gender differences in non-verbal communication

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Jan 14 03:57:00 UTC 2001

At 4:42 PM +0100 1/14/01, Michal Lisecki wrote:
>Dear ADS subscribers,
>I've been trying to gather materials for a paper on non-verbal
>language use by different sexes. Although I am going to concentrate
>in the paper mainly on the Internet communication (any communication
>systems within the medium) I would be interested in any hints on the
>latest writings/findings in the field.
When I was teaching a course in language and gender last year, I
posted a request on fling (a list on feminist linguistics) for
pointers on gender differences in computer-mediated/on-line
conversation.  I reproduce here the replies I received; note that as
you asked some of these do involve web sites where you can track down
some recent research on the topic.  Perhaps Vicky Bergvall's note of
warning will also be useful.


>Date:         Sun, 26 Mar 2000 15:25:52 -0600
>Sender: Feminists in Linguistics <FLING at LISTSERV.LINGUISTLIST.ORG>
>From: Susan Herring <susan at LING.UTA.EDU>
>Subject:      Re: two requests for research pointers
>Hi Larry,
>A recent overview of my own and others' research on gender
>and CMC is available online:
>2000. "Gender differences in CMC: Findings and implications." _Computer
>Professionals for Social Responsibility Newsletter_, Winter 2000.
>It contains a number of references.
>Susan C. Herring, Ph.D.        (817) 272-5234  office
>Associate Professor            (817) 272-2731  fax
>Program in Linguistics         susan at
>University of Texas  
>Arlington, TX 76019  USA

>Date:         Sun, 26 Mar 2000 17:58:11 -0500
>Sender: Feminists in Linguistics <FLING at LISTSERV.LINGUISTLIST.ORG>
>From: "Victoria L. Bergvall" <vbergval at MTU.EDU>

>I just saw Larry Horn's query on computer-mediated communication (CMC) and
>sex differences, and Susan Herring's reply (she has provided an excellent
>bib and paper there, so do check them out). Thanks Susan--your work comes
>just as I was doing a web search for the same material. You've been a
>pioneer for all of us in this field. Thanks for your great work!
>Also,the latest volume of Berkeley Women and Language Conference Papers
>(just out) (, has two
>interesting papers on gender and CMC by James Waldinger and Ben Smith.
>However, I'd like to inject a plea, again, not to immediately cast the
>question as one of "sex *differences*" (repeating Janet Bing's and my plea
>in our chapter in *Rethinking language and gender research* (Bergvall,
>Bing, & Freed, eds, Longman 1996). I realize that society often casts
>"women" and "men" into seemingly dichotomous and opposed groups, but real
>people--and real language--is often much more complicated, and needs to be
>treated as such (as Susan and others, in fact, acknowledge).
>I will be presenting a paper (The continuum of gender construction in
>on-line discourse) at the coming IGALA conference, which shows that gender
>behavior in discourse forms a continuum on-line as it does off-line, and
>that starting with assumptions about "female" and "male" speech forms can
>cast the whole debate as dichotomous to begin with, and thus, perhaps
>overlook the critical overlaps.
>I agree, strongly, that the nature of social construction of gender in
>discourse on-line often exaggerates gender differences into virtual
>burlesques of off-line gendered discourse patterns. But there are still
>critical overlaps both on- and off-line; data in my IGALA paper will
>illustrate that where the orientation of the talk is not to SOCIAL issues,
>but more to TASK issues, gender is much less salient and virtually
>invisible, and thus, gender "differences" are less obvious than the
>similarities and continuities. That paper is still very much in process,
>but I will be happy to share it and discuss it when it gets done.
>It is all a complex issue that demands more attention. So, my best wishes
>to your students!
>Victoria L. Bergvall             Associate Professor of Linguistics
>Director of Graduate Programs in Rhetoric & Technical Communication
>Department of Humanities          Michigan Technological University
>1400 Townsend Drive       Houghton      Michigan 49931-1295     USA
>vbergval at       Phone: (906)487-3248      Fax: (906)487-3559
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