Communicating Gender

Communicating Gender

Communicating Gender

Communicating Gender


Taking a cross-disciplinary approach, Suzanne Romaine's main concern is to show how language and discourse play key roles in understanding and communicating gender and culture. In addition to linguistics--which provides the starting point and central focus of the book--she draws on the fields of anthropology, biology, communication, education, economics, history, literary criticism, philosophy, psychology, and sociology. The text covers the "core" areas in the study of language and gender, including how and where gender is indexed in language, how men and women speak, how children acquire gender differentiated language, and sexism in language and language reform. Although most of the examples are drawn primarily from English, other European languages and non-European languages, such as Japanese are considered. The text is written in an accessible way so that no prior knowledge of linguistics is necessary to understand the chapters containing linguistic analysis. Each chapter is followed by exercises and discussion questions to facilitate the book's use as a classroom text.

The author reviews scholarly treatments of gender, and then uses her own data material from the corpora of spoken and written English usage. Special features include an examination of contemporary media sources such as newspapers, advertising, and television; a discussion of women's speculative fiction; a study of gender and advertising, with special attention paid to the role played by language in these domains; and a review of French feminist thought, particularly as it relates to the issue of language reform.


This book is about how we communicate gender and why language and discourse play such important roles in the process. Because my own intellectual training lies primarily in linguistics, that has to some extent led me to look at gender primarily through the lens of language. However, I think a good case can independently be made for the centrality of language and communication to any discussion of gender, or for that matter virtually any discipline. If you accept my arguments that what we call "society," or even more grandly, "reality" itself, is largely constructed and represented to ourselves and others through language, then language and discourse are paramount. In the first chapter I explain why "doing" gender is a dynamic and inherently communicative process and why language is so fundamental to understanding our gendered selves.

Certainly another indication of the centrality of language is its frequent mention in the popular debate on sexual difference. This can be seen by picking up almost any contemporary magazine where articles on topics such as differences in male-female conversation, body language, advice on how women should speak in the workplace, and so on, have become increasingly frequent. Sociolinguist Deborah Tannen's book, which was a best seller for several years, dealt with problems in male-female communication.

The many popular articles and books now being published about the topic of cross-gender communication suggest that men and women are having a hard time communicating with one another. At home, women complain that their husbands do not really talk to them. Men complain that women talk constantly, but have nothing important to say. At work, men say that women get intimidated and offended too easily. They do not . . .

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