Ladies and Gentlemen, Women and Men: A Study of the Connotations of Words Indicating Gender
Author(s)Barbara E. Moely
Department Of Psychol
Contributor(s)The Pennsylvania State University CiteSeerX Archives
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AbstractLakoff‘s hypothesis about the connotations of the words “lady ” and “wom-an ” was investigated by asking college students to rate these words, as well as the masculine words “gentleman ” and “man, ” on several adjective scales. Ratings indicated that the term “gentleman ” implied greater competence and warmth than the word “man, ” while the term “lady ” tended to suggest to raters relatively less competence and less warmth than the term “woman ” did. Further, it was found that the more formal term (”gentleman, ” ”lady”) regardless of ‘ gender was described more positively than the less formal term (“man, ” “woman”) on sever-al scales concerned with goodness, politeness, morality, and femininity. Lakoffs hypothesis that “lady ” conveys some unique meanings relative to sex role ster-eotypes thus received support, although some of the connotations of “lady” appear to be due to implied formality rather than to gender features. The degree to which feminine terms were differentiated by raters could be predicted to some extent on the basis of rater characteristics; no significant prediction was possible for the masculine terms. Robin Lakoff (1973, 1975) has suggested that certain aspects of language use reflect the gender-related stereotypes of a culture. The present research was concerned with one aspect of this argument, specif-T h e authors would like to thank Dr. Edgar &lt;)’Neal of Tulane University and Dr. Cindy Margolin of San Jose State University for their assistance in obtaining research participants, and Drs. Gray Garwood, Jerry Wiener, Weber Donaldson, and Ed O ” e a 1 for their comments on an earlier draft of this report. Special appreciation is extended t o David Cushman for his help in planning and carrying o u t the work.