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I was wondering whether there has been (generally) a feminisation of "men's language". Lakoff's claims in "women's and men's language" are almost half a century old and there have been contradictory and confirming studies (for sure context, interlocturor etc. are important factors). Lakoff claims are the following about "women's language" (Lakoff 2004:78-79):

  1. "women have a large stock of words related to their specific interests , generally relegated to them as "women's work": magenta, shirt, dart (in sewing), and so on. If men use the words at all, it tends to be tongue-in-cheek".

  2. "'empty' adjectives like divine, charming, cute...."

  3. "Question intonation where we might declaratives: for instance tag questions ("It's hit, isn't it?) and rising intonation in statement contexts ("What's your name, dear?" "Mary Smith?").

  4. "The use of hedges of various kinds. Women's speech seems in general to contain more instances of "well," "y'kmow,","kinda," and so forth:words that convey the sense that the speaker is uncertain about what he (or she) is saying [...]women do it more, precisely because they believe asserting them strongly isn't nice or ladlylike, or even feminine. Another manifestation of the same thing is the use of "I guess" and "I think" prefacing declarations or "I wonder" prefacing questions, which themselves are hedges on the speech-acts of saying and asking. [...] hedges, like question intonation, give the impression that the speaker lacks authority or doesn't know what he's talking about [...].

  5. "[...] intensive 'so' [...] more frequent in women's language, though certainly men can use it. Here we have an attempt to hedge on one's strong feelings, as though to say: I feel strongly about this - but I dare not make it clear HOW strong [...].

  6. "hypercorrect grammar: women are not supposed to talk rough. [...]"

  7. "Superpolite forms [...] speak more politely [...]"

  8. "Women don't tell jokes. As we shall see in a while this point is just an elaboration of the two immediately preceding. But it is axiomatic in middle class American society that, first women can't tell jokes - they are bound to ruin the punchline, they mix up the order of things, and so on. Moreover, they don't "get" jokes. In short women have no sense of humor"

  9. Women speak in italics, and the more ladylike and feminine you are, the more in italics you are supposed to speak, [...].

Lakoff's says this difference in language is due to the different position of men and women in society. Women are less likely to be taken seriously which is also reflected in their language use and a consequence of it. Howeve,she also states that academic men and upper class British men use more often "women's language" (2004: 47). Same with gay men. Holmes for example claims - as far as I remember it was in her #hedges and boosters paper (published in the 90s) that she couldn't find a difference between women and men using a different number of the linguistic devices.

Nevertheless, I was wondering whether there are some up-to-date studies about change in the language of men? I know I shouldn't generalise but I am talking about general tendencies in "men's language". The reason I am wondering about that is that femininity becomes more and more accpeted in society also amongst males, especially the more liberal people. Hence, the question about whether this is already observable in language use.

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    How does one "speak in italics"? – Luís Henrique Oct 5 '17 at 17:26
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    Is any of that actually measured from data in any objective way? Because if not I'm seeing severe issues with selection and confirmation bias. – melissa_boiko Oct 6 '17 at 9:56
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    @LuísHenrique: Apparently that's just Lakoffian for prosodic emphasis with pitch changes. – melissa_boiko Oct 6 '17 at 9:58
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    It stands to reason that if men's language can be "feminised", then the characteristics it is aquiring cannot be "feminine" to start with... – Luís Henrique Oct 6 '17 at 13:40
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    This is just the obvious reflection of Western gender roles into languages, and some are probably even restricted to a specific place and social strata. – Circeus Oct 6 '17 at 19:18
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These claims seem to be fantasies. Looking at them in detail,

  1. "women have a large stock of words related to their specific interests , generally relegated to them as "women's work": magenta, shirt, dart (in sewing), and so on. If men use the words at all, it tends to be tongue-in-cheek".

All people have large stockof words related to specific interests. When was the last time you heard "laparatomy" from the mouth of someone who was not a physician, veterinary, or otherwise related to medical professions?

It just happens that at the time these claims were made, few women were professional, or, better saying, most of them had just one profession, that of housewives. No wonder they would use words related to cooking or sewing more often than men.

(Magenta to me has nothing "feminine" on it; it is a word used by graphic workers of both sexes, and seldom by anyone who works on other trades. But perhaps this is distorted by my having Portuguese, instead of English, as a first language.)

  1. "'empty' adjectives like divine, charming, cute...."

Divine and charming seem to be "posh" words, used to express meaningless politeness by middle and upper class women; as opposed to cute, they do not seem to be increasingly used by men, except in sarcastic ways (which btw it seems to be the way most women use them). They seem also to express affectation rather than feminility.

Men would use other "empty" adjectives rather than those, but the need to express politeness without compromise (ie, to say that something is good without actually recognising any specific good characterists in it) doesn't seem to be exclusively feminine.

  1. "Question intonation where we might declaratives: for instance tag questions ("It's hit, isn't it?) and rising intonation in statement contexts ("What's your name, dear?" "Mary Smith?").

The former looks like an appeal for concordance; I fail to see anything "feminine" in it. Maybe in the sixties or seventies this was more common among women than men, but don't see any reason for that. The later I have never heard except in ironic context ("Mary Smith?" implying "why are you asking, don't you already know this?")

  1. "The use of hedges of various kinds. Women's speech seems in general to contain more instances of "well," "y'kmow,","kinda," and so forth:words that convey the sense that the speaker is uncertain about what he (or she) is saying [...]women do it more, precisely because they believe asserting them strongly isn't nice or ladlylike, or even feminine. Another manifestation of the same thing is the use of "I guess" and "I think" prefacing declarations or "I wonder" prefacing questions, which themselves are hedges on the speech-acts of saying and asking. [...] hedges, like question intonation, give the impression that the speaker lacks authority or doesn't know what he's talking about [...].

This seems a general trait of written discourse in the second half of the 20th century; the aggressive tone of 19th century polemics came out of fashion, and was replaced by an increased use of irony dressed in polite forms. Marx called Ure a "dwarf economist"; we wouldn't use such terms, even if we thought they were factually appropriate.

But written, or at least published discourse has been a masculine privilege from earlier than that. And if anything, the internet seems to be reverting the trend described above: violent, vicious polemics is back, often even intensified when compared to that of 150 years ago.

  1. "[...] intensive 'so' [...] more frequent in women's language, though certainly men can use it. Here we have an attempt to hedge on one's strong feelings, as though to say: I feel strongly about this - but I dare not make it clear HOW strong [...].

I would like to see the raw data for this. It doesn't seem likely, and the explanation - in which the use of an intensive is said to not intensify - is even less convincing.

  1. "hypercorrect grammar: women are not supposed to talk rough. [...]"

  2. "Superpolite forms [...] speak more politely [...]"

Is it usual to describe "not talking rough" as "hypercorrect grammar"? I wouldn't, because to me "hypercorrection" is a different thing, and is not "correct" at all, much less "more than correct".

Those two claims seem to me to be the same, though. In this case, even if there was a difference, the visible trend for the last half century is not that men are growing more polite and quitting talking rough, but that women are definitely getting less polite, and increasingly speaking rough more often.

  1. "Women don't tell jokes. As we shall see in a while this point is just an elaboration of the two immediately preceding. But it is axiomatic in middle class American society that, first women can't tell jokes - they are bound to ruin the punchline, they mix up the order of things, and so on. Moreover, they don't "get" jokes. In short women have no sense of humor"

Well, this at least is contextualised as an American middle class thing, which would probably wiser to do for all of those claims; but it seems more prejudiced than "axiomatic".

I wonder whether such "lack of sence of humour" just reflects the fact that masculine "humour" is so often misogynistic; I suppose Polish jokes aren't that popular among poles, either.

9 .Women speak in italics, and the more ladylike and feminine you are, the more in italics you are supposed to speak, [...].

This doesn't make any sence to me. First, italics are definitely a graphic resource, and I am not sure there is any kind of oral correspondence (people use more intensity to orally express what is graphically represented by bold, or a lower tone to express parenthetic remarks (like this), but I am not aware of anything comparable regarding italics - people are more likely to use gestures, such as gestual "quote marks").

But the problem is even deeper. Italics are used to highlight some part of the text; if you use italics as a rule, then you are not highlighting anything; you would rather be using a different font than really italicising. So even if it was possible to define some oral resource that substitutes for italics in spoken language, it would make little sence to say that a person speaks "in italics".

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    As commented above, by "speaking in italics" Lakoff means occasional prosodic emphasis with pitch changes. – melissa_boiko Oct 6 '17 at 22:09
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    Yup, or, to be more precise, "women more often emphasize words prosodically; or, they rely more on pitch intonation contours (rather than loudness) for emphasis". I agree that in general I'm skeptical of all the claims about "women's language", including this one, without actual measurements of recorded data. – melissa_boiko Oct 7 '17 at 12:15
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    (Though I know one sociolinguist who once manipulated speech recordings to artificially violate a "soft" prescriptive rule (plural agreement in Brazilian Portuguese) and the altered recordings were rated as sounding more "masculine" and less "effeminate/gay" by listeners, with is congruent with claim #6.) – melissa_boiko Oct 7 '17 at 12:18
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    On colours, the XKCD colour survey showed that there are very few differences in the names used, and I'd expect that to be the same for other adjective categories. – curiousdannii Oct 7 '17 at 15:10
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    I don't think it's useful to dismiss Lakoff's claims as "fantasies"; Language and Woman's Place was an important work that deserves thoughtful criticism. Regardless, though, OP was asking if there has been any recently updated research in this area, not what we thought of Lakoff's theses. – Mark Beadles Oct 7 '17 at 20:17

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