Speech Act in Feminine Point of View

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  1. Introduction

The principal use of language is to state facts, to describe how things are in the world, to present information which, generally, is either true or false (Kreidler, 1998). People often use a language to signal their membership of particular groups. Social status, gender, age, ethnicity and the kinds of social networks people belong to turn out to be important dimensions of identity in many communities. It means that no two people speak exactly the same, including man and woman. This paper will discuss more about speech acts that is often used by women.

2. What makes women’s language different?

It is often claimed by the society that women’s language different from men’s. Some linguists believe that the differences are caused by their position in the society. Lakoff (in Holmes, 2001) suggested that women’s subordinate social status in America society is reflected in the language women use. Therefore, she identified some language features which she claimed were used more often by women than by men. These are ten elements of the language that women use, as identified by Robin Lakoff in 1975. Of course, not all women use all of this language all of the time, and some may question the whole.


Hedging provides a way out, should disagreement occur, qualifying statements with non-absolute language, such as ‘sort of’, ‘I guess’, ‘you know’, ‘well’, ‘you see’, etc. Lakoff (in Holmes, 2001) suggested that women use hedging devices to express uncertainty. In other words, it can be said that the use of hedging shows us women’s lack of confidence.


Well, I sort of looked at him, and then he kind of looked back. Then I guess I kept looking.


Politeness refers to the common notion of the term, that is, the way politeness manifests itself in communicative interaction: politeness-aspractice in everyday interaction (Brasdefer, 2008). Politeness is taken to more extreme forms, either putting the speaker in an inferior position or seeking to be thoughtful and non-threatening towards the other person. Look at the differences between men’s and women’s language when they ask for a help.


I was wondering if you’d write a letter of recommendation for me.

I was wondering if you’d be a referee for me.


I was wondering if you’d be so kind as to write a recommendation letter for a university application please.

I was wondering whether you would consider writing a letter of recommendation for me please.

I was wondering if I could ask you to write me a letter of recommendation because I am applying for a course.

Tag questions

Tag questions added to the end of a statement do not change the statement, although they do seek agreement. Holmes (2001) stated that the tag question is a syntactic device listed by Lakoff which may express uncertainty.


Ann is a university student. She is telling her roommate about her experience at school.

I did my exams in sixty five, didn’t I? (Indicates rising intonation)

However, question tag is not only for stating uncertainty but also as a device to express politeness.


Susan is having a small party to introduce a new neighbor, Rick, to other people who live in that street. She introduces Rick to her old friend, John.

Susan:    John, this is our new neighbor, Rick. John has just changed jobs, haven’t you? (Indicates falling intonation)

John:      Yes I am now a well-paid computer programmer instead of a poorly paid administrative assistant.

Emotional emphasis

The emotional content of sentences is increased through the use of intonation that emphasizes and exaggerates emotional.

You are so very kind. I really want you to know I am so grateful.

Empty adjectives

Adjectives are applied to soften and add friendly elements to the sentence, although they do not add any particularly meaningful content, such as ‘divine’, ‘charming’, ‘cute’.

What a charming and sweet young man you are!

Correct grammar and pronunciation

Care is taken to be correct with language and speech. Colloquialisms and slang are used far less than men.

I would be very appreciative if you could show me the way.

Lack of humor

Humor is not used very much and jokes are very seldom told.

Direct quotations

The words that people said are often quoted, even quoting people who quote other people.

Then she said that he said, “I won’t do it.” So I said, “Why not?”

Extended vocabulary

Rather than simple language, vocabulary is extended to use descriptive language. Thus, for example a precise language is used to describe colors.

The walls should be cerise, with a royal blue tracer.

Declarations with interrogative intonation

Statements are made, but using the intonation used for questions, rising at the end of the statement.

That sounds like a good thing to do?

3. Conclusion

Feminist have claimed that English is a sexist language (Holmes, 2001). It means that there are some differences between men and women in uttering something. Some of the significant differences are that women’s language is lack of confidence and more polite. It can be identified by the use of hedging, question tag, and other language features.


Brasdefer, J. Cesar Felix. (2008). Politeness in Mexico and the United States. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company

Holmes, Janet. (2001). An Introduction to Sociolinguistics (2nd edition). Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.

Kreidler, Charles W. (1998). Introducing English Semantics. New York: Routladge.

Lakoff, R. (1975). Language and Woman’s Place. New York: Harper & Row.

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