ANTH 252: Language and Gender

ANTH 252: Language and Gender


  • Bonvillain, N. (2001) Gender and Language. Chapter 10 of Women and Men: Cultural Constructs of Gender. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.   In course packet.   Monday 16 October.   Presented by Eddie.
  • Zubin, D. & Köpcke, K.-M. (1986). Gender and folk taxonomy: The indexical relation between grammatical and lexical categorization. In Craig, C. (Ed). Noun Classes and Categorization. Proceedings of a symposium on categorization and noun classification, Eugene, Oregon, October 1983. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company 1986.   In course packet.   Wednesday 18 October.
  • Inoue, M. (2004) What Does Language Remember? Indexical Inversion and the Naturalized History of Japanese Women. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 14, (1), 39-56.   Available here     Please also read this for background material.   Friday 20 October.     Presented by Alex.
  • Hall, K. (1995) Lip Service on the Fantasy Lines. In K. Hall and M. Bucholtz, eds., Gender Articulated: Language and the Socially Constructed Self. New York: Routledge, 183-216. (Reprinted 1998 in D. Cameron, ed., The Feminist Critique of Language, 2nd Edition. New York: Routledge, 321-342.   Availablehere    Monday 23 October.   Presented by Julie.

Guest Lecture

Dr. Ellen Contini-Morava, Anthropology Department, University of Virginia Topic TBA.

Assessment #2 Questions (due Friday 10 November)

  1. List some of the characteristics of “women’s speech” in Western cultures like ours, as described by Nancy Bonvillain.
  2. According to the experimental research cited by Bonvillain, are so-called “neutral” words like “men” (as in “all men are created equal”) and “his” (as in “Each student should take his book to class”) truly neutral?
  3. According to Zubin & Köpcke, what is the most consistent meaningful distinction made by grammatical gender in German — is it masculine vs. feminine, or something else? Give one example where the masculine/feminine distinction is used consistently. Is the generalization about the use of neuter gender 100% true, or are there exceptions (where neuter, masculine, and feminine are all used for similar words)? Why?
  4. What does Miyako Inouye mean by “indexical inversion”? What is the irony in the “naturalized history” that Japanese men have invented to account for women’s speech habits?
  5. How do the phone-sex workers interviewed by Kira Hall challenge the characterization (by Robin Lakoff and others) of women’s speech as powerless? Do you buy this story, or are things perhaps more complicated?
  6. What was the visually obvious way that the audience was able to identify the gender of the speakers in the dialogs presented by Ellen Contini-Morava? Were there any other cues?

Suggestions for Further Research

  • Linguist Deborah Tannen has written extensively on language and gender, in both scholarly and popular works. Read and discuss some of her writings, focusing on how they relate to the issues we have explored in class. Is it possible for a scholar to present her research to a popular audience without compromising or oversimplifying the important ideas?
  • Investigate the use of grammatical gender in a language with which you are familiar — one that you speak or have studied.
  • Investigate and report on the controversy surrounding the “sexist” use of English man (meaning “person”) and the masculine pronoun (in situations where no gender is implied). You may find this article to be a good starting point.