Missing variable

Frank Abate abatefr at EARTHLINK.NET
Sun Aug 13 10:20:00 UTC 2000

Larry H said:


While we are able to use Chapter 7 of
Wolfram & Schilling-Estes as the principal reading for the gender
lecture (along with "The New Pygmalion" from Cameron's _Verbal

Anyone else have suggestions?  I'll be making up my new syllabus in a
couple of weeks for this fall's version of the dialects course, so my
and Mai's eyes will be equally peeled.*


Larry et al.

I cannot suggest readings for what follows, but may I put to the list an observation, which may be discussed in the literature, re what I see as a gender-related speech phenomenon.

Some older (pre-teen and up) girls and women tend to "whistle their Ss"; I do not know a phonetic term for this, but it seems to involve pronunciation of S with the very tip of the tongue positioned dentally, rather than back on the alveolar ridge.  Of course, this very characteristic of speech is used mockingly and jocularly in attempts to mimic some gay speech, by comedians and the like, but I am not speaking of that here, although the fact that THIS characteristic is commonly used in this jocular way suggests the association of this phenomenon to female speech.  In any case, my further observation is that females who have this speech characteristic seem to be more "traditional" in their use of makeup and fashion -- that is, their use of makeup tends to be more apparent, and their hair and dress more in tune with "conventional" female fashion trends.

Clearly, this is a personal observation, not based on formal study, but I wonder if others have noted this, or if there is scholarship discussing it.  Perhaps it could be part of class discussions on gender speech differences?

Frank Abate

Dictionary & Reference Specialists (DRS)
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