Language Variation In Relation To Gender As A Social Factor

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Language Variation In Relation To Gender As A Social Factor


This research is designed to examine language variation in relation to gender as a social factor, the thrust of this study is a sociolinguistic analysis of gender on language use. The research through its data that encompasses various languages has proved beyond every doubt the existence of gender variation in language use.

Chapter One

Introduction and General Background

1.0 Introduction

Language is a purely human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions and desires by means of a system of voluntary produced symbols (Sapir, 1921:8). David crystal, (1989:252) further affirms that language is referred to as human a vocal noise or the graphic representation of this noise in writing used systematically and conventionally by a community for purpose of communication. Generally speaking language is a basic tool of socio-cultural communication; it specifically deals with the human capacity for using and acquiring complex systems of communication (Bloomfield 1914).

Language and gender is an area of study within socio-linguistics, applied linguistics and related fields that investigate varieties of speech associated with a particular gender of social norms. A variety of speech or sociolect associated with a particular gender is sometimes called “genderlect” (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia). Language and gender basically explores two basic issues which are the representations of gender in language and the conversational characteristics of men and women. Cross-linguistic examinations have revealed a number of key areas of grammar and vocabulary where gender is displayed or indicated in various ways, other studies have identified symmetric male-female difference in many languages, these ranges from differences in vocabulary, difference in linguistic forms e.g. Phonology, morphology and syntax, to difference communication styles, politeness and directness in language.

1.1 Background of the Study

Sociolinguistics variation is the study of the way language varies and changes in community of speakers and concentrates on the interaction of social factors such as a speaker’s gender, age, ethnicity etc. and linguistic structure such as sounds, words, introduction feature, grammatical structure etc.

The study of sociolinguistic variation has its roots in dialectology, emerging in the 1960s partly as a result of inadequate methods in earlier approaches to the study of dialect and partly as a reaction to Chomsky’s generative programme.

Between the speakers of any language there is a variation in the way they use the language. This variation is seen through linguistic differences in terms of phonetics and grammar. There might be only slight variations between forms of languages such as minor pronunciation of words or a slight change of grammatical structure that do not inhibit inter group communication (Sil 2015).

Studies of language variation and its correlation with sociological factors such as Williams Labov’s (1963) papers” The Social Motivation of a Sound Change”, led to the foundation of sociolinguistics as a subfield of linguistics. Although contemporary sociolinguistics includes other topics, language variation and change remain an important issue at the heart of the field.

An important aspect of sociolinguistics variation is language variation in relation to gender. The study of gender and language in sociolinguistics and gender studies is often said to have begun with Robin Lakoffs (1975) ‘Language and Woman’s Place, as well as some earlier studies by Lakoff, the study of language and gender has developed greatly since 1970s.

Prominent scholars include Deborah Cameron (2002), Penelope Eckert (1998), Janet Holmes (2006), Deborah Tannen (1994) and others.

1.2 Objective of the Study

  1. To examine language variation in relation to gender.
  2. To analyze the visibility of the variation in the use of language of males and females.

1.3 Significance of the Study

This study is clearly important as it evaluates the variation of language as it concerns gender in sociolinguistics.

1.4 Scope and Limitation of the Study

This research will be confined within the realm of language variation in sociolinguistics as regards to how male and female use of language varies.

1.5 Definition of Terms

The major terms to be used in this research work are Language, Variation and Gender.

According to Merriam–Webster dictionary “Language is the system of words or signs that people use to express thoughts and feelings to each other. According to wikitionary. org. “Language is a body of words and set of method of human communication, either spoken or written consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way.”

Variation according to is defined as the act, process or accident of varying in condition, character or degree.” Merriam–website dictionary defines variation as “a change in the form, position, condition, or amount of something.’ According to variation is defined as the act of varying; a partial change in the form, position, state or quality of a thing”. Oxford dictionary defines variation as “a change or slight difference in condition, amount, or level, typically within certain limits”.

Oxford dictionary defines gender as the state of being male or female (typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones)’. defines gender as “the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between, masculinity and feminity”. Gender according to the is “a grammatical category, often designed as male, female or neuter.’’

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