What Gender are you Speaking?: Food for Thought

Do men and women really talk differently?  If so, can they “communicate”?  How can understanding the work of DeSaussure help us today?

I would say that every person talks differently, but the differences in how the genders communicate are very unique.  In the Maltz and Borker article “A cultural Approach to Male-female Miscommunication”, they point out about five major differences in male and female communication and interaction.  Women ask questions more, maintaining routine interaction, minimal response, silent protests and more pronoun usage in communicating with others.  Men are more likely to interrupt, challenge, ignore others comments, control or shift the topic and make more declarations of facts/opinions.  Men and women approach talking to each other differently and use a different communication structure that often leads to miscommunication of the sex’s co-interaction.  Some of the classic miscommunications are ones that the PowerPoint presentation alluded to over friendly interaction between men and women.     

Despite the differences in gender communication, men and women are constantly communicating.  Miscommunication happens often enough, but this does not stop people from communicating.  When the different genders understand that this linguistic and cultural barrier exists, they can be more aware and understanding when miscommunication occurs.   

All people can communicate, even if they do not speak the same language, people have been bridging the gaps of language for centuries, not always in the clearest interpretation, but communication is not a perfect science.     

DeSaussure’s sturcturalist views of language and culture are useful in understanding human linguistics and its cultural relation.  Today, people struggle with understanding what other people say, often leading to miscommunication.  When people are able to understand the complexity of human communication with words and actions, they are better equipped to understand a person’s cultural background and the way others communicate differently.  

“Structuralists are interested in the interrelationship between UNITS, also called “surface phenomena,” and RULES, which are the ways that units can be put together” (DeSaussure’s).  In the article, he refers to tinker toys as aspects of subcultures interlinked into the main culture.  Interacting and surviving in harmony within a larger picture.  This example implies differences, yet enough similarities to allow others to understand the trivial or profound differences within the complex structure of culture and for DeSaussure’s human language.  

Here are some links to this topic and articles:

Linguistics 156: Language and Gender

A cultural approach to malefemale miscommunication. www.stanford.edu/~eckert/linguist156/Syll/lgtheories.html  3kCached

After clicking the above web link find the link below to access an PDF file of this particular article

A cultural approach to male-female miscommunication. Language and Social Identity. J. J. Gumperz. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 196-216.,

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  • Kate  On April 30, 2008 at 5:50 am

    I’ve definitely found differences in communication between my male and female students. Oddly enough, I communicate better with the boys! That said, I know I do some distinctly “female” communication with my husband and have a hard time when he’s a little too “male” in his communication. Is it nature or nurture?

  • Making Anthropology Public  On April 30, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    I would think it could be a little of both nature and nurture.

    There is a biological makeup of male and females in hormones and the way the human brain is formed; creating a foundation where it causes different ways of communication naturally.

    On the nurturing side of the coin, when someone can communicated well with both genders, it could be due to higher communication with the other gender, better observation opportunity to learn how to improve cross gender communication or how you grew up. A person’s culture, how they understand the world, form their experiences they have does shape their form of communication.

    I would say that is the iron. Some people will pick one or the other, but I have personally found that both play a roll. Sometimes a particular form of communication is more natural programming than nurtured, but both have there time and place.

    Maybe for you, your female communication is nature and your better communication with your boy students is nurture.

    Good question! People often think if something they do is natural or learned. Moreover, when they do, their minds are grazing across anthropology and other disciplines that deal with human interaction, relations, cultural and biology.

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