Thanks to an alert from coraa
, I went looking for material online by Deborah Tannen to see if I have been misstating her position on the reason for gender differences in male/female language behavior in American English. I found a lot of things that didn't clarify matters for me -- and then, at "Annotated Bibliography: Language, Gender, and Writing," I found an abstract and critique of Tannen's article titled "The Power of Talk: Who Gets Heard and Why," from the September/October 1995 Harvard Business Review
, pp.138-148. With this item (emphasis added by me):
"Tannen ... believes differences in linguistic styles is [sic] due to differences in socialization
. In her research, she found that girls tend to focus on building rapport in relationships, whereas boys focus on status in relationships, and these behaviors extend into the adult workplace."
The bibliography itself is at http://course1.winona.edu/pjohnson/gender/bibliography.htm
; the Tannen item is at http://course1.winona.edu/pjohnson/gender/tannen4.htm
It's possible that I've simply misunderstood and/or misinterpreted this aspect of Professor Tannen's work from the beginning, especially since I've had access to almost none of her scholarly
articles, where she would have had the freedom and space to define her terms rigorously without running into resistance from some publisher's publicity or marketing department; it's also possible that her position has changed over time. I've either been wrong about this all along or I haven't kept up to date. Either way, I stand corrected, I'm very pleased to know that Tannen does not
believe that gender differences in language behavior are biological, and I am grateful to coraa
for bringing that fact to my attention.
This doesn't mean that I agree with her conclusions about male/female language behavior in American English -- as I understand them -- any more than I ever did. (I still don't believe in the reality of a "male conversational style" and a "female conversational style" in American English, for example. And I'll come back to that in another post.) But it does remove one disagreement from the table. That won't matter to Tannen in any way, but it does matter to me.
While I was hunting for Tannen material online, I also found a few items that might interest you:
1. Article by Tannen from the June 24, 1990 Washington Post
, titled "Sex, Lies and Conversation; Why Is It So Hard for Men and Women to Talk to Each Other?" -- at http://www.georgetown.edu/faculty/tannend/sexlies.htm
2. An interesting set of abstracts for various works on gender and communication -- with particular emphasis on Internet and other e-communication -- at http://tags.library.upenn.edu/tag/linguistics
3. A long and detailed overview of research and literature on gender and language, at http://faculty.ed.umuc.edu/~jmatthew/articles/overview.html