International Islamic University M.A ENGLISH LITERATURE & LANGUISTICS 3RD SEMESTER-SECTION A SOCIOLINGUISTICSASSIGNMENT TOPIC: APPLICATION OF LAKOFF THEORY ON THE TEXT OF THE PLAY A DOLL’S HOUSE BY HENRICK IBSEN SUBMITTED TO: MRS. SALMA KALEEM SUBMITTED BY: HUMA ASLAM KINZA GHAFOOR SUMAIRA BIBI HUMA HAFIZ DATED: 19-12-2012
Introduction:„Language and Gender‟ refer to the area of studies enclosed by sociolinguistics, appliedlinguistics and associated fields that enquire into the varieties of speech linked with a specificgender. A variety of speech correlated with a specific gender is also called „genderlect‟.Finding the relationship between language and gender has ever been a topic of interest forsociolinguists. During the early twentieth century, research have been conducted in the field of„linguistic Anthropology‟ which tends to explore the differences between men‟s speech andwomen‟s speech in a wide range of languages, and also pointing out the distinctive male andfemale language forms.Gender has also been identified as a social variable in „language variation studies‟ since 1960‟s.Recurrent point to be found among the speakers of same social status appears to be the use of„standard‟ or „privileged‟ language features among the women and the use of „lower‟ or„vernacular‟ language features by the men.Language and gender really became popular during 1960‟s along a wide interest, specificallyconcerning feminist researches in regard to the ability of male dominance in mixed gender talk,for instance men interrupting women more often than vice versa; and observing thediscriminating male and female utterance or speaking styles as women are normally found usingmore supportive or cooperative speaking styles. While men are more prone towards competitivestyle, so, the sexism or sexist bias can be identified in language.The field was also marked by varying positions, retrospectively termed, “deficit”, “dominance;which is usually male”, “differences” like cultural differences. Research associated with thedeficit position saw women‟s language use as deficient in various ways. The dominant positionof male is perceived as being emphasized on the basis of differences in power between male andfemale speakers; the cultural difference position marks men‟s and women‟s language utterancesas culturally different but not unequal.The use of language among men and women has also been analyzed and interpreted in regard topoliteness, where usually women are perceived as being linguistically more polite than men.“Language and gender” has long been a topic of debates and research work for sociolinguists. Ithas been asserted and claimed by many linguists that the differences in language among man andwomen are universal, inherent and biologically determined.A well known linguist came up with an interest in the features and characteristics of men‟s andwomen‟s language which made her to observe social implications of speech. She interpreted andelaborated the variations of speech and gender. She emphasized upon the fact that whetherlanguage plays part to women‟s status in society i.e. their lack of power. Robin Lakoff assertsthat women‟s language is polite and expresses the idea that women are fragile, weaker and less
certain than men. She justifies the treatment of women as having low status and men‟s treatmenttowards women.Theory:Robin Lakoff was a professor of linguistics at the University of California and her well work wasthe subject of women‟s language as she believed that women‟s speech can be distinguished incertain features. Lakoff formulated the “politeness principle” in three maxims; don‟t impose,give options, make one‟s receiver feel good.Lakoff assert that the language is basic to gender inequalities and it could play part to thedeficiency of women‟s power in two areas; the use of language about women and the langugeused by women.The vital features which distinguish women language includes the use of „hedging‟ which showslack of authorities and uncertainty, the use of super polite forms, use of hyper correct grammarand pronunciation especially using English prestige grammar and clear enunciation.Lakoff believed that there are some certain features which distinguish women‟s language frommen‟s language such as use of tag questions like “isn‟t it?” or “aren‟t you?” Speaking in italicsand using more intensifiers which means that intonation emphasis becomes equal to underliningwords like „so‟, „very‟ or „quiet‟.Women use exaggerated intonation or stress for emphasis which expresses uncertainty. Femalesare more prone towards using “empty adjectives”. Lackoff argues that a man appears to be morefeminine if he uses such terms as „divine, lovely, adorable, delightful and sweetie‟ as it hurts hismasculine prestige. Females use “direct quotation while males paraphrase more often.Use of special lexicons is obvious in female speeches. Lakoff suggests that such words are trivialand evidence of the fact that women have been allowed control over unimportant things. Womenuse more words for things like colors, men for sports.Women use of questioning intonation in declarative statements; women make declarativestatements into questions by raising the pitch of their voice at a statement, expressinguncertainty. Use of indirect and use of implication “wh” imperatives. Lakoff claimed women usethis because they do not feel the authority to give orders.Women speak less frequently. Men speak more often than woman. It proves women to be lesscertain of themselves. Women apologize more like saying “I am sorry, but I think that…”Women use more modal constructions such as „can, would, should, ought‟.
Women use indirect commands and requests. They lack a sense of humor. They do not tell jokeswell and often do not understand the punch line of jokes. Female avoid coarse language orexpletives.Application of theory:The play A Doll‟s house by Henrick Ibsen has been selected for the application of the theory ofLakoff. There are certain speeches in the play on which the features of lakoff theory can besuccessfully applied.Tag Questions:Lakoff claims that tag questions are more prominent in women‟s speech as it has occurred manytimes in the text and is evident in the following dialogues;Nora says: “let us do as you suggest Torvald, and then I shall have time to think what I am inwant of that, is a very sensible plan, isn‟t it?”Nora: “it will be splendid to have heaps of money and not need to have any anxiety, won‟t it?”Mrs. Linde: “you spent a whole year in Italy, didn‟t you?”When Nora tells Mrs. Linde about the trip to Italy with Helmer, she says:Nora: “it cost about two hundred and fifty pounds, thats‟ a lot, isn‟t it?”At a place Mrs. Linde says to Nora,Linde: “oh, I see it was just about that time that he died, wasn‟t it?”Nora: “you are proud, aren‟t you…”At a place Nora addresses Dr. RankNora: “once in a way-that‟s so, isn‟t it, Dr. Rank?”Hence from the above examples it is proved that women use tag questions in their speeches, butit is not true that they use tag questions more than men as the male character in the play are alsoobserved as using the questions in their language.Helmer: “… and a big enough income it‟s delightful to think of, isn‟t it?”Another evident instance is of Krogstad‟s speech when he talks to Nora about Mrs. Linde:Krogstad: “she is a great friend of yours. Isn‟t she?”He again uses the tag questions in another speech
Krogstad: “haven‟t you? I thought you said yourself just now”.Again at another place he says “didn‟t you?”Hence Lakoff claim seems to be false that only female use more tag questions in their speech anduse of language.Use of more Intensifiers:Lakoff asserts that female use more intensifiers like „so‟ and „very‟ and speak with intonationemphasis upon certain words as the following dialogues shows this feature:Linde: “and much, much older Nora”Nora: “perhaps a little older; very, very little, certainly not much.Another incidence from the text is:Mrs. Linde: “I quite understand, dear”Nora: “it was very bad of me”.Many of Nora‟s other speeches are evident of Lakoff‟s claim like:“…I shall in a very short time be free of the whole thing”“…and you certainly won‟t keep you post them”“Yes, indeed I am”“It is not so very late…”“…I look so nice …”Similarly there are many Mrs. Linde‟s speeches which explicitly exhibit this feature.Mrs.Linde:“…come in; we are quite alone…”Mrs.Linde: “is it too late now?”Mrs.Linde: “I understand very well…”Mrs.Linde: “and your husband came back quite well”Mrs.Linde: “quite so”.At a place Nora asks Mrs.Linde:Nora: “how you have altered, Christine” and Mrs. Linde replies as:
Mrs. Linde: “yes I have indeed”.Other than these examples there are many more examples of the usage of intensifiers among thespeeches of female but men are also found as using intensifiers in their speeches equally, whichnegates the assumption that females use more intensifier than men. Lakoff says that women usemore intensifiers but the idea contradicts when it comes to the application of the text as in thetext the male characters are also observed as using this feature for instance Krogstad says to Nora“you will be so kind…”Some other dialogues by male characters display intensifiers:Krogstad: “I can quite understand that your friend is not very anxious to expose herself to thechance of rubbing shoulders with me; and I quite understand, too…”Helmer: “…my dear Nora, you look so worn-out”.Over Use Qualifiers:Lakoff supports the views that “over use qualifiers” are observed more in women than men andso many of the instances of it can be found in the text.Mrs. Linde: “ I see he lives at the corner here”Mrs. Linde: “you don‟t recognize me I suppose”Mrs. Linde: “I thought your maid said the gentleman who arrived here just as I did, was thedoctor?”Mrs. Linde: “I believe he was quite well off”Mrs. Linde: “I think I have the right to be”Mrs. Linde: “there is the bell; perhaps I had better go”.Similarly, Nora also uses the „over use qualifier‟ as she says :Nora: “no, perhaps you were quite right”Nora: “I think so too”Nora: “I think I have heard something of the kind”Nora :“I don‟t know; I think there is …”
From the above examples it is evident that Lakoff‟s claim about the over use of qualifiers amongwomen is true but still it cannot be said that men donot use it in their speeches as it occurs in thelanguage of both genders. In the text it is obvious through the speech of Dr. Rank when he says:Dr. Rank: “I think I passed you on the stairs”Helmer also says “a school friend of my wife‟s, I presume?”At a place Krogstad says:Krogstad: “…I suppose someone forgot to shut it”.Krogstad : “I presume you can give me a moment?Questioning Intonation:Lakoff claims that women use questioning intonation in declarative statements and that womanusually use indirect commands and speech in request forms. Some of the instances of this featurecan be seen in the text. The examples from the text are mentioned below;Nora:“…then I will wrap it up in beautiful gilt paper and hang it on the Christmas tree. Wouldn‟tthat be fun?”Nora: “what! Have been snow balling? I wish I had been there too!... what shall we play at? Hideand seek?”Nora: “is it so long since we met? I suppose it is”Nora: “you don‟t mean that you will tell my husband that I owe you money”Nora: “…but what would my assurances have been worth against yours? That was the wonderfulthing that I hoped for and fear”.Mrs. Linde: “how am I to thank you?”Mrs. Linde: “and your husband keeps the key?”So from the above mentioned dialogues it can be extracted that Nora and Mrs. Linde are moreinclined towards the use of questioning intonation in their declarative and request speeches. Thequestioning intonation in declarative statements and the use of indirect commands and requestsare also explicit in the dialogues of male characters in the play as Helmer wants Nora to stay andbe with him but he says his request in this mannerHelmer: “but can‟t we live here like a brother and sister?Krogstad: “I presume you can give me a moment”.
So these statements stand out to be an opposition to Lakoff‟s claim that the questioningintonation in declarative statements and the of indirect commands and requests are more used bywomen.Model Constructions:It is suggested by Lakoff that women use more „model constructions’ then men in theirspeeches, as the dialogues of Nora and Mrs. Linde provide evidence for it.Nora: “I ought to tell you that we had it from papa”Nora: “you ought not to be more superior”Nora: “he should not know my goodness, and can‟t you understand that? It was necessary heshould have no idea…how much I should love to travel abroad…I told him that he ought toremember the condition I was in and that he ought to be kind and indulgent to me”Nora: “it‟s something I should dearly love to say, if Torvald could hear me”Nora: “I should just love to say”Nora: “…sometimes one has a tiny little bit of influence I should hope”Nora: “it would be perfectly infamous of you…and it would put me in a horrible disagreeableposition”Nora: “how should I know?”Nora: “you should have let it alone…”Nora: “oh! You would not understand…”Same feature is evident in Mrs. Linde speeches as well.Mrs. Linde: ”there was a time when he would gladly do anything for my sake”Mrs. Linde: “I could do nothing else”Mrs. Linde: “…we couldn‟t wait for you”.So, the words like ought, can‟t, should, would, could are used by female characters. Lakoffthinks that only females are more inclined towards the use of model constructions while in thetext the dialogues of male characters contradict this idea as well. The instance of it can be of Dr.Rank‟s speechDr. Rank: “I won‟t disturb you; I would rather go into your wife”.
Krogstad‟s dialogues also support this idea :Krogstad:“…I should advise you to use your influence to prevent that”Krogstad:“I shouldn‟t have thought so”.“WH-“ Imperatives:Lakoff is of the view that women use „wh‟ imperatives in their speeches like “why don‟t youopen the door”. An instance of it can be taken from the play „A doll‟s house‟ from Nora speechwhen she is talking to Mrs. Linde. Mrs. Linde is looking for a room to live and Nora wants tohelp her but she has got no free room in her house so she replies to Mrs. Linde that:Nora: “what a pity it is we are short of space here; I am afraid it is impossible for us”.From the above example it can be analyzed that female convey the information in form ofquestions.Empty Adjectives:Lakoff also claims that women use more empty adjectives like „divine‟, „lovely‟, „adorable‟.Nora: “it is really wonderful”Nora: “it‟s wonderfully lovely”Nora: “to have some fun at Christmas time, of course how delightful!”Nora: “It will be splendid to have heaps of money”Nora: “but during the first week he overworked himself dreadfully”.Nora: “He couldn‟t stand it and fell dreadfully ill”Nora: “it was a wonderfully beautiful journey…but it cost a tremendous lot of money, Christine”Nora: “…and I had my poor sick Torvald to look after”Nora: “our beautiful happy home”Nora: “it‟s perfectly glorious to think that…”Nora: “my sweet little baby doll!”.The underlined adjectives like wonderful, lovely, delightful, splendid, tremendous, beautiful,poor, glorious and sweet little are more often used by the female characters in their speeches.
Hedges:Lakoff is of the view that women are more prone towards using hedging like „sort of‟, „kind of‟,„it seems like‟. It can be proved from the text;Nora: “…embroidery and that kind of thing”Nora: “what should make you think I have any influence of that kind with my husband?”Nora: “So it seems”Nora: “…but you must not read anything of that kind now”.Mrs. Linde speeches also contain hedging:Mrs. Linde: “… small household cares and that sort of thing...”Mrs. Linde: “it seems to me imprudent…”Mrs. Linde: “still I think the sick are those who most need taking care of”. The use of hedging byNora and Mrs. Linde shows lack of certainty, power and authority. The use of hedging is alsoobserved in the dialogues of the male characters of the play as Dr. Rank says:Dr. Rank: “yes the general opinion seems to be that it is necessary”.Dr. Rank: “yes, he has some sort of appointment there”.Krogstad says to Nora:Krogstad: “…but every way seems to be close to me after that”. So, here again Lakoff‟s theory does not prove to be totally correct. The underlined words provethat men and women both are inclined towards using adjectives.Women ‘Apologize’ More and Use More ‘Super Polite’ Forms:Lakoff proposes that women „apologize’ more and use more „super polite’ forms in languagebut in the text this feature is seen also in the male characters in the play as a servant of Norasays:Nora: “excuse me, ma‟am there is a gentleman to see the master”Krogstad:“…I shall be obliged to remind you of few details”.Helmer : “with great pleasure if you wish me to”Helmer : “I would gladly walk night and day for you”.
The use of apologizing elements in the language are also observable in male characters asphrases like „I beg your pardon‟ and „excuse me‟ are frequently used.Conclusion:All the feature that Lakoff suggested to be only attributed to the speech or language use offemales cannot be totally assumed as true ,as after the application of these features on the text itcan be deduced that not all but some of the features can be applied as some of them appear to becontradictory. Thus, at many places it can be seen that the same Lackoff features can be appliedregarding the language use of both genders.