Women, Men, and Politeness

Women, Men, and Politeness

Women, Men, and Politeness

Women, Men, and Politeness


"Language and gender is a dynamic and popular area of sociolinguistics. Women, Men and Politeness focuses on the specific issue of the ways in which women and men express politeness verbally. Women, Men and Politeness will be of interest to second year undergraduate students following courses on sociolinguistics and language and gender and will be supplementary reading for students of sociology, anthropology, women's studies and English literature. It will also be of value to counsellors, teachers and administrators dealing with problems in the workplace arising from gender differences in language use." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Are women more polite than men? The question is deceptively simple. The answer, by contrast, is very complicated as this book will illustrate.

When a sociolinguist is asked this question her first reaction is to say 'it depends what you mean by politeness, and it depends which women and which men you are comparing, and it also depends on the context in which they are talking'. Considerations such as these mean that any answer needs to be hedged and qualified in all sorts of ways. But perhaps I should say right at the outset that, when all the necessary reservations and qualifications have been taken into account, I think the answer is 'yes, women are more polite than men'. This book explores some of the evidence for that conclusion.

Sex and language

There is certainly plenty of evidence of differences between women and men in the area of language. It is well established, for instance, that girls are verbally more precocious than boys (see Maccoby and Jacklin 1974; Chambers 1992).

Over many years, women have demonstrated an advantage over men in tests of fluency, speaking, sentence complexity, analogy, listening, comprehension of both written and spoken material, vocabulary, and spelling.

(Chambers 1992: 199)

By contrast

men are more likely to stutter and to have reading disabilities. They are also much more likely to suffer aphasic speech disorders . . .

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