Gender: Conversation Analysis Framework


How important is context? You need to consider the relationship of the speakers. Is there a power hierarchy are the participants related, are they friends etc? Consider the location of the exchange. Is it a stereotypical female or male environment for example?

Stereotypes / Representation

Are any gender stereotypes evident? How is gender represented through the speech of the participants? Do semantic fields reinforce gender stereotypes?

Subject / Topic

Is the subject / topic of the conversation stereotypical?

Male Topics (work, sport)

Female Topics (Friends, emotions, shopping!)

Coates (1996)

Men concrete and women abstract?

Spontaneous Speech

Which features of spontaneous speech are present (e.g. fillers, pauses, unintentional repetition, false starts)? How can they be related to gender? For example, if used by females they may reflect Lakoff’s view that women are more tentative in their speech than men. It may reflect uncertainty, weakness etc. Men may use these features if they are the male minority for example or they may use them if they are not confident about the topic, particularly if it is a ‘female’ topic.

Relate the above to Deficit / Dominant / Different models.

Male / Female Speech Styles

Women use more tag questions (Lakoff)

Have a special lexis e.g. to describe colours (Lakoff)

Women use empty adjective (Lakoff)

Women use wh-imperatives (Lakoff)

Women hedge more than women (Lakoff)

Can’t tell jokes (Lakoff)

More likely to personalise – using personal pronouns (Lakoff)

Use weak expletives eg ‘oh dear’ (Lakoff)

Avoid making threats and using aggressive language and insults (Lakoff)

Women apologise more (Lakoff)

Women avoid slang / taboo language (Lakoff)

Women use more standard forms than men (Trudgill)

Women use hypercorrect grammar (Lakoff)

Women use indirect requests  - eg ‘It is very noisy in here’ (as opposed to ‘turn the noise down!’ (Lakoff)

Women use apologetic reqeuests eg – ‘I’m sorry but would you mind closing the door?’

Men use more imperatives then women (Tannen)

Women use more prestigious forms than men – Why? (Insecure in terms of social status? Inferior position in society so use more prestigious language to overcome it? Society has higher expectations than women so women are conforming to this through language? Men already have a higher social status so they don’t need to use prestigious forms to imrove it. Instead they use covert prestige to overcome it. Men might use non-standard language to illustrate they have traditionally masculine qualities like being ‘tough’ and ‘down-to-earth’.

Relate the above to Deficit / Dominant / Different models.

Conversational Structure / Interaction

Who controls the conversation?

Politeness (women more polite than men – Lakoff)

Women more likely to pursue topics initiated by others

Men compete (Pilkington, Coates) – frequent disagreement, interruptions, mock insults etc.

Women cooperate (Pilkington, Coates) – more likely to use positive feedback, build on and develop each other’s points and agree.

Men interrupt women more in mixed sex conversations (Zimmerman & West)

Women are more polite (Lakoff)

Women show they are listening by using minimal responses (Lakoff)

Women undertake cooperative overlapping (Tannen)

Women speak less than men in mixed sex conversations (Lakoff)

Women use questions more to encourage participation (Coates)

Men are more likely to violate the maxim of relevance.

Women are more likely to repair the conversation after a silence.

Relate the above to Deficit / Dominant / Different models

  • Deficit – proposes (perhaps unintentionally) that women have a different speech style, which is lacking in some way
  • Dominance – proposes that men dominate in conversation rather like they do in society
  • Difference – proposes that men and women have different speech styles, but that neither should be seen as better or worse 
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