Thesis Proposal -examining gender differences in the use of spoken language.
• Name of course: Research Methodology
• Thesis proposal title: Communicative sex differences
• Date: December 2nd, 2012
From many years ago, men and women have experimented differences in the way of speaking. Sometimes, if you behave in different way from your sex you can feel discriminated or a strange person. The fact that you belong to a kind of sex; does it force men and women to behave and speak in certain way?
Importance of Research
This research will affect an important characteristic of humans being: communication. As we know, people use it to express things such as feelings, ideas and opinions. Also, it is vital in order to interact with other people. However, we usually make some differences between genders in communication; this is why we are going to research about the differences between men and women and find if the fact that you belong to a kind of sex forces men and women to behave and speak in certain way. It is important to research because differences between genders make generalization that cannot be necessary and it helps us to know what variances are real.
Significant Existing Research
One of the main characteristics of humans being is the ability to communicate. It occurs when two or more people share information about any topic. It sharing happens by talking, texting or writing each other. Also, it allows us social interaction in order to be successful and understood. Communication may be intentional or unintentional, may involve conventional or unconventional signals, may take linguistic or nonlinguistic forms, and may occur through spoken or other modes. However, women and men have different ways to communicate; the biggest one is that women express their ideas in long sentences, so they use more words than men, although this does not mean that all men and all women present this characteristic, some of them do not fit in any gender or fit in both.
It is really important to analyze this difference, because it can help us to find if the fact that you belong to a kind of sex forces men and women to behave and speak in certain way and as future teachers know how to explain in the better way for both men and women.
Men and women have many differences in how their communicate each other. May be one of the most well known books about this is “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” wrote by Gray; (1995) it talks about men and women are from different planets. They have different needs, objectives, values, and communication styles. The author declares that understanding these differences is the essential to successful relationships. Although he explains a lot reason that coincides with other authors, but not everyone agrees with him. This is because if there may be average tendencies in some general characteristics that they suggest, these generalizations certainly do not apply to all men and all women. There are some communicative characteristics in which men coincide with women´s characteristics and there are some in which women coincide with men´s.
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Cameron (2007) argued about "The myth of Mars and Venus" as the proposition that men and women differ fundamentally in the way they use language to communicate, and she summarized these five basic claims: Women talk more than men, women are more verbally skilled than men, men's goals in using language tend to be about getting things done, whereas women's tend to be about making connections to other people, men's way of using language is competitive, reflecting their general interest in acquiring and maintaining status; women's use of language is cooperative, reflecting their preference for equality and harmony, and finally, these differences routinely lead to "miscommunication" between the sexes, with each sex misinterpreting the other's intentions, and this causes problems in contexts where men and women regularly interact, and especially in heterosexual relationships. To support this idea, she cited a popular science book called The Female Brain (2006). In this work was observed that women on average utter 20,000 words a day, while men on average utter only 7,000. She believes that it confirmed the popular belief that women are more talkative than men. Liberman (2006) in his research also cited this book and gave a set of references in her end-notes, but none of them support those numbers. On the other hand, although Liberman thinks that there is a tremendous amount of individual variation about sex and talkativeness, and each person talks less o more depending on mood and context, he averaged out that a woman can effortlessly speak an average of 6,000-8,000 words a day. She uses additional 2,000-3,000 vocal sounds to communicate, as well as 8,000-10,000 facial expressions, head movements, and other body language signals. This gives her a daily average of more than 20,000 communications. Some differences that he described in his article are the following:
Male-FemaleTime speaking: speech initiations; male 28% female 40%, looking while speaking: male 12.9% Female 14%, rate of gesturing: male 59% female 44%, frequency of self-touching; male 13% female 10%, frequency of laughing; male 6% female 4%. Although he does not believe in that all men and all women have the same results, he tries to average according to his research in order to give some references.
On the other hand, Lieberman (2003) states that although it is known that women and men come from different planets and have their own culture, the reality is that both groups live in the same planet and interact each other every day. There are many people who possess almost none of the characteristics attributed to their sex. She recognizes that exits certainly male and female culture norms that distinguish each gender, but also recognizes that many people don’t fit the mold. While we mention certain styles male and certain styles female because research has shown that different ways of thinking, processing, perceiving and behaving is present in at least 55% of the men and women population, there is a 45% that may not fit the description. Finally she says that we have to be aware that few people are all one way or all the other way and most of us have used the other sex style at different times.
It means that culture is really important in the main characteristics of each gender and how it affect person as “individuals”. Ehrlich (2004) showed that friendliness is an intrinsic characteristic of individuals; rather than it becomes connected to femininity because women are more often associated with situations or contexts that are friendly.
Erlich (2004) goes beyond, and contents that the relationship between language and gender is almost always mediated by social activities or practices, is a point probably first made in the language and gender literature by Ochs (1992, p. 340) when she claimed that “few features of language directly and exclusively index gender.” For Ochs, a direct indexical relationship between linguistic forms and gender is exemplified in personal pronouns that denote the sex/gender of an interlocutor. To say, by contrast, that language indirectly indexes gender is to say that the relationship is mediated by the social stances, acts, activities, and practices (e.g., friendly activities) that are gendered in a particular community. Consider further the example of tag questions in English: tag questions may display or index a stance of uncertainty or tentativeness, as Lakoff (1975) suggested, and, in turn, a stance of uncertainty may in some English-speaking communities be associated with femininity. It is in this sense that a linguistic form, such as a sentence-final particle or a tag question, could be said to indirectly index femininity.
In other words, society knows and makes clear differences between both genders, in the research made by Cameron (2007), there is an example of a manager of a call centre in England; he was asked by an interviewer why women made up such a high proportion of the agents he employed. The manager replied that any vacancies attracted numerous applicants of both sexes, but he explained: "We are looking for people who can chat to people, interact, and build rapport. We find that women can do this more ... women are naturally good at that sort of thing."
Finally, Erlich (2004) cited works made by Maltz and Borker (1982), and later Tannen (1990), who suggested that women and men, as members of different cultural groups, learn different communicative styles because of the segregated girls’ and boys’ peer groups they play in as children. Indeed, women are said to develop cooperative speech styles because of the non-hierarchical nature of all-girl groups, whereas men are said to develop competitive speech styles because “boys play in larger, more hierarchically organized groups than do girls” (Maltz & Borker, 1982).
According to all researches that we have shown here, we can conclude men and women have different ways to communicate and express each other. Females and males have a kind of culture norms where we can identify typical attitudes of each one. But it does not mean that all men and all women are different, sometimes we can find with men who have female´s attitudes, women with male´s, and even we can find people who do not fit in any gender or in both them. Although the majority of authors did a list with the obvious behavior of each gender, all of them agree with we should not make generalizations because all of us are different from others, all of us have particular characteristics and we are uniques. An important conclusion is that these generalizations can force to men behave or speak in certain way just for belonging to a gender and it happens with women as well. As an example, we can mention that men's way of using language is competitive, reflecting their general interest in acquiring and maintaining status; women's use of language is cooperative, reflecting their preference for equality and harmony. If none of the two follows that pattern they can be identified as an odd people and thus, the discrimination and/or stigma play an important role.
Possible Approach and Methodology
The information that will analyze in this survey is to investigate who uses more words, body language, facial expressions, head movements, etc., men or women. Another purpose is to know if they are aware of these differences. For this, we use a quantitative technique because it gives us more specific answers.
Mark your sex and answer the following questions
How many words do you usually use?
Do you express your emotions through language?
How often do you say swearwords?
How often do you use facial expressions, head movements and other body language signal?
Do you think that belonging to a gender forces you to behave and speak in certain way?
Do you think that women speak more than men?
Do you think that culture norms about gender regulate communication?
Do you think miscommunication is a consequence of differences of gender in communication?
Do you think that women are associated with more friendly communication?
What gender do you prefer in jobs like call centers?
Potential or Expected Outcomes of Research
Through this research and with the support of the survey we will expect to have the following outcomes:
It is known that men and women have experimented differences in the way of communication. Sometimes, you can feel discriminated if you do not communicate in the same way that your sex does. According to our research the society forces men and women to communicate in certain way according to the sex that each one belongs; this is why we did this research about the differences between men and women. It is important to research because differences between genders make generalization that cannot be necessary and it helps us to know what variances are real.
The information that we will obtain through the survey is who uses more words, body language, facial expressions, head movements, etc. And we expect that the majority of women use more the characteristics mentioned before and a minority of men as well. For this, we support the idea that we cannot generalize about what characteristics belong to only men and what characteristics belong to only women. And finally we expect to conclude that society forces to us to communicate in certain way according to our sex and it is who discriminates if we behave different.
Cameron, Debora (2007). What language barrier? The Guardian. Retrieved from
Liberman, Mark (2006). Sex differences in “communication events” per day? Language Lo. Retrieved from
Gray, John (1992). Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus: a practical guide for improving communication and getting what you want in relationships. New York: HarperCollins.
Lieberman, Simma (2003). Differences in Male and Female Communication Styles. The Inclusionist
Ehrlich, Susan. Language and gender. In: Elder, Catherine y Davies, Alan. The Handbook of Applied Linguistics. UK, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2004. Pp 307-309
Ehrlich, Susan. Language and gender. In: Elder, Catherine y Davies, Alan. The Handbook of Applied Linguistics. UK, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2004. Pp 314-318