This lecture aims at exploring and discussing the relations between gender and language, both within current theories in linguistics and the social sciences, and on the basis of empirical data. The starting point is the observation that despite much attempts to characterize the “language of women” or the differences between “gay and straight language”, there are no linguistic properties specifically indexing gender categories. Several theoretical models propose diverse ways of conceptualizing the relation between gender and language, considering not only formal linguistic features but also linguistic, sociolinguistic and interactional practices through which speakers elaborate and make recognizable their gender identity. The lecture presents these models and the controversies these models have engendered – in terms of essentialist vs constructivists visions of gender, based on theories of language that favor notions of difference, power, or performativity. The lecture also proposes different linguistic, discursive and interactional methodological approaches for the analysis of gendered practices, inspired by sociolinguistics, anthropological linguistics, and conversation analysis. Empirical data will be examined, documenting how gender is performed in everyday life, and how gender is treated in institutional settings – within texts and social interactions coming from a diversity of contexts, such as ordinary family settings, emergency calls, trial interrogations, drag king workshops, etc. Overall, the objective of the lecture is double: to reflect about how to conceptualize the relation between gender and language on the basis of current theoretical models, and to engage in empirical analyses of how gender is both manifested and recognized through linguistic practices.









Universitäre Hochschulen (UH)