A Developmental Study on Genderspeech

The purpose of this study was to investigate whether children show the same gender differences in their speech patterns as those observed in adults in previous research. The speech patterns of interest are the "feminine" speech forms elaborated by Robin Lakoff (1973, 1975) and referred to as the "female register" by Crosby and Nyquist (1977). Looking at gender differences in three age groups additionally provided the basis for exploring a possible developmental trend of increasing use of the "female register" by girls as they move toward adolescence and adulthood. Samples of recorded speech by first, fifth, and tenth grade students were coded for the presence and frequency of "feminine" speech forms. Mean rates for each sex were compared, using Wilcoxon analysis. Results showed no significant gender differences in first, fifth, or tenth grade groups. Pearson r analysis showed strong, positive correlation between increasing grade level and use of the female register, especially for the female subjects.