Academic journal article The Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education

Discourse Gender Differences between Native and Non-Native Speakers of English: Discourse Analysis of Male and Female Narrations of Recently Watched Movies

Academic journal article The Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education

Discourse Gender Differences between Native and Non-Native Speakers of English: Discourse Analysis of Male and Female Narrations of Recently Watched Movies

Article excerpt

1 Introduction

The nature of differences between men and women has always interested humankind. Since our birth we have participated in the process of gender identity acquisition through multiple social practices such as wearing a certain type of clothes, playing selected toys, and reading recommended books. These 'rituals' inevitably shape our society and enhance gender identity that further guides our life choices. There are choices that we make intentionally in order to meet society expectations. However, it is highly possible that gender identity could also guide some of our activities without our conscious consent. Normally, we do not pay attention to the way we talk, but our communication style might be correlated to our gender identity.

During the last several decades the great interest in nature and existence of differences between men and women has increased. Particular attention has been given to the extent to which males and females use language differently (Newman, Groom, Handelman, & Pennebaker 2008:211-236). The difference in discourse gender patterns can lead to mutual misunderstanding in the course of verbal interaction. Thus, it is important to perceive the existence of certain gender patterns and build our discourse correspondingly.

2 Language, gender, social influences and discourse

As stated by Newman, Groom, Handelman and Pennebaker (2008:211-236), men and women use language differently. Significantly, it is the process of socialization that plays an important role in shaping gender identities (Gee 1992:19; Rossetti 1998). In other words, the use of language is socially biased and highly dependent on the expectations of society (Tannen 1995:138-148). Girls and boys receive different upbringing, often reflected in their social roles and communicative styles (Rossetti 1998). Thus, through communication girls attempt to establish intimacy as a basis of friendship, while boys use language to establish their social status and hence try to accomplish different discourse goals (Rossetti 1998). Tannen (1995:138-148) highlights that males use a direct and forceful communicative style, while females have a more indirect and intimate style of interaction, which results from the perception of women's role (females are communal, embodying emotional expressiveness and focused on the needs of others) and men's role (males are agentive, requiring action, self-expression, and individuality). The majority of studies have shown the consensus in the fact that males, in comparison to females, tend to use language more for "instrumental purposes of conveying information", while women use it for "social purposes with verbal communication serving as the end in itself' (Newman et al. 2008:211-236).

The view which is followed in this paper defines discourse as social practice that determines the use of language in the light of social behaviour (Gee 1992:117; Schiffrin, Tannen, & Hamilton 2001: 538). Since gender identity depends on context (Masaitienė 2006: 295), it may be reasonable to expect that there will be gender differences in the discourse of native and non-native English language speakers (i.e. the contexts in which they learned the English language vary). To exemplify, the study of the discourse of native English speakers showed male dominance in the amount of talk (Masaitienė 2006:297), while the study of the discourse of non-native English speakers suggested female speaking time advantage. What is more, male non-native English speakers managed to utter more words per minute in all types of interactions, while female non-native English speakers tended to talk more only in mixed-gender conversations (Dobrica 2014:12). Dobrica (2014:20) and Masaitienė (2006:300-301) conclude that the discourse of both native and non-native English females strives to use collaboration and to build connections through interruptions and cooperative overlaps. Additionally, Dobrica (2014:21) states that native and non-native English speakers vary considerably in terms of exposing their gender identities in the course of communication. …

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