Theories of gender and power differences: A discussion

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Jariah Mohd. Jan


Early studies on gender differences in conversation focused on differences
between male and female conversational styles. For nearly all of
these issues of stylistic and conversational differences, there are many
some contradictory findings, and it seems that one must look closely at
the nature of the circumstances in order to predict how men and women
will behave verbally.
This paper discusses the theories of gender and power differences
namely deficit, dominance and sub-cultural as proposed by researchers
in the field of language and gender. Most recent research into gender
and language challenges the dominant sex-difference oriented approaches.
which maintain that women are different from men, whether
essentially or by socialisation (e.g., Coales, 1986). This sex-difference
view either condemns women's different speech as socially dysfunc-
tional and deficient (e.g., Lakoff, 1975), or embraces it as a 'different but
equally valid' culture (e.g., Tannen, 1990). the 'different and deficient'
approach is criticised for implying that, to improve their social status,
individual women should transform their style, and adjust themselves
to men's linguistic nouns. Nevertheless, in principle, it is clear that in
many circumstances, women and men have access to the same set of
linguistic and conversational devices, and tend to use them differently
but for the same purposes. Apparent differences in usage reflect differences
in status and in goals.


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How to Cite
Jan, J. M. (2017). Theories of gender and power differences: A discussion. Journal of Modern Languages, 15(1), 121–133. Retrieved from