is ‘the primary domain of ideology’.

  • It is the main way societies ideas of gender and power and expressed.


Robin Lakoff

  • ‘Language and Women’s Place’ (1975)

  • Argues that male language


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