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Talking Difference
On Gender and Language


August 1995 | 224 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
"Talking Difference is a refreshingly critical (and reliable) look at our current wisdom about men's and women's language. Mary Crawford's straight talk offers a powerful antidote to clichés and muddled thinking on this subject and will give future language and gender researchers valuable food for thought. I thoroughly recommend it." --Deborah Cameron, University of Strathclyde "In contrast to articles and books that present women and men as so fundamentally different that they need translators to talk to each other, Talking Difference provides a lively, sophisticated review and analysis of talk that recognizes the interaction of gender, class, and race. Author Mary Crawford addresses power issues and real problems as she documents ways in which many social scientists have pathologized women's speech and as she suggests alternative approaches." --Cheris Kramarae, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign "The strength of this book is its review and critique of research on gender differences in language. For example, the author's discussion of the "two cultures" approach to male and female communication styles. . . .There is much of value in this book." --Angela Garcia in Contemporary Sociology From talk shows to self-help books, from popular psychology to gender-based jokes, research on the way men and women communicate has become a central focus of scholars. In this provocative volume, Mary Crawford critically evaluates the wide range of recent research on gender and language. She provides a new understanding of the role of language practices in both maintaining and disrupting gender inequality. She addresses such issues as why commonsense understandings about gender and talk have become so deeply entrenched; how academic practices constrain our understanding of how gender relations are re-created and maintained in language use; and why texts about gender and language have so little to say about indirect and potentially subversive modes of speech, such as spontaneous wit, humor, and storytelling. This lively volume will be essential reading for students and scholars in social psychology, women's studies, sociolinguistics, and interpersonal communication.
 
Talk across the Gender Gap
 
The Search for a Women's Language
 
The Assertiveness Bandwagon
 
Two Sexes, Two Cultures
 
On Conversational Humor
 
Toward a Feminist Theory of Gender and Communication

`Undoubtedly, one of her most important points is that theroies of the formation of gender identities in (pre-) adolescents have not been able to explain the particular realization of either identity (female and male)' - Journal of Sociolinguistics

`Research is a political activity [and] this book demonstrates how important it is for researchers to remember this and to constantly "critique their discipline's assumptions and practices". Talking Difference provides an excellent critical review of a good selection of the research in language and gender published over the last 20 years, including a substantial amount from the area of psychology... I found this an exhilarating book, written with energy and wit. Crawford maintains a consistently critical approach, identifying contradictions and ambiguities in popular theories of gender difference, and exposing conceptual and methodological weaknesses in language and gender research. The volume is well-structured and readable; it will prove very valuable in undergraduate and beginning postgraduate courses in language and gender or in women's studies, as well as offering much which should interest students of communication studies and social psychology' - Language in Society

`I love the warmth and wit in this book, but I say this in no way to detract from the seriousness of its subject matter and its incisive treatment by Mary Crawford... this is a great book and an important book which articulates current critical thinking about research around gender and language. Mary Crawford writes brilliantly, powerfully and lucidly in dealing with issues which, whether or not we are researching in areas around talk and language, are crucial to us all... There is so much in this book. It is thought-provoking and political, interesting and entertaining. It is refreshingly clear about issues which so often seem confused. There's no way that I can do it justice so you need to read it. I thoroughly recommend it' - British Psychological Society Psychology of Women Section Newsletter

`The book is a critical review of the linguistic, psychological and popular self-help literature on sex differences in talk over the past 20 odd years. As such, Talking Difference is a valuable resource. Crawford's agenda is social change. Early on in the piece she draws on empirical research to establish that men do indeed dominate conversations at the expense of women's contributions. The problem, then, is how women can gainfully participate in conversation when a gendered system of social control often results in the denigration of women's talk. The book also tackles the related problem of how we can research the issue of sex differences in conversation without employing men's talk as the yardstick against which women's talk fails to measure up. How do we acknowledge women's problems without making women the problem?... a valuable, and at times highly entertaining, resource' - Feminism & Psychology

`Crawford presents excellent reviews of various literatures on gender differences in assertiveness, communication between sexes and humor... she has covered a huge amount of material on gender differences in language from several different disciplines and perspectives. Researchers will certainly appreciate the literature review and may find themselves investigating new tools for research... Crawford shames researchers for not reading outside their areas. She prompts good questions and may help researchers examine their own assumptions' - Contemporary Psychology

`Offers a theoretically solid and empirically challenging look at a growing field whose mass appeal demands that feminist psychology take it seriously. As stimulus to such consideration, the book is excellent... a thought-provoking glimpse at what feminist psychology could do if we took language (seriously), took "talking difference" as the answer to the core question: "what is gender, anyway?" ' - Psychology of Women Quarterly

`An excellent examination of the theoretical and empirical issues which surround linguistic gender differences... Mary Crawford's question "what are the assumptions which underly popular psychology?" is a recurrent theme throughout the book. This focus makes the book of particular interest to feminist psychologists. It also presents arguments of considerable value to those interested in the cultural context and function of psychological research' - Psy-PAG Quarterly

`The alternative [to the essentialist] approach Crawford proposes is the social constructionist view... Crawford's analysis of conversational humor is particularly eye-opening... Talking Difference is not only a great read but also an acute criticism of current research and a very important contribution to feminist theory' - Journal of Pragmatics

`The strength of this book is its review and critique of research on gender differences in language... The book has explicit feminist goals, and aims to reframe the types of research questions posed in gender research so that the results may lead to positive social change, rather than reinforcing existing sex stereotypes... there is much of value in this book. Some readers will find the review of the literature on gender and language and the author's critique of it worth the price of admission' - Contemporary Sociology

`This book covers an important issue of interest to students and researchers in psychology, women's studies, sociolinguistics and communication studies. I believe others might find this book interesting as well, such as researchers who examine sex differences in organizational behaviour and human resource management [and} those interested in such topics as sexual harassment, where language plays an important role... it is well written and employs numerous accessible examples that help readers like me who are not familiar with this research area understand it better... Crawford poses a series of questions on sex differences and cumulating research findings across studies that I believe are insightful and thought-provoking for researchers and laypeople alike' - Personnel Psychology

`A refreshingly critical (and readable) look at our current wisdom about men's and women's language. Mary Crawford's straight talking offers a powerful antidote to clich[ac]es and muddled thinking on this subject and will give future language and gender researchers valuable food for thought. I thoroughly recommend it' - Deborah Cameron, University of Strathclyde

`In contrast to articles and books that present women and men as so fundamentally different that they need translators to talk to each other, Talking Difference provides a lively, sophisticated review and analysis of talk which recognizes the interaction of gender, class and race. Mary Crawford addresses power issues and real problems as she documents ways in which many social scientists have pathologized women's speech, and as she suggests alternative approaches' - Cheris Kramarae, University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign


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