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It has been claimed that language plays a key role in sustaining inequality between the sexes (Coates 1993). Do you agree?

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Introduction

Language, Society and Power ELA020C013A Emma Lomas Assignment Two It has been claimed that language plays a key role in sustaining inequality between the sexes (Coates 1993). Do you agree? Inequality between the sexes is a very important issue in society and language plays an important role in sustaining the inequality. Language and identity are very personal topics and are well researched and debated. "Speech is an act of identity: when we speak, one of the things we do is identify ourselves as male or female." (Coates, 1986: 161) Inequality between the sexes in society can be seen in the fact that men still have the majority of highly paid jobs. Men are physically stronger but also have more power in terms of employment and politics for example. The male of the species in general still holds a higher position in society, although the situation for women has improved over the past twenty years and this is reflected in the language we have and use. Language is sustaining the inequality and it can be seen as sexist towards women for many reasons. ...read more.

Middle

It is recently more common for women to cross over and start using language previously used by men, including swearing but there is not the cross over of men starting to use more "women's language" such as descriptive adjectives for feelings. This reflects the situation in society with women starting to take on jobs that were previously considered to be "male" but there are not so many men taking jobs considered to be "female". The idea of a restricted word choice for "women's language" highlights the inequality between the sexes. "Words restricted to "women's language" suggest that concepts to which they are applied are not relevant to the real world of (male) influence and power." (Lakoff: 1975, 13) Talk between women is often belittled by the names that it is given. Words such as gossip and chatter would never be used for an all male conversation but it is used for female conversation, which implies that the talk is of little importance but dragged out. Conversation between mixed groups often shows results of male dominance, which contradicts the general opinion that women talk more than men. ...read more.

Conclusion

For example there has been a great increase in the number of women taking up powerful and well-paid jobs, which is minimising inequality, language plays a role in undermining this situation. There has always been debate and confusion over terms such as policewoman, the suffix of -ess as in actress, and chairwoman. The introduction of the politically correct terms such as chairperson leads to negative feeling and many politically correct terms are mocked. Words such as actor, which are supposed to be unmarked and replace the marked equivalent, actress, are not always used and are often preceded by lady or female which is highlighting the fact that there is still inequality in language. "Linguistic imbalances are worthy of study because they bring into sharper focus real-world imbalances and inequalities. (Lakoff: 1975, 43) The English language has many imbalances that we have seen, such as asymmetry, use of politeness and swearing, men and women's conversational differences and the imbalance of negative connotations for women. This all highlights that there are still some imbalances in some people's attitudes and it will be a long time before certain things change such as the availability of a neutral term like Ms without a negative stigma being attached to it. ...read more.

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