Men and women differ not only in human anatomy but also in their debates and remarks. According to studies, female and male phrases vary in terms of themes, type, usage, and content (Wolin & Korgaonkar, 2003). The previous study in this area has found that men are more directive and loquacious because they use non-standard ways and are more concerned with money, sports, politics, and industry. They also enjoy debating time, space, quantity, bodily gestures, perceptual qualities, and disruptive behavior. Men, on the other hand, are politer, more vocal, and more supportive. They also focus their talks more on their families and homes and emphasize more on feelings, interpretation, psychological state, and evaluation. Although it may not be concluded that gendered differences in communication apply across all the communities on a global scale, a more generalized approach will be used in this context.
Social differences exist between women and men. In an attempt to explain these gender differences, some theories have been proposed. Of all these, the most important are the dominance theory and the difference theory (Canary & Dindia, 2009). The latter theory suggests that both men and women belonging to one group tend to have differences in the ways they speak as long as they have different environmental and cultural niches. Sometimes, the theory is also referred to as a two-culture theory. Based on this theory, communication across the gender is regarded as bi-cultural or cross-cultural communication. The dominance theory, on the other hand, builds on a condition in which the two sexes in a linguistic and cultural environment where inequality is witnessed in social status and power (Sidanius et al., 2004). It is also referred to as power based theory. It focuses on gender division and predominance of men in the society. These theories attempt to explain the effect of culture and environment on men and women speeches in different regions and contexts. However, to avoid broadening the scope of this report, only the difference theory will be considered more keenly in details.
The difference theory is based on the studies done by John Gumperz. The theory was later developed Deborah Tannen who drew more from the work of Ruth Borker and Daniel Maltz (Tannen, 2013). This approach is often compared with three other theories among them is the dominance theory. The theory explains various aspects pertaining differences in gendered communication. A description of these elements is given below.
The first one is on status and support. Tannen (2013) suggests that men perceive the world from a completion point of view. It is a place where speeches and conversation are principal means of building one’s status. On the other hand, women see the world as an interconnected network and language is a primary tool used for seeking support. She uses an example of herself and the husband to illustrate this concept. In this case, they were both working, but in different stations. In this case, Tannen (2013) says that the comments made by people about this situation appeared to her as offers of support and sympathy. However, the husband took the comments as attempts to pin him down and criticisms. Therefore, this gives a clear indication of how men and women view support and status. Also, men often interrupt and compel to get the point accepted with the aim of gaining status.
The second aspect has to do with intimacy and independence. This theory generalizes men as people who prefer to have independence whereas women would opt for intimacy. Tannen (2013) gives a demonstration of this by using a husband who acts without seeking advice from the wife. This portrays the desire for independence by men. On the other hand, women would always want to consult from their spouses as a sign of intimacy (Tannen, 2013). As a result, even in conversation and speeches, the two concepts take the center space of both men and women.
The final item in this theory focuses on conflict and compromise. Tannen (2013) suggests that women try to avoid linguistic conflicts by all means. This implies that they tend to resolve disputes without directly confronting with the aim of maintaining rapport and mutual connection. Contrary to this, confrontation is a possible means that men would use in conflict resolution. Tannen (2013) asserts that both ways are the possible methods of forming bonds and creating involvement. Therefore, women tend to compromise whereas men will confront directly in the event of a conflict.
In conversations where both genders are involved, research done by some scholars has shown that men tend to speak more than women. As earlier stated, when the conversation is among men alone, the matters of discussion involve competitive issues, gambling, business, technology, aggression, and sports (Björkqvist, 2014). Likewise, when women are conversing amongst themselves, the subject of discussion includes self, home, affiliation, family, and feelings about others. When the interaction is on a cross gender level, men often take the initiative of sparking the conversation. They also adjust their tone to give room for cooperation with the topics at hand to encourage the female counterparts to contribute to the discussion. In this case, men press down their ego and tend to speak less competitively and aggressively (Björkqvist, 214). Women tend to reduce their focus on feeling, families, and homes. As a result, in such conversations, both males and females attempt to adjust to fit perfectly in the context.
Furthermore, there is a difference in voice intensities of both men and women in speeches and conversations (Tannen, 2009). Male voices undisputedly exhibit differences regarding verbal skills and other qualities of voice from the female counterparts. Scholarly researchers have shown that variations in the voice quality could be attributed to the social beliefs on how male and female voices are expected to sound when talking. This means that how individuals are brought up significantly affects the verbal skills. Other studies reveal that the differences in the speech of both men and women involve phonological features of language that can be distinguished clearly in different languages (Tannen, 2009). As a result, the differences can be seen and better explained by how the language is used in social context by both sexes. Women tend to speak less forceful than men which earn them a quality of politeness over men. The features of a language used by men sound straight forward, adult-like, and assertive whereas women use hyper-polite, non-assertive, hyper-formal, and immature (Tannen, 2009). All these features wrapped up together result in differences in voice intensities for male and female.
Similarly, there is a difference in rules observed by men and women during conversations in which different views exist regarding different norms. For example, men perceive questions as a quest to seek for more information or clarification whereas women perceive them as a means of maintaining the conversation. Also, to women, an aggressive linguistic behavior is taken as disruptive, personally directed, and negative. For men, such action is seen as a strategic means of reorganizing a conversation (Björkqvist, 2014). For matters pertaining advice giving and problem sharing, women will be open to sharing, seek reassurance, and share freely while men seek for solutions and lecture their audience from an advisory point of view (Danesi, 2015). All these characteristics define the rules that men and women observe when taking part in a conversation or giving a speech.
Besides, women often use humor as a way of creating a gaiety and relaxed atmosphere filled with joy and excitement. This is usually accompanied by an abrupt surge of laughter and giggles in the course of conversation. Contrary to this, men may use humor, but not as frequent as the opposite counterparts (Danesi, 2015). Consequently, for men, there is a tendency for one speaker to take the dominance of the conversation and involve lengthy talks and utterances about a given subject of discussion. On the other hand, women often use short statements and their topics changes within a concise period. It is believed that the reason behind the frequent switch of topics in women conversations is to increase the chances of humor in a discussion. Therefore, humor is an important feature in women discussions than in men’s (Hay, 2003).
However, with all the different linguistic features between women and men discussed in this paper, there are exceptional instances where both gender show similarities. For instance, use of direct speech is a preference to both genders. Similarly, the frequency of fillers, affirmatives, intensifiers, and hedges do not always vary widely. These show that there are similar aspects in the language features of both sexes.
The paper has explained the differences inherent in the linguistic features of how men and women use language. Though there are similarities in speech directness, notable differences are seen in the use of questions, politeness, topics of discussion, and humor (Hay, 2003). Nevertheless, there are negligible differences in the use of fillers, intensifiers, affirmatives, and hedges. These variations apply to all men and women except individual cases based on ethnicity and geographical differences (Danesi, 2015). Understanding these differences in speech is important because it enables people to understand one another and develop effective cross gender communication. As a result, the paper is relevant not only for academic purposes but also for social enlightenment.
Björkqvist, K. (2014). Sex differences in physical, verbal, and indirect aggression: A review of recent research. Sex roles, 30(3), 177-188.
Canary, D. J., & Dindia, K. (Eds.). (2009). Sex differences and similarities in communication. Routledge.
Danesi, M. (2015). Language, society, and new media: Sociolinguistics today. Routledge.
Hay, J. (2010). Functions of humor in the conversations of men and women. Journal of pragmatics, 32(6), 709-742.
Sidanius, J., Pratto, F., Van Laar, C., & Levin, S. (2004). Social dominance theory: Its agenda and method. Political Psychology, 25(6), 845-880.
Tannen, D. (2009). Women And Men In Conversation Deborah Tannen. The workings of language: From prescriptions to perspectives, 211.
Tannen, D. (Ed.). (2013). Gender and conversational interaction. Oxford University Press.
Wolin, L. D., & Korgaonkar, P. (2003). Web advertising: gender differences in beliefs, attitudes and behavior. Internet Research, 13(5), 375-385.