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Language, Gender Salience, and Social Influence

Journal of Language and Social Psychology , Volume 22 (2): 210 – Jun 1, 2003


Sage Publications
Copyright © 2003 by SAGE Publications
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Language, Gender Salience, and Social Influence


Reductionist explanations for gender differences in language use continue to occupy much research attention. However, such approaches cannot explain when or why people might change their gender-marked language use. This article reviews and critiques several of these approaches and tests an alternative from the perspective of self-categorization theory. Male-female dyads (N = 42) discussed a gender-neutral controversial issue under conditions of low or high gender salience. When a shared student identity was salient, males and females used tentative language with equal frequency; but when gender was salient, women used more tentative language than men and held the floor longer. Furthermore, women who used more tentative language were more influential with men, but only when student identity was salient. The article suggests that women's tentative language use is influential with men when it serves to unconsciously confirm men's wider, socialstructural advantages over women.
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