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Sex, speech, and stereotypes: Why women use prestige speech forms more than men

  • Elizabeth Gordon (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 February 2009

It is widely reported that women use more prestige speech forms than men, and style-shift more dramatically than men. This article puts forward the view that this behavior of women is not a matter of self-promotion, but of avoidance. Evidence from a survey of New Zealand middle-class speakers shows that their stereotype of a lower-class female speaker includes potential sexual immorality. Because of society's double standard regarding men's and women's sexual behavior, the stereotype affects women more than men, and could be an explanation for middle-class women's use of prestige forms as a way of avoiding association with the lower-class stereotype. (Women's speech, social class, speech varieties, sex and language, stereotypes, New Zealand)

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Donn Bayard (1991). A taste of Kiwi: Perceived attitudes to accent, speaker gender, and perceived ethnicity across the Tasman. Australian Journal of Linguistics 11:138.

J. K. Chambers (1992). Linguistic correlates of gender and sex. English World-Wide 13:173218.

Keith Gibbons (1969). Communication aspects of women's clothes and their relation to fashionability. British Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology 8:301–12.

Howard Giles , & William Chavasse (1975). Communication and length as a function of dress style and social status. Perceptual and Motor Skills 40:961–62.

Howard Giles , & Kathryn Farrar (1979). Some behavioral consequences of speech and dress styles. British Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 18:209–10.

Howard Giles , (1980). Speech style and the fluctuating salience of sex. Language Sciences 2:260–82.

Elizabeth Gordon (1994). Sex differences in language: Another explanation? American Speech 69:215–20.

Elizabeth Gordon , & Margaret Maclagan (1989). Beer and bear, cheer and chair: A longitudinal study of the ear/air contrast in New Zealand English. Australian Journal of Linguistics 9:203–20.

S. Lambert (1972). Reactions to a stranger as a function of style of dress. Perceptual and Motor Skills 35:711–12.

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Language in Society
  • ISSN: 0047-4045
  • EISSN: 1469-8013
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