Skip to main content Accessibility help

Toward a comprehensive theory of language and gender

    • Published online: 01 April 1999

The search for explanatory coherence in language and gender research has fostered a variety of research methods and analyses; this article evaluates the contributions of the Communities of Practice approach, with its focus on the constructive practices of a group – especially mutual engagement of learning a jointly negotiated practice of gender. Rather than presupposing gender differences as a starting point, CofP emphasizes the learning and mutability in gendered linguistic displays across groups; CofP theory thus naturalizes intragroup variation, not marking it as deviant. However, while the CofP approach focuses much-needed attention on the social construction of gender as local and cross-culturally variable, gender research must be augmented by critical study of two other facets of gender: ideology and innateness, which are critical components of a more comprehensive theory of gender for language research. I would like to give thanks to Janet Holmes for organizing the original forum in which the paper developed, and for her very helpful comments; to Sally McConnell-Ginet and Penny Eckert for their sustained support, through their work, of me and others in the field; and to all three of them – plus Alice Freed, Miriam Meyerhoff, and Susan Ehrlich – for stimulating comments and discussion of these issues. Thanks also go to Mary Talbot and Craig Waddell for comments on an earlier draft. All errors remain my own responsibility.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Language in Society
  • ISSN: 0047-4045
  • EISSN: 1469-8013
  • URL: /core/journals/language-in-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed