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Gender language differences


 Explanations > Gender > Gender language differences

Men's language | Women's language | See also


Sociolinguistics is a field of study that reviews how language varies within social groups and strata. Here are some of the key findings about how men and women use language differently.

Men's language

Crawford (1997) notes the three main objectives of male speech as:

  1. To assert one's position of dominance.
  2. To attract and maintain an audience.
  3. To assert one's self when another person has the floor.

Mulac et al (2001) note that men tend to use language that reflects a more dominant and certain position. They identify:


Greater usage of Example
Quantitative references It is 25 miles away.
Judgmental adjectives His performance is poor.
Commands Turn that off now.
Location words Take it off the table put in in the cupboard.
Brief sentences Looks great! Now what?
Self-references I'm in agreement with that.


Poynton (1989) noted that men, in comparison with women:

Women's language

Crawford (1997) notes the three main objectives of female speech as:

  1. To create and maintain relationships of closeness and equality.
  2. To criticize others in acceptable (indirect ways).
  3. To interpret accurately and sensitively the speech of other females.

Mulac et al (2001) note that women use language that is more cautious and concerned not to offend or put the woman an embarrassing situation. They identify:


Greater usage of Example
Intensive adverbs It's so terribly interesting, isn't it?
Qualifying clauses In which something is
Emotional reference That made her feel rather angry.
Longer sentences Whilst I think it would be a good idea I feel you might want to...
Initial adverbials Owing to the interest we have now...
Uncertainty It seems rather vague, I suppose.
Hedging She's a bit like Jane in that.
Negation Is it not a Bernini statue?
Simultaneous opposites He looks a bit angry yet still reasonably calm.
Questioning Do you think this looks good?


Poynton (1989) noted that women:

  • Are generally more polite in their speech (though are no different in sincerity).
  • Use politeness markers such as 'please' and thank you'.
  • Use super-polite 'multiple modalities' such as "I was wondering if you could possibly just do me a small favour, if you wouldn't mind".
  • Tend to use tag questions.
  • Use more intensifiers.
  • Use more adjectives.
  • Use euphemisms rather than swearing.

See also

Women's language


Crawford, M. (1997). Talking difference on gender and language. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.

Mulac, A., Bradac, J. J., & Gibbons, P. (2001). Empirical support for the gender-as-culture hypothesis: An intercultural analysis of male/female language differences, Human Communication Research, 27, 121-152

Mulac, A. (1998). “The Gender-Linked Effect: Do Language Differences Really Make A Difference?” In D. Canary and K. Dindia (eds.) Sex Differences and Similarities in Communication: Critical Essays and Empirical Investigations of Sex and Gender in Interaction. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Poynton, C. (1989). Language and gender: Making the difference. Walton Street, Oxford: Oxford University Press.


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