Gender, Power, and Communication in Human Relationships

By Pamela J. Kalbfleisch; Michael J. Cody | Go to book overview
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Chapter 9
Relating to Spouse and Stranger: Gender-Preferential Language Use

Mary Anne Fitzpatrick University of Wisconsin-Madison

Anthony Mulac University of California-Santa Barbara

It has long been our concern that much of the research on sex differences in the communication practices of men and women ignores the contexts in which communication takes place. Of particular concern in this chapter is the relational context. In other words, the relationship between given male and female communicators is expected to exert a strong influence on their linguistic and communicative practices. By directly comparing men and women as they interact with both strangers and spouses, we present a more nuanced view of gender differences in social interaction.

We begin with a discussion of the gender-linked language effect and the empirical support this effect has received in a number of contexts. We then turn to the issue of gender preferential language and present data on social interaction in mixed-sex dialogues.


The Gender-Linked Language Effect refers to the attributional consequences of using clusters of linguistic features found to differentiate male from female speech. These linguistics features may include, for example, intensive adverbs, adverbials


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