Sample Essay On The Relationship Between Language And Society

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Language, Gender, Women, Society, Gender Equality, Culture, Sociology, Men

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2021/01/30

(Institution Name)


Human beings have been communicating with each other since the very beginning of our existence. Language has played a variety of different roles in our lives. Sometimes it entertains, while other times it is used to encode and decode knowledge. Without knowledge, the very culmination of society would have been impossible. Language is a direct reflection of the kind of society we live in and vice versa. In terms of gender, language plays a major role.
Since language is used to conserve knowledge, it can also be used to misconstrue facts as well. Therefore, languages are credited with shaping the past of civilizations upon which both the present and the future evolve. Language is a key to investigating how human beings think as a part of a larger mechanism in which they reside. It deeply interlinks with social norms, forms, activities and concepts to show us how people interact with each other. Language has been the basis of many different fields including social sciences and the study of human nature and how it functions in a society. Gender implications of language has been masculine-biased but is now evolving into more a unisex language that is rooted in feminism. The relationship of language to gender will be explored in how it is culturally constructed, accepted and replicated to become a language striving for equality. *THESIS STATEMENT

Gender Implications of Language

In order to discuss the correlation of how gender proves to be an important social aspect of language, it is necessary to understand how culture directly impacts the language of a region. If sociolinguistics is linked with culture and we start considering the questions of language and culture, it is highly likely that we broaden the remit instead of simply concentrating on language and society. There are many links between culture and language. Over time, there has been a tremendous overhaul in languages due to changes in gender descriptions.
When the word gender was first introduced in the English language, it was a grammatical term. In recent history, it is being used to describe the social roles and behaviors of people who are biologically born either males or females. Understandably, this is a huge topic on its own, and language is simply one side of the story (Dunbar, 2003).
All linguistics and anthropologists believe that males and females use language differently – even when they are using the same language. This is because of the fact that their roles are defined for them as they grow. “It starts with gender-distinguished name allocations. Everyone is mostly recognized by their first names except in cases where the first name is unisex.” (Lakoff, 2004). Parental approval or disapproval also comes in the form of gender-specific phrases like “good girl” or good boy”. Endearments are often associated with girls and specifically shows their lack of power. For example, one can say “girlie” but “boys” is not a term.
Gender and status tend to be looked at differently for women and men. Women are seen as subordinate as men; having a lower position and less opportunities. This is due in large part to how females are stereotypically perceived as opposed to men. Women are considered to be the weaker sex and this translates to being less competent (Carli, 1990). In terms of speech, women tend to speak softer, use less expletive language, and are more polite. Because they are perceived as subordinate to men, “they presumably are not given the opportunity to express themselves as forcefully and directly as men are” (Carli, 1990). Researchers believe that women tend to use standard and more formal language than men, although the gap has been closing over the years. Many wonder why this is the case. “Some researchers believe that since a specific gender has been discriminated against for eons, it is likely that they use “respected” language and terms as a form of self-defense.” (Lakoff, 2004).

English as a Very Gender Specific Language

The English language has had a tendency to favor men over women since its inception. How gender references are used in a sentence can not only be confusing, but somewhat offensive to women. This is because of the inference and assumption when a gender specific term is utilized to make one think of its usage being male specific. For example, the words “anyone” and “their” may be pared together in the same sentence. This paring does not denote either male or female, however, the assumption might be that the reference is male gender specific (Cheshire, 2008) There is a masculine-bias built into the English language which has greatly distorted how women are perceived. This is greatly supported in how language is used as identifiers. As traditional cultural norms fall by the wayside, there is a growing trend to remove the masculine-bias in language. An example of this, is job titles are being reconstructed to be more unisex over gender specific in nature. This eliminates masculine-bias and promotes the ideology of equality among the sexes (Cheshire, 2008).
According to a study conducted (Weatherall, 2002), on gender, language, and discourse, “sexist language and gender differences in speech style” are explored to determine major differences in dominance, power, and “essentialism and social constructionism” (Weatherall, 2002), between the sexes. Findings revealed that gender no longer defines a man or a woman, but rather, what each does instead that determines their gender. This gives gender specific language a new premise upon which to be evaluated.

What is Included in Gender?

It is notable that mere male and female are not the constituents of the gender set. Colors are also gender demarcated, and so are several nonliving things like buildings and vehicles to name a few. For example, when one thinks of the color red, it is often associated with males while pink and yellow are associated with females. The color red signifies power and power is commonly associated with males. Pink, on the other hand, makes one think of flowers, frilly dresses, and daintiness. Some buildings are named after famous males and seldom do we see buildings named for females. When we think of sports cars, we often associate them with males. Pick-up trucks are also gender specific to males while mini vans and sedans are associated with females.
In a 2011 study conducted (Cunningham & Macrae), gender stereotyping was examined to assess what, if any, role color plays in gender. As society has evolved into one of political correctness, there is the overwhelming desire for gender bias and stereotyping to disappear and equality to rise as the new determinant of gender. Although stereotyping of gender may never fully be eliminated, “efforts to promote gender equality have been rewarded with a reduction in people’s tolerance of sexism” (Cunningham & Macrae, 2011). This has been met with acceptance, but it also has been the subject of preferential treatment still being given to men. For example, a woman may apply for the same job as a man. Because she “displays counterstereotypic qualities” (Cunningham & Macrae, 2011), she will be less likely to given the job. Gender differentiations are still a very pervasive part of society. It still holds relevance in certain ways, but is slowly becoming less of a prominence. As females enter into professions that were once assigned solely for males, there is a shift in how gender is perceived and tolerated.

The Feminism Involved in Language

When one thinks of feminism, the advocacy of women’s social, political, and economic rights come to mind as being equal to that of men. As women continue to take front and center in a myriad of platforms that once were dominated by men, the gender implication of language has become more generic and equal. Given the rich history of language usage being designated for masculine-bias, it has been difficult to separate the two categories of male and female. However, according to Cary Nelson (1987), “as feminism's influence continues to grow and diversify, the need increases for coherent syntheses that can help prevent its transformative mission from being dissipated or ignored”. This has never been more apparent as we see feminism become a champion for equality and the language landscape shifting to accommodate the new cultural tenets of society.


Language is a major contributor in shaping society and social behaviors. The way people communicate with each other and how frequently, form their attitudes towards different aspects of their social lives. When it comes to culture, different things are defined accordingly and enables a differentiation between entities holding social importance. Language has played a huge role in defining gender roles with males being looked to as being dominant over women. This has created a masculine-bias that has projected an extremely skewed view of females as being the subordinate sex. As cultural norms continue to dictate what is relevant, language will continue to evolve to coincide with these changes. With feminism on the rise, women are being given a new voice in which gender implications are being redefined; proving that female gender has just as much of a prominent place in language referencing as masculine-bias. As feminism continues to promote a more balanced approach to gender equality, the gender implication of language will no choice but to find a way to adapt to the growing trends.


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