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Can the term "genderlect" be saved? A postmodernist re-definition.

Issue: Vol 1 No. 2 (2007)

Journal: Gender and Language

Subject Areas: Gender Studies Linguistics

DOI: 10.1558/genl.v1i2.255


This article is an attempt to reclaim the term "genderlect" as a valuable sociolinguistic concept. It shows that "genderlect" in its traditional sense as a variety according to speaker sex is just as much a myth as are early sociolinguistic theorisations of "women's/men's language". From a postmodernist perspective, genderlects must be seen as stereotypical resources for gendered stylisation practices that are not to be equalled with how women and men actually speak. This is illustrated by using material from a comprehensive study on linguistic gender stylisation in advertising discourse. Moreover, it is suggested that the strictly binary genderlect concept is abandoned and replaced by another one that sees genderlects as heavily context-dependent, community-based and therefore infinite in number. A postmodernist genderlect concept should be able to deal with hegemonic as well as subversive gender styles and at the same time acknowledge that what is generally judged to be hegemonic in one context might be subversive in another (or vice versa).

Author: Heiko Motschenbacher

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