Linguistik online 5, 1/00

Gender, Status and Power in Discourse Behavior of Men and Women

Peter Kunsmann
Freie Universität Berlin


Sociolinguistic approaches to the relationship between gender and status/power analyze either linguistic or social and cultural phenomena in a given speech community. While in the former approach a gender pattern is observed regarding the use of language, this article is based on the latter approach. Discussing question tags and interruptions in speech situations an explanation is sought for the differential speech behavior of men and women, i.e. whether it is gender or status specific. To this end the dominance and difference hypotheses are explored, and a biological explanation is also offered. Both approaches are seen as providing a useful description for most interactions. However, it is suggested that the difference approach may provide a more viable base for behavioral changes. Efforts that result in raising the ethnolinguistic vitality of women in their subculture are seen to be a more fruitful undertaking than those focussing on status or power.

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