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Review of Language and Gender: A Reader, 2nd Edition
EDITORS: Jennifer Coates and Pia Pichler TITLE: Language and Gender SUBTITLE: A Reader, 2nd edition PUBLISHER: Wiley-Blackwell YEAR: 2011
Stephen L. Mann, Department of English, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
SUMMARY 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 profession.
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).
EVALUATION 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.
REFERENCES Coates, 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 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.