In previous posts, I have uploaded resources on ‘The Deficit Model’ and ‘The Dominance Model’. Another common approach to exploring how men and women communicate is known as ‘The Difference Model’.
One linguistic often associated with the difference model is Deborah Tannen. According to Tannen, many misunderstandings, arguments and disagreements between men and women could be down to these gender differences. There is a really nice summary of these differences here. It’s important to remember that these gender differences are put forward as socially constructed, so are not down to biological differences between men and women. There is a downloadable summary of Tannen’s position here.
Other linguistics have explored differences in men and women’s language based on specific language features. Janet Holmes explored how tag questions were used differently by men and women. Holmes categorised tag questions into ‘Modal Tags’, which are requests for information and may show uncertainty, and ‘Affective Tags’ which are addressee orientated. Rather than showing uncertainty, affective tags are designed to not upset the addressee. They show concern rather than weakness.
Whilst Holmes may not strictly be identified with ‘The Difference Model’ her research does conflict with The Deficit Model. Affective tags, according to Lakoff might show weakness. For Holmes, their usage is more about care and consideration. Remember, To do really well in paper 2, it’s important to be able to assess explicitly the weaknesses of different models. Holmes’ research and the discussion of it in this paper will be really useful to help achieve this goal.
It’s difficult to separate discussions about slang from representation of young people. Predominantly, slang is associated with young people and how their creative sue of language helps form part of their social group’s identity. And, as slang terms become accepted into the mainstream dialect of a wider community, new slang terms naturally emerge, once again to confuse anyone older than 25!
To understand different attitudes to slang is not too dissimilar to the attitudes towards text speak we have discussed earlier. Prescriptivists might prefer ‘standard english’, and be irritated by slang use, descriptivists would see slang as an inevitable and interesting aspect of the evolution of our language.
So, before reading on, refresh your memory on some of the typical attitudes towards other uses of language by young people.
Here’s a review of a book by Julie Coleman called ‘The Life of Slang.’ The review suggests a descriptivist stand point, describing how slang has been around for hundreds of years, hinting at its natural position in the continued evolution.
As I said earlier, attitudes towards slang are sometimes hard to separate from attitudes to young people. Do they use slang because they’re lazy? They’re stupid? Both? Or is it something less sinister. These two articles are useful for exploring attitudes to teenagers:
Here’s a past paper question you may wish to attempt. It would be a good opportunity to respond creatively to different ideas about slang and the language use of young people.