Language, Gender, and Sexuality Chapter uri icon

Overview

abstract

  • Research on language, gender, and sexuality has been advanced by scholars working in a variety of areas in sociocultural linguistics, among them conversation analysis, critical discourse analysis, discursive psychology, linguistic anthropology, sociophonetics, and variationist sociolinguistics. The relevance of gender to linguistic analysis was first noted in the early 20th century when descriptive linguists observed differences in female and male vocabularies and patterns of speaking in non-European languages. But it was not until the 1975 publication of Robin Lakoff’s Language and Woman’s Place (Lakoff 1975), originally published as a lead article in a 1973 issue of Language in Society, that disparate work on language and gender began to coalesce as a field of study. Research during this era of second-wave feminism focused on the everyday micro-discourse practices of women and men as instantiating hierarchical power relations, analyzing such phenomena as turn-taking, interruptions, and topic uptake. Fifteen years later, Deborah Tannen popularized a “two-cultures” approach to language and gender in You Just Don’t Understand: Men and Women in Conversation (Tannen 1990), which shifted the source of gender differentiation away from patriarchy and onto language socialization in same-sex peer groups. Lakoff’s and Tannen’s models—which came to be called the “dominance” and “difference” models, respectively—set the foundation for contemporary work on language and gender. In the mid-1990s, the field was revitalized by what is often referenced as the “discursive turn” in social theory. New theoretical work in post-structuralist and multicultural feminism, including the view of gender as produced in discourse instead of predetermined by biological sex, inspired new involvement by language scholars across the fields of anthropology, communication, education, linguistics, psychology, sociology, and women’s studies. The close analysis of gender in interaction demonstrated its intersectionality with other social categories, such as social class, race, ethnicity, age, and sexuality. Although work on language and sexuality preceded this development, this relationship too received renewed attention as scholars of language and gender came to recognize the heteronormativity that had implicitly shaped previous work in the field and began drawing on perspectives within the emergent field of queer theory. Gender and sexuality came to be seen as intimately connected in the language and gender literature, hence the field’s eventual designation in many publication domains as language, gender, and sexuality. This annotated bibliography aims to bring together socially oriented linguistic scholarship on both gender and sexuality while also recognizing the independent trajectories of these traditions of research. Although the bibliography at times treats gender and sexuality as separate topics for purposes of clarity or emphasis, research in these traditions remains closely intertwined.

publication date

  • January 1, 2016

Full Author List

  • Zimman L; Hall K

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