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Gender and Hedging: From Sex Differences to Situated Practice.

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>01/1997
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Psycholinguistic Research
Issue number1
Number of pages19
Pages (from-to)89-107
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In a reanalysis of women's language, Holmes (1995) has argued that women's use of hedges expresses interpersonal warmth and not, as many researchers have maintained, linguistic tentativeness. It is typically men, she suggests, who employ hedges to convey imprecision and incertitude. In this study, we investigated the use of the hedges sort of and you know in a sample of South African students. Holmes's method of analysis was applied to hedging behavior in 52 dyadic conversations. The study consisted of a 2 (Speaker Gender: Male/Female) X 2 (Audience Gender: Male/Female) X 2 (Condition: Competitive/Noncompetitive) between-subjects experimental design. The results showed that contextual influences eclipsed the effects of gender; in fact, no main effects were found for speaker gender. Fewer hedges were deployed in the competitive condition than in the noncompetitive condition. Moreover, perhaps reflecting differences in social status, both sexes used sort of to express tentativeness more frequently when talking to male addressees. When speaking to female addressees, on the other hand, men deployed facilitative you know hedges more readily than women.