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A SOCIOLINGUISTIC ANALYSIS OF THE INFLUENCE OF GENDER ON THE LANGUAGE USE OF 400 LEVEL STUDENTS
The thrust of this study is a sociolinguistic analysis of the gender on language use. The method of investigation used for this study is questionnaire and audio-recoding. This study has established the fact that the differences between male and female in ways of interacting often leads to wrong notions, meanings and interpretations given to certain statements and gestures. It was also discovered that the differences between male female in the aspects of turn taking, use of minimal responses, use of questions, shift between topics, loud and aggressive arguments, often result in miscommunication and misinterpretation and when this happens, it leads to breakdown in communication.
People have always known that gender and language use are connected. Women and men however, do not use completely different forms but different quantities or frequencies of form. Though both sexes use particular form, one sex shows greater preference for them than the other. Research shows that women tend to use more of standard forms than men do, while men use more of the vernacular forms than women do. Gender itself is an influential factor accounting for different speech patterns among men and women.
Therefore, the major pre-occupation of this study is to examine the differences in the use of language between men and women and the influence of gender on the use of language. This study is aimed at bringing to limelight such factors that are responsible for differences in the use of language between men and women and by implication how gender interfere with language use.
This study focuses on the speech patterns of men and women in general and in particular 400 level students of the Department of English and Literary studies, A.B.U., Zaria, Samaru campus. This study
seeks to examine the differentiation between male and female use of language and how gender consideration influences speech patterns. This has to do with how gender influence interaction among sexes.
To achieve this, data will be collected from 400 level students; forty (40) students (20 males and 20 females) were selected at random for this study from the Department of English and Literary Studies. 400 level students who I relate with daily are selected because it will be easier to collected data for this study. Participants will be interviewed and questionnaire issued out and data will be collected, discussed and analysed explicitly.
1.2 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
When we tell people about ourselves or our circumstances, or ask for information about others and their circumstances, we are using language in order to exchange facts or opinions. This use of language is often called ‘referential’, ‘propositional’ or ‘ideational’. Language is used by human beings in social context, communicating their need, ideas, and emotions to one another (Labov, 1981:83). Human language according to Sapir (1921) ‘is a purely human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions and desires by means of a
system of voluntarily produced symbols’. Language as Sapir rightly said is human. Only humans’ posses language and all normal human beings uniformly possess it. Animals also have a communication system but it is not a developed system. That is why language is said to be species- specific and species -uniform.
Language gives shape to people’s thought; it guides and controls their entire activities. It is a carrier of civilization and culture as human thoughts and philosophy are conveyed from one generation to the other through the medium of language (Syal and Jindal, 2001:5).
Ultimately, attitudes to language reflects attitude to the users and uses of the language. People generally do not hold opinions about language in a vacuum. They develop attitudes towards languages which reflects their view about those who speak the language, and contexts and functions with which they are associated (Holmes, 1996:344).
One topic that has come to the fore in sociolinguistics in recent years is the connection if any, between the structure, vocabularies and ways of using particular languages and social roles of the men and women who speak these languages. There are grammatical differences
between the speech of two speakers which gives us cues about their human social backgrounds.
Gender studies have shown that language users have a wide range of beliefs and knowledge about language that go beyond the rules and representations of specifying grammars. The social roles that men and women play, their different values and social networks (who they talk to most), and their sensitivity to contextual factors including characteristics of the person they are talking to are relevant factors in accounting for people’s speech patterns. More so, there are other reasons underlying the differences in the use of language of males and females. One of such factors is culture. Since different people in different societies have distinct ways of life, and language to a considerable degree is influenced by culture, their use of language will highly be influenced.
It is against this background that this study is carried out to examine the differences in the speech patterns of men and women and to do a sociolinguistic analysis of the influence of gender consideration on interaction among 400 level students of the Department of English and Literary Studies, A.B.U., Zaria.
1.3 STATEMENT OF THE RESEARCH PROBLEM
The differences between women and men in ways of interacting are usually as a result of the different social and cultural background. Research has shown that men and women differ significantly in their use of language. This basic fact has created a fundamental problem in the interpretations and meanings usually given to discourse. This inevitably means that often time, one out of the two parties involved in discussion usually give wrong notions, meanings and interpretations to certain statements and gestures. When this happens, it leads to breakdown in communication. It is from this perspective that this study seeks to answer the following questions:
iii. What are the factors responsible for different language usages by men and women?
1.4 AIM AND OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
This project aims at a sociolinguistic study of the effect of gender on language use among students. It seeks to achieve the following specific objectives:
iii. To highlight the underlying factors accounting for these differences.
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study is very significant because it would bring to limelight the terms and expressions used by male and female student of the Department of English and Literary Studies, A.B.U., Zaria. Since it focuses on the issue of language and gender, it would serve as a source of information and discovery to those who do not understand how gender consideration influences interaction.
1.6 SCOPE AND DELIMITATION
This study focuses on male and female use of English language in general. The problem of language use within varying contexts and situations is not only peculiar to A.B.U. students but also to different people globally. This study has been limited to 400 level male and female students of the Department of English and Literary Studies, A.B.U., Zaria for easy collection of data. Also, the familiarity and the level of interaction that exist within the group as course mates will go a long way to aid in providing adequate data for analysis. A random selection of forty (40) students: twenty (20) of which are males and twenty (20) females was used to collect data for the study.
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