Language & Gender: Female Conversations

Female (single sex) conversations

Aspects of female talk – Lakeoff 

Robin Lakeoff, 1975, identified 10 features of women’s language in a much challenged American study. I have copied them below; 

  1. They utilise hedges more e.g. ‘kind of’ ‘sort of’
  2. They use more polite forms e.g. ‘would you please’
  3. Use more tag questions ‘nice isn’t?’
  4. Use more peaking/intonational emphasis 
  5. They utilise more empty adjectives e.g. ‘sweet’ ‘cute’ ‘charming’
  6. They are hypercorrect with their grammar and pronunciation
  7. They lack a sense of humour
  8. Use more verbatim/direct quotations
  9. They have a more specialised vocabulary e.g. types of colours
  10. They use more high rise terminal (declarative statement used as question through intonation.)

Having evidence to back these points of Lakeoff is correct. However, this data was collated 35 years ago, with society changing every singly day, this data is aged. In the 21st century, I question whether women really lack a sense of humour. This is because to be understand and create humour one needs intelligence and the importance and quality of teaching to women within 35 years has increased. From this we can deduce that women’s sense of humour has probably increased. Nevertheless, these 10 points will help in backing up points in the exam.

Female Authority – in the workplace

Evidence from The Myth of Mars and Venus by Deborah Cameron: Female Authority – after research by Janet Holmes. Read example one.

Example One


Looks like there’s actually been a request for screendumps I know it was outside of the scope but people will be pretty worried about it


no screendumps


( sarcastically ) thank you Clara


no screendumps


we know we know you didn’t want them and we um er we’ve –


that does not meet the criteria


so that’s a clear well maybe no


it’s a no


it’s a no a royal no

How would you describe Clara’s management style here?  How does her language differ from stereotypical women’s language?


Her management style her is clear, forceful and assertive. Responses are not elaborated and she is not asking the questions. Her language differs from a stereotypical women’s language because is not talking too much or asking question or hedging and using politeness strategies. As I’ve said before stereotypes are wrong because the role of women have changed so their language has too this means that women migth start to sound like ‘the male stereotype’.

Read the transcript below:


how’s your Mum?




she broke her hip, didn’t she?


my mother?  What are you talking about?


( laughing ) the queen mother


oh ( putting on posh accent ) my husband and I are confident she’ll pull through.

What strategy has been put in place to deal with Clara’s management style?

To deal with Clara’s management style a humorous outlook is taken by the employees. They use a shared context to connect with her a put a lighter tone almost as if they were trying to escape from their professional roles. This part of the conversation changes from being transactional to interactional.


How does Clara herself cope with it?

 Clare allows the conversation to become interactive and copes with this strategy by being humorous too. She laughs it off and does not take this seriously.

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