Comparing the Production
of Power in Language
on the Basis of Sex
Lindsay M. Timmerman
In recent years the general public has developed a fascination with sex differences in communication. The extremely widespread popularity of Gray's (1992) book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, is evidence of this interest. Gray has since developed seminars, produced daily calendars, and written several bestselling books further elaborating on the subject. Gray's main contention is that men and women are from different planets, and therefore speak totally different languages. His books purport to decode those languages for the opposite sex to enhance relational communication. Gray is the most popular writer on sex differences in language production, it is true, but it should be noted that more academic authors have also investigated this topic.
Deborah Tannen is a linguistics professor, and cites scholarly research in her books, but has achieved popular acclaim as well. Tannen's (1990) book, You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, was a slightly more academic slant on the same idea, that men and women come from different worlds. She followed up with Talking From 9 to 5 (Tannen, 1994), which examined sex differences in communication at work. Both books were bestsellers. Although popular interest is recent, scholarly interest in the sex differences in language production is rooted in long-standing re-