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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Laada M. Bilaniuk
ANTH 450
Seattle Campus

Language and Gender

Survey of the theoretical trends, methods, and research findings on the relationship between language and gender. Focus on power relations in gendered language use. Extensive study of research based on conversational analysis. Prerequisite: LING 200; either LING 201, LING 203, or ANTH 203. Offered: jointly with GWSS 450/LING 458.

Class description

Do men and women talk differently? How, and why? What are the implications of differences in language use on social relations? How can we research these questions?

In this course we will explore how “gender,” a cultural identity correlating with sex, is constructed. What behaviors, especially language use, are salient in creating gender? We will examine the relationships between language and gender, and how gender ideologies shape and are shaped by language use. The intersection of gender and power will be central in our examination. How are certain ways of “doing gender” empowering or disempowering? To what extent are we constrained by subconscious gendered norms of language, and to what extent can we be creative agents in the construction of gender through language?

In pursuing these questions, we will confront the problems of defining gender in different cultural contexts. It is often difficult, if not impossible, to pull apart the effects of gender from those of class, race, ethnicity, age, profession, regional background, sexuality, and other aspects of identity. We will study various theoretical approaches and methodologies that deal with the complex layerings of identity, including approaches that challenge the binary categorization of gender.

Throughout this course we will explore how language can be studied systematically on many levels, using both quantitative and qualitative methods. We will discuss studies that focus on variation in phonology, lexicon, syntax, prosody, discursive features, and body language. Through both readings and in-class analyses, students will hone their awareness of linguistic features and their analytical skills, to be applied in their own field research projects on language and gender. All students will complete ethnographic exercises: either involving the collection of quantitative data on language use, or involving taping, transcription, and analysis of a segment of conversation. Students may build on either approach for their final project.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Lectures, discussion of readings, quizzes, analyses of discourse in class an as outside project.

Recommended preparation

Some background in sociolinguistics and gender issues is helpful. Please note that the official prerequisite is *one* of the following courses: LING 200, 201, 203, or ANTH 203. There has been an error on the prerequisite listing in the catalog and on-line. If you have some other background in linguistics or gender issues, contact instructor for an add code: bilaniuk@u.washington.edu

Class assignments and grading

Regular readings, participation in dicussions, quizzes. Main texts are: * Coates, Jennifer, ed. 1998. Language and Gender: A Reader. Blackwell. * Eckert, Penelope & Sally McConnell Ginet. 2003. Language and Gender. Cambridge U Press. * Brantenberg, Gerd. 1985. Egalia's Daughters: a satire of the sexes. Seal Press. Additional articles will be available on e-reserves and in xeroxed packet. Midterm and final ethnographic exercises, involving the collection of quantitative data on language use, or involving taping, transcription, and analysis of a segment of conversation. Students may build on either approach for their final project.

40% Class participation (including participation in discussions, quizzes) 30% field research exercises 30% Final Research Project. The analysis should address theoretical issues introduced in the class.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Laada M. Bilaniuk
Date: 03/29/2004