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With the general growth of feminist work in many academic fields it is hardly surprising that the relationship between language and gender has attracted considerable attention in recent years In an attempt to go beyond folklinguistic assumptions about how men and women use language the assumption that women are talkative for example studies have focused on anything from different syntactical phonological or lexical uses of language to aspects of conversation analysis such as topic nomination and control interruptions and other interactional features While some research has focused only on the description of differences other work has sought to show how linguistic differences both reflect and reproduce social difference Accordingly Coates 1988 suggests that research on language and gender can be divided into studies that focus on dominance and those that focus on difference Much of the earlier work emphasized dominance Lakoffs 1975 pioneering work suggested that womens speech typically displayed a range of features such as tag questions which marked it as inferior and weak Thus she argued that the type of subordinate speech learned by a young girl will later be an excuse others use to keep her in a demeaning position to refuse to treat her seriously as a human being 1975 p5 While there are clearly some problems with Lakoffs work - her analysis was not based on empirical research for example and the automatic equation of subordinate with weak is problematic - the emphasis on dominance has understandably remained at the Centre of much of this work Research has shown how men nominated topics more interrupted more often held the floor for longer and so on see for example Zimmerman and West 1975 The chief focus of this approach then has been to show how patterns of interaction between men and women reflect the dominant position of men in society Some studies however have taken a different approach by looking not so much at power in mixed-sex
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