Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Why Is Women's Studies and Gender Studies Important in Linguistics

As most of you know, I am an Interdisciplinary Linguistics graduate student. This course was not required for my major, I chose to take it because I felt it was important for me to get a greater understanding of exactly what women's studies was, in particular the theories and reasons behind it.

In my field of study, gender is extremely important. The study of gendered speech and how gender can affect the words we choose is being studied by many scholars. In many ways, gender and language is one of the most controversial topics out there, particularly in the field of sociolinguistics. The question of how to handle gender in relation to language, in particular since language cannot neatly be divided into male and female speech, is a tricky one, and many people are working on how (or if we should) be able to solve the problem of how to relate gender to language. It should be noted that I approach gender and language from a mostly sociolinguistic (which is a broad term) slant, because that is the class in which I studied gender and language the most.

Gender is important because it is one of the social factors that can affect your worldview. The way others speak to you and you speak to others is often coloured by gender, whether or not it is intentional.

In fact, in some languages, the very "words" themselves have grammatical gender!

Many theories as to the differences in "masculine" and "feminine" speech have been given, from Robin Lakoff's writing (Language and Woman's Place) about the special "woman's language" in 1975 to more recent writings such as Deborah Tannen's You're Wearing That?: Mothers and Daughters in Conversation, which explores the dynamics of mother-daughter conversations.

The bottom line of the last few paragraphs I have written is that in my field, gender permeates almost all of what we study, and is an important factor to take into consideration.

The class part of this blog is done, but I feel like I should continue to try to update it and do what I can to express my opinion as much as I can. After all, that right is what so many of my foremothers and forefathers fought for!

See You in Azeroth!