Gender Difference in the Use of Thought Representation—A Corpus-Based Study

  •  Anne Riissanen    
  •  Greg Watson    


This study (Note 1) investigates potential differences in language use between genders, by applying a modified model of thought representation. Our hypothesis is that women use more direct forms of thought representation than men in modern spoken British English.

Women are said to favour “private speech” that creates intimacy and nearness through discourse, which involves direct forms of speech, and thought, representation. Men are said to prefer a more distancing “public speech” style, in order to maintain independence and to hold and negotiate status, which often involves the display of skill and knowledge. In order to investigate this hypothesis, we examine a slightly modified form of the Lancaster SW & TP Spoken corpus, which has been tagged for the full spectrum of the primary categories of thought representation.

The results of this study prove our thesis to be correct, there are statistically highly significant differences between the genders’ use of direct forms of thought representation. British women use the direct forms more than their male counterparts. This greater use of direct thought categories in their daily discourse depicts a lucidity and consciousness, supposedly faithfully repeating the actual thoughts of the speaker, and it often occurs in a moment of heightened emotional or cognitive state. Therefore, because women seem to be able to express their emotions more lucidly then men, and are more inclined to express their thoughts in more detail, they tend to use more direct forms of thought representation than men in daily discourse.

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