Thursday, 13 February 2014

English Language AS - Language and Gender (Part 3: Male and Female Speech)

The last part of the Language and Gender section is how men and women speak differently. There have been many theorists who have argued different things, and it’s totally fine to challenge these assumptions in your essay questions! 

As usual, early research suggested that women’s language was deviant from the male norm, strengthening the stereotype that women speak too much, gossip, etc - This is called folklinguistics, when there are certain attitudes to language which have no factual basis. 

Use of Slang 

Peter Trudgill did research into non-standard pronunciation and found that men tended to use more non-standard forms. They also under-reported their use of standard pronunciation, suggesting that they attach covert prestige to non-standard forms. 
Women, on the other hand, did the opposite. Trudgill found that women used more standard pronunciation, but also over-reported their use of standard forms, suggesting that women attach an overt prestige to standard forms. 

Jenny Cheshire also supported this, finding that in nearly all cases boys used a more non-standard form than girls. She suggested it was due to their denser social networks that caused slang to be more prevalent. 

Models of Language 

There are 4 main models of language, each of which has strengths and weaknesses, and some which have alternate theories! 

The Dominance Approach

According to this approach, men use their language as a way of asserting their dominance and control over women in mixed sex conversations

Zimmerman and West found that 96% of all interruptions in mixed sex conversations were made by men. They also found this was approximately equal with the interruptions made by parents and children. 
Gender or Power?

O’Barr and Atkins did lots of research into language in the courtroom, and found that women did indeed use Lakoff’s features of speech deficit, however they also found that many men from lower class backgrounds also used Lakoff’s features. 
This suggests that it is not gender, per se, which is the cause of language deficit, but how much power an individual has. 
The Difference Approach 

The Difference Approach assumes that language is different between genders due to women and men belonging to different sub-cultures and talk differently as a result of different social pressures and expectations. 

This approach avoids blaming either sex, instead focusing on difference rather than dominance and submissiveness. 

Jennifer Coats suggested that all-female talk is cooperative and female speakers help to support each other linguistically. 

Jane Pilkington also found women were more collaborative than men, and used more positive politeness strategies. 

Kuiper found that all-male “locker-room” talk included insults as a way of showing solidarity amongst men.  

The Deficit Approach

The Deficit Approach, led by Robin Lakoff, was a theory which suggests that women’s language is deficient from the established male norm. She theorised that female language lacked in real authority in comparison to men and proposed a set of features typical to female speech. Some of these include: 
- Domestic chore vocabulary
- Precise colour terms 
- Weak expletives (oh dear, heck, etc)
- ‘Empty’ adjectives (charming, sweet, darling)
- Tag questions, showing uncertainty (e.g. “isn’t it?)
- Polite forms (e.g. euphemisms) 
- Hedges (e.g. sort of, you know) 
- Intensifiers (so, really, etc) 

Janet Holmes refuted Lakoff’s interpretation of tag question, instead theorising that they are not a sign of uncertainty, but as a way of maintaining discussion and a politeness strategy. 

And with that simple section, we've done all 3 section of Language and Gender - Well done! 

Good Luck! 

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Revision Tip of the Day!

Start your revision EARLY! 

There's nothing worse than glancing up at your calendar and finding that there's less than 48 hours 'til a make-or-break exam, so make sure you start your revision early, ideally at least 3 months before the big day. 

Starting early means that you can take each day one-at-a-time without any rush or stress. There's a lot to cover at A-Level so it's best to iron out any wrinkles early, rather than panicking last minute. 

Spending just an hour a day going over the stuff you did in September will help to refresh your memory. I know it's more fun to be playing Flappy Bird or paroozing Tumblr but in the long run you'll thank me. 

Good Luck!

One of the less reliable revision techniques.. 

Psychology A2 - Causes of Stress - Johansson

Within Causes of Stress there are three schools of thought which are accompanied by different studies. The first of these studies, conducted by Johansson, attributes stress to work.

Johansson 1978 - Measurement of Stress Response due to Work 

Aim - To measure the psychological (mental) and physiological (biological) responses to stress in two categories of employees.

Participants - All participants worked in a Swedish Sawmill. 

Risk Level
Job Type
High Risk
Complex job which required focus and knowledge of raw materials. 
Responsible for the whole teams wages. 
Had to work at a set pace which was governed by the production line. 
Low Risk (Control)
Consisted of maintenance workers and cleaners. 

Let's pretend this guy is Swedish... 

Methodology - No independent variable was manipulated due to the quasi nature of the study, making it an independent design. 

Data Collection - Data was collected through self-report and physiological tests. 
The self-report included self-rating scales which tested mood and alertness as well as caffeine and nicotine consumption.
Physiological data was collected 4 times a day through urine samples which tested for adrenaline, which is a hormonal response to stress. Body temperature was also recorded through-out the day. 

Results - Physiological data (urine) showed that, even before work, the high risk group had twice the level of adrenaline that the low risk group had. This continued to rise throughout the day. 
The high risk group self-reported a “rushed” feeling and high levels of irritation. They also rated their wellbeing as far lower than the control group. 

Conclusion - The repetitive, machine paced work of the high risk group contributed to their stress levels. 

Good Luck! 

English Language AS - Language and Gender (Part 2: Sexism in Language)

The second section of Language and Gender is to question whether the English Language is inherently sexist? While the majority of us are constantly striving for equality, are we inadvertently using sexist terms which are so ingrained into our every-day speech that they seem natural?

Marked Expressions

One feature of the English Language which could be considered sexist is the use of marked expressions to describe female roles as deviant to unmarked male expressions. 
A marked form is one which stands out as different or deviant from the norm, for example “priestess”. An unmarked form is the norm which marked lexical items are measured against, for example “priest”. 

There are two ways of showing markedness:
Covert marking is demonstrated through antonyms (opposites). An example of covert marking is young (unmarked) and old (marked). 
Overt marking is a more obvious form, which shows markedness through the modification of marked expression using affixation (pre-fixes and suffixes). The most common example of overt marking is the addition of the suffix “-ess”, for example “actor/actr-ess” to show deviation from the male norm

It is important to remember that sometimes marking is necessary to show biological difference, for example “lion/lioness”.

Another example of overt marking is modified nouns. Some roles, for example nursing, have stereotyped gender expectation and so to show deviation from the norm, the nouns are modified to show this difference.
e.g. FEMALE doctor, career WOMAN, MALE nurse, MALE prostitute. 

Notice that not all marking is aimed at “deviant" women, and that some examples of marking is aimed at “deviant" men. 

Male Nurse and Female Doctor are examples of modified nouns.

Generic Terms 

The use of masculine pronouns (“him/his/he”) as generic pronouns when the gender is non-specific is no longer considered acceptable as they suggest a male-centric world. Most people now seek to exclude these exclusive language choices with inclusive language such as “their”. 

Another example of generic terms being exclusive are phrases such as “mankind” and “manmade” which suggest an androcentric world (focused or centred on men). 


Stereotyping involves assigning a basic set of characteristics to represent a group as a whole. These may be positive or negative.
Stereotyping can lead people to believe that certain groups must conform to certain roles and behavioural expectations. 
There are many stereotypes about males and females, for example “Mother and Baby” classes, which suggest that women are sole carers for children, excluding fathers, grandparents and other carers. 

Stereotypes have evolved since this incredibly sexist advert was published. 

Semantic Derogation and Deterioration 

Semantic derogation is when lexical items have negative connotations and meanings associated with them. 
Semantic deterioration is when lexical items gradually develop negative connotations. 

Theorist, Sara Mills suggests that many female terms are marked and indicate sexual promiscuity (mistress, madam, hostess) whereas unmarked male terms such as “bachelor”  shows freedom and independence. Although they have identical meaning, when contrasted with “bachelor”, “spinster” has more negative connotations. 

A word which has experienced semantic deterioration is the lexical item “lady”, which now is used in terms such as “dinner-lady” and “cleaning lady”. You’d never hear someone describing a male-cleaner as a “cleaning-lord”, would you?

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

English Language A2 - Developing Speech (Part 1: Stages of Language Development)

The Developing Speech section of the English Language A2 course is the longest section out of Speaking, Reading and Writing and so I've split it into 7 easy sections: 
- Basic Stages of Language Development
- Phonology 
- Lexis 
- Grammar 
- Pragmatics
- Child Directed Speech 
- Language Acquisition Debates

Stages of Language Development 

Speech is the first mode of communication that children learn to develop. There is a great deal to learn, and this learning takes place in logical steps, starting from learning the smallest unit of sounds (phonemes) to developing the subtleties of speech (pragmatics). 

Language development is an approximate timescale and each child develops at a different rate. 

The Pre-Verbal Stage 

Stage Features Approx. age (months)
Vegetative  Sounds of discomfort and reflexive actions. 0-4 months
Cooing Comfort sounds and vocal play using open mouthed vowel sounds. 4-7 months
Babbling Repeated patterns of consonant and vowel sounds. 6-12 months
Proto-Words Word like vocalisations which don’t match actual words but are used consistently, e.g. “mmm” meaning “give me”, which is understood by accompanying gestures.  9-12 months

Lexical and Grammatical Stage of Development 

Stage Features Approx. age (months)
Holophrastic One word utterances 12-18
Two-word Two word combinations 18-24
Telegraphic Three and more words combined 24-36
Post-telegraphic More grammatically complex combinations 36+

During the post-telegraphic stage reading and writing started to develop separately. 

English Language A2 - Child Language Acquisition: Speaking

Yet another fantastic MindNode Lite resource, outlining the Spoken Language theories from the Child Language Acquisition aspect of the A2 English Language exam. This one is pretty detailed, so right click and open image in new tab to get a good quality, printable version of the MindMap. 

This is a really good starting point for organising detailed notes and quickly skimming the key points of a topic. 

Good Luck! 

Revision Tip of the Day!

Post-It Notes and Highlighters are your FRIENDS!

 The best way for your brain to digest large amounts information isn't to wade through a 998 page essay on the American Civil War and expect it to all go into your mind, but instead to pick out the really important parts, highlight and commit them to memory. 

A great way to do this is to "Tweet" your need-to-know facts - If you don't want to look like a dork, you don't actually have to send them, but see if you can summarise a section of information in 140 characters or less! 

Tweet your revision notes!