Gender Differences in Language
Jean Berko Gleason
In this chapter we explore gender differences in the development of language. Our primary aim is to describe how and why differences appear in the speech of young girls and boys. After this introduction, we undertake a short description of the language system itself, and its various components that might reflect gender differences. We then turn our attention to gender differences in the language of adults, because adult language represents the final target or endpoint for children's language development. In looking at the language of adults, we consider both stereotypical ideas that are commonly held about gender differences, as well actual differences that have been described in the literature. We also briefly discuss the varying theoretical perspectives that have been advanced to explain differences in men's and women's language. The next section presents data on the role biology may play in the development of gender differences in language. Here, we pay particular attention to differences in children's temperament, because these differences may play an important role in leading boys and girls to engage in divergent behaviors, which, in turn, lead to different experience with language.
We then review a number of studies that document differences in children's emerging language. We include individual studies, as well an important metaanalysis, to give the reader a sense of what the empirical data reveal. Our presentation is more illustrative than comprehensive, with the goal of providing clear examples of the current state of the field. Finally, we examine the social bases of