One question that has remained rhetorical in various subfields of linguistics concerns the reason why women are considered to be fluent and efficient when it comes to public speaking as opposed to men. Whether women are more efficient when it comes to speech remains to be a question that is subject to debate. The rationale behind the observation is that historical data has documented a number of men who have emerged as great orators.
If at all there are variations in the manner in which men and women speak, then what are the attributes that make men to speak differently from men? A substantial number of researchers in the field of language have tried to establish the differences in the factors that motivate speech and language in both men and women.
In which aspects of language can the differences in speech be detected between the spoken language in men and women? A lot of attempts are being made to bring out and justify the differences in speech between men and women. The researchers try to go beyond the vocal and tone attributes in unearthing things that affect the verbal codes in men and women.
In this paper, it is argued that there is a wide range of factors that can be used to justify the differences in speech between men and women. According to Aries (1996), speech is one of the main areas in which men and women vary. This implies that the interaction between males and females results in lots of differences in speech and other attributes of interaction between the two genders.
It is argued by a substantial number of researchers in the field of language that the variation in speech between men and women is attributed to three critical factors. These include: the psychological attributes of men and women, the physical make up of men and women and the interactive forces like gender stereotypes. These attributes can be further sub-divided into mini-attributes, each of which depicts its influence on speech and communication in male and female genders in a given society.
This paper explores the variations in speech between men and women. Of greater essence in the paper is the unearthing of different features that cause the variations in the way men and women speak. The paper is divided into three main sections that are bound to explicitly exhaust the critical points. This paper begins with an overview of the differences in speech between people of the male gender and those of the female gender.
This is meant to open into the critical factors that justify the variations in speech between men and women, which form the second part of the paper. The third part of the discussion dwells on the external factors and how they shape the aspects of communication in men and women. The nature of speech and the attachment of meaning on the speech that is made by the male and female genders are discussed under this section.
An overview of the differences in speech and communication
According to Mulac and Lundell (1982), the differences between the attributes of language in men and women have been widely researched by a substantial number of scholars. The differences in men and women syntax and semantics are found in several studies of communication that cover both verbal and written aspects of language and communication.
The varied aspects of communication cover both group communication and dyadic communication. The issue of perception about the nature of speech is determined by the source and the receiver of the information. This means that the variations in the ways of speaking between men and women are affected or determined by the gender with which an individual is communicating to or communicating with.
While similar characteristics of speech feature in conversations, researchers have ascertained that the ways in which these features are used differ when they are applied to men and women. Women qualify their language in a different way from the way men qualify their language. The environment in which communication is taking place is also another plausible factor that results in profound differences in speech between men and women.
This is what makes some people to liken some features of speech to women, while others are attributed to the male gender. It is easy to qualify a speech from a man as a feminine speech because of the choice of words and the tone of language that is used by the speaker.
As observed in the introductory note, several questions are being asked concerning the variations that prevail in speech and communication between men and women. This denotes that variations in speech and other attributes of communication between people of the male gender and the female gender exist and ought to be explained by researchers.
Linguists have continuously made attempts to bring out the variations in speech between men and women. In his book titled “Duels and Duets: why men and women talk so differently”, Locke, who is a renowned researcher in the field of linguistics at Lehman College argued that men and women possess different attributes of speech that are founded in the evolutionary needs.
The variation in the evolutionary needs between men and women is one of the critical factors that shape language and speech in men and women groups in the society. Society has moulded most of the forces that enhance the differences in the attributes and patterns of speech and communication between men and women (Hunter, Gambell & Randhawa, 2005).
Locke (2006) suggests that antagonistic speech among men is meant to showcase dominance and strength over their female counterparts. The antagonistic speech is derived from the ‘duels’. Conversely, the use of calm speech among woman is a tool that enhances bonding between women. Women use the bonds to protect themselves from the aggression that comes from the dominance of men.
Locke observed that this trend in speech between men and women has endured for many years (Locke, 2011). This is backed by Chrisler and McCreary (2010), who observed that there are a substantial number of differences in speech between men and women. Therefore, gender and language have historical connectedness that is founded in the variations between the needs, perceptions and attitudinal set-ups between men and women.
Whether it is language or gender that affects the other is still a subject of research for the contemporary researchers in linguistics. However, it is worth noting that a substantial number of researchers have established the interconnectedness of gender differences and their impact on speech and language on men and women (Dindia & Canary, 2006).
According to Locke, language has a grater force of attachment on the social variations and physical make-up of men and women. The coexistence of men and women necessitates men and women to act differently, an aspect that brings out the variation in language (Palomares, 2009).
Some of the historical factors that form a vast amount of research work by Locke point to the impact of social and psychological issues as part of the critical influencers of the gap that prevails in language and overall communication patterns as depicted in female and male communication. The differences in the patterns of speech and communication in male and feminine groups have prevailed across different generations in different societies across the world.
What can be derived from this observation is that there are a number of natural as well as developmental aspects that affect the language and models of communication between the male gender and the female gender (Hunter, Gambell & Randhawa, 2005). This again raises the question on whether the significant part of the variation in speech between men and women is influenced by the societal forces or the genetic and generic attributes in men and women.
Both genders have an effect on the speech trends of each gender (Yaeger-Dror, 1998). More often than not, the manner in which women speak is shaped by the influence or the pressure that is asserted on them by men. The pressure may be physical, or such pressure is considered psychological in several instances. It arises from the long held perceptions about the roles and position of men and women in the society.
An example of such perceptions is the long held assumption that men are more powerful than women and that women have to be considerate when addressing people, especially when addressing a population that is comprised of men. Understanding the gender differences and the influence of power and roles of gender in the society can be understood from the perspective of group studies in schools.
Female students tend to be more passive in group conversations that comprise of male students. This portrays the sense of less power and inferiority (O’Donnell & Smagorinsky, 1999). This elicits two possible attributes of speech by women; they might either speak in an authoritative way as a point of disapproving the power and dominance from men, or speak in a calm way as an indicator of subjecting themselves to the power and dominance of men in the society (Yaeger-Dror, 1998)
. These two trends of speech are common in the contemporary society where women are seeking to embrace an equal position like that occupied by men in the society (Thomas & Wareing 1999). The differences in speech between men and women have also been featured in research about authors. Research has denoted that female authors make use of hedges in their works more than their male counterparts.
Examples of hedges include “I think, kind of, and like” among many others. From these findings, it is argued that the attitudes of the society about men and women shape the nature of language that is used by either gender in their work. The characteristics of the female and male speech styles in the pieces of writing are reflectors of the social differences between men and women as exemplified by the society (Frank & Anshen, 1983).
The variation of aspects of speech and language by women and men is identified through the choice of words and the tone of speech that is used in the pieces of work that are written by each gender (Rogers, 2011). An exploration of diverse forms of writing works reveals that women make use of hedges and tag questions as strategies of communication.
Anxiety and hesitation is felt by women in diverse social contexts. This forces them to adjust by using the attributes of speech that can help to draw away the anxiety (Randall, 2007). Women often feel powerless, making them yearn for support from men. Therefore, male speakers are presented in the pieces of conversation in female authored pieces of works in order to fill the vacuum that is left by the speech attributes of women.
The statements of male speakers portray confidence and dominance, and they are also abrupt. This denotes the gap that prevails in speech between men and women (Baranauskienė & Adminienė, 2012). According to Tannen (1990), the gender differences in speech and language reflect the cross-cultural differences that come from the norms that are set by the society.
The norms have a remarkable impact on the choice of language by both genders. The use of a certain language or tone of speech that is not attributed to a given gender by the norms of the society evokes a given response from the society since it is considered to be a deviation from the norms and expectations of the society.
Li (2007) observed that language and the form of speech that is used by a given gender has a close relation with the behaviour and personality of each gender in the society. Culture is the main factor from which the behaviours and the choice and development of speech by men and women are moulded.
Differences in speech between men and women
Attributes of speech for both men and women are featured in both collective conversations and individual conversations (Todd, 1992). Do the variations in speech between men and women come out in cross-gender communication, or are they also depicted in communication that entails people of the same gender? According to Locke (2011), there are a lot of differences in the verbal cues between men and women.
These differences come out in both cross-gender communication and communication between people of the same gender. Therefore, it can be said that gender characteristics affect the way in which women communicate with other women, and the way women communicate in groups that entail men. Women are bound to seek for a common ground when communicating with other women.
They often produce remarks that are overlapping when they are communicating. Women often aid each other to finish or advance conversations. This is referred to as co-authoring. Women also tend to speak in an animated way with wide variations in their vocal pitch, denoting change or switching of emotions in speech (Rogers, 2011). Women-only conversations are filled with small conversations that are based on personal experiences.
Personality differences between genders increase the differences in the way men and women speak (Kunsmann, 2001). According to Moore (2007), there is a variation in the levels of emotional orientation in men and women. These levels of emotional orientation have an impact on the way men and women speak in different occasions.
The reason why women are used in advertising and marketing more than men is that they can easily switch between their emotions and adjust the way in which they speak. This is intensely discussed in social psychology (Fisher & Dube, 2005). Fischer et al. (2004) observed that that the final results of the synthesis of emotions are reflected in the way a person brings out a point in speech.
Speech is the final indicator of the rate at which a given person can manipulate emotions. The great variation in speaking by men and women entails what men and women like to speak about. The choice of topic is a detector of the kind of language that is embraced by a given gender. Women will often select personal topics as such topics give them a chance to express their emotions in the presence of both genders.
On the other hand, men opt for impersonal topics. Such topics are based on facts and actual knowledge and evoke fewer emotions (Thomas & Wareing, 1999). According to Jacobs and Townsley (2011), women elongate their conversations because of their ability to speak frequently. This is closely associated to the kind of subjects or topics of conversation that they choose.
The word ‘gossip’ has often been associated with women conversations. According to Rogers (2011), this word portrays the way in which women attest to the moral code of the society. Studies about gossip within women groups denote a number of moral issues that are deliberated by women. These include “bad mothering, promiscuity, and bad housekeeping by other women” (Rogers, 2011).
There is a psychological attachment of other women to these behaviours. The argument behind the observation is that women are highly sensitive when it comes to issues or behaviours by other women that are bound to impact negatively on them. For example, women see promiscuous women as threats to their families and will often gossip about any woman who portrays promiscuity, whether they are fully informed or whether they hear it from other unconfirmed sources.
Therefore, while gossiping is seen as a negative attribute of speech in women, it has a profound inclination in psychological studies about the attributes of speech in women (Rogers, 2011). On the other hand, men often make use of a coarse language while engaging in conversations with other men. The form of speech that is embraced in manly conversations is stylized, symbolic and playful in its own sense.
In most instances, the style of speech that is used by men, especially in informal conversations, may seem to be abusive or full of vulgar language. However, it serves a purpose of easing conversations by evoking a sense of humour. This is referred to as snipping, which some people call duelling. For instance, it is common to hear men calling each other “old dog” or “fucking son of a bitch”.
More often than not, men make use of statements that are full of insults as complements in their conversations. One reason why this kind of language is utilized in men groups is that manly conversations do not entail emotions (Rogers, 2011). Men hardly bring out their emotions in conversations. This is also a psychological aspect that denotes the position and role of men in the society.
Men are charged with the role of protecting and defending the entire society, including women and children. Therefore, the physical expression of emotions can be an indicator of weakness and inability of men to discharge this role. What ought to be asked at this juncture is the reason why women cannot sustain their conversations in the way men do.
It is argued that women can rarely use statements that have insults in their conversations. When such statements are used in women conversations’, they result in other conversations. This comes out as gossip and may easily result in differences and reduce the level of conformity in groups. For men, everything that is uttered in their conversations often ends there and it does not form subject for extended discussions like it is with women.
This is the reason as to why women mostly make use of soft and enticing language in their conversations. The use of soft language is used as an indicator of the position of women in the society, as well as a factor that helps women cope with their personality (Li, 2007).
According to Holmes (1995), women mostly make use of solidarity marker “you know” as a way of embracing politeness and softness in their speech. This is often used in conversations that entail people who know each other. This emphasizes the sense of shared knowledge between or among the people who are conversing. Men also tend to use the same solidarity marker, but in a different degree or for different purposes.
Therefore, it takes a keen observation for one to bring out the variations in speech between men and women, especially in conversations where similar styles of communication are used by men and women (Pisoni & Remez, 2005).
The impact of external environment on the attributes of speech
Research shows that the society and culture play critical roles in shaping the way men and women speak. From this, it can be said that the external environment has a profound influence on gender variations in the ways of speaking. The first critical finding in most of the studies and researches on issues of language and speech show that women affect the way men speak and vice versa.
The presence of a given gender in a conversation platform can significantly affect the way a given person speaks. This is exemplified in the choice of words, the tone and pitch of voice, and the other non-verbal attributes of language used in the conversation. Women are bound to overtake each other’s talk as opposed to men in conversations that include members of the same gender only.
With women, arguments are more pronounced in group conversations, meaning that several speakers can speak at the same time without them considering this to be an infringement on the right of a given person to speak. Cooperation and collaboration in speech are highly embraced by women. Men value intimacy and orderliness. This makes men more organized in conversations as opposed to women (Thomas & Wareing, 1999).
The way men and women speak is determined by the people or kinds of audiences that they are speaking to. Research has shown that women choose different styles of speaking from those that are used by men in public communication. The evident question in linguistics, especially in the assessment of gender characteristics in public communication concerns which gender is best in public speaking.
According to Goddess (2013), men tend to use a descriptive language in public speaking, while women tend to be more explanatory in their speech. Goddess (2013) noted several factors that shape the choice of language by men and women in public speaking. These include gender differences, power imbalance, personality variations, and the perception of the society.
It is critical to factor in the issue of age and regional differences when talking about the impact of gender differences on speaking styles of men and women. There are significant differences between verbal cues as used by people depending on the set up under which they have been brought up.
According to Anderson and Lockowitz (2009), the choice of verbal cues by adult males and female is derived from the culture of language acquisition that they are exposed to in their childhood. This means that language and speech are things that are moulded in children as they grow up. It is important to differentiate the influences of regions in verbal communication.
In a similar sense, the variations in the style of male and female languages are more pronounced and can be easily singled out. Research denotes the difficulty in public speaking ratings between male and female speakers. The overall rating of competencies in speech between male and female speakers is affected by different factors that are shaped by the sexual attributes of each gender.
The ratings in the evaluations are based on the known and easily identifiable attributes of speech by each gender. Therefore, it can be argued that the trends and patterns of language and speech as exemplified in public speaking are largely affected by gender differences. Gender differences is an aspect of assessment since it automatically brings out the expectations of variations in speech and language (Selinow & Treinen, 2004).
Fazackerley (2006) observed that the society has kept pressure on different genders, thereby determining the manner in which they express their views in the society. Fazackerley observed that there is a significant level of variation on the attitudes of male and female tutors in educational setups.
It comes out that female lecturers tend to be more tensed while presenting academic papers and portray lower levels of confidence as opposed to male lecturers. This emanates from the fact that academic environments are often inclusive in that they contain both men and women, thus the mere presence of men elicits the aspect of inferiority in women.
Women are bound to feel undermined when arguing before men. This often results in the use of weak language; a language that lacks authority and command in what they are speaking about. However, there are other situations where there are attempts by women to try and go against the societal influence on language and speech on gender. Women tend to adjust their tone and increase the level of authority in such scenarios.
Nonetheless, this is easily identified and it may undermine the quality of public speaking by women if overused. According to Kisselev, Brown and Brown (2010), language and the style of speaking denotes the embrace of gender roles in the society. Therefore, a change or a complete adjustment in speech and language by a given gender is a sign of the defiance of the gender roles and may result in intra-group or inter-group gender conflicts.
Variations in speech between men and women are maintained across a substantial number of communities even amidst the impact of language acculturation. The main influence of language acculturation is that it induces some attributes of speech and communication that help to increase the level of social and even economic integration of newer groups of people in a given community (Remennick, 2004).
Therefore, the nature of language that is used by immigrants in a given community does not depict the change in speech patterns as such, but it portrays the need to adapt to the new culture as exemplified by the new economic and social environment in that community (Kang, 2006; Remennick, 2005).
This paper sought to explore the variations in speech and language between men and women. The research conducted in this paper reveals that there exists profound differences between men and women, as far as speaking is concerned. According to the research, men and women speak differently.
The differences in speech between men and women emanate from the physical differences as well as the social attributes of linguistics. These differences are elaborately explored in sociolinguistics. Gender differences that are brought about by the organization of the society play a great role in separating the styles of speech and language for men and women.
Men and women have different personalities that are shaped by their genetic makeup and the influence of the society. Therefore, the choice of language by men and women results from the summation of personality attributes and gender differences in the society. Gender and personality will continue to exhibit great variation in the attributes of speaking between men and women.
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