1.1 Background to the Study
A crucial distinction between human beings and animals is to a large extent the way we communicate with one another. Human beings use words to express emotions, thoughts and information of any kind. In each language use, words are constructed in a particular way and it is inspiring to know that when studying written or verbal words, it is quite possible to ascertain whether a word belongs to one gender or another even when the person has no clue about the gender of the one communicating.
Language, according to Osisanwo (2008:1), is human vocal noise or the arbitrary graphic representation of this noise, used systematically and conventionally by members of a speech community for purposes of communication. It is important to know that language is a human attribute. It has a graphic representation which is in form of text, used in different ways by members of a society to communicate their feelings, intentions, fears, anger and roles.
Language is a means of communication used by people of the same sex or opposite sex to accomplish such functions as ordering, promising, arguing, and so on. In essence, any communicative function needs to be carried out within a context, which may either be situational, interpersonal or social and cultural. In the process of communication, language users are expected to be in possession of two sets of capabilities: They should have knowledge of the forms of language they use and must know how to use this knowledge in negotiating meaning. In order to clarify meaning, the speakers and hearers or writers and readers should be able to interact meaningfully as context influences meaning.
Gender and language have become an interesting topic which linguists have investigated over time. Early studies in linguistic anthropology see Lakoff (1973, 1975) J. Coates (1988), Fishman (1980), Zimmerman (1975) and many others looked at the differences between women’s and men’s speeches across languages to identify distinct female and male language features. Focusing on the findings by Lakoff (1975), among speakers from similar social class, women tend to use more standard and formal language forms which are characterized by, intensifiers, hedges, tag question sentences, minimal responses, exclamation remarks, polite expressions and indirect expressions. While men use more of vernacular, taboo words, proverbs, command expressions, interruptions, strategic language in order to control conversations and less minimal responses to mention but a few. Lakoff in his book Language and women’s place concludes that women’s language is inferior while men’s language is superior. According to the findings, the difference in men and women’s language features reflects a power imbalance between the sexes
However, according to Lakoff (1975), there are different views why men and women possess different language features. To him, women belong to the minority group which is oppressed and marginalized and women belong to different subcultures, and their differing conversational styles reflect these subcultures. Also is the view that women’s language is weak, hesitance and lack confidence. As a result, women’s language features present women as powerless, incapable of holding power and of presenting their point of view forcefully.
Holmes (1992:16) posits that “the aim of sociolinguistics is to move towards a theory which provides a motivated account of the way language is used in a community, and of the choices people make when they use language”. Dong Jinyu (2014) states that the main content of sociolinguistics is the study of the relationships between language and society that is; it majors on the study of language structure and social context.
Bucholtz (1999) in his own view emphasizes that what is needed in the study of the differences in gender language is a form of analysis which is less focused on the individual woman or man and trends of speech in the society as a whole, but more focused on the way context and individual mutually shape the manner in which the interaction takes place. This study therefore, investigated the differences in gender language use of interlocutors as it relates to context in the selected text – Ama Atta Adio’s Changes and Adichies’ Half of a Yellow Sun.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Different scholars have recognized and taken interest in the language use and creative prowess of Ama Atta Aidoo’s Changes and Chimamanda’s Half of a Yellow Sun. However, most of the studies available on these literary texts are mostly on theme, creative processes and aesthetics; little attention is given to linguistic studies like socio-pragmatic investigation of the language difference of genders and how it relates to context. This study investigated the different language features of the interlocutors, contexts, speech acts and mood types of male and female characters in the selected texts, hence the question, do women in all contexts truly reflect powerless language as opposed to their male counterparts? The study adopted insights from Wardhaughs’ theory of “difference” in the language differences of genders.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The main objectives of this study is to investigate the gender language differences in Changes by Ama Atta Adio and Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda N. Adichie. The specific objectives are to:
- examine what context influenced the language use of men and women in Changes by Ama Atta Adio and Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda N. Adichie;
- investigate the predominant gender language features employed by men in Changes by Ama Atta Adio and Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda N. Adichie;
- examine the language features of women within their sub-cultural settings in Changes by Ama Atta Adio and Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda N. Adichie and
- investigate the predominant mood types and speech acts implored by men and women in Changes by Ama Atta Adio and Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda N. Adichie.
1.4 Research Questions
- What is the influence of context on the language choices of men and women in Changes by Ama Atta Aidoo and Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda N. Adichie?
- What predominant gender language features were employed by men in Changes by Ama Atta Aidoo and Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda N. Adichie?
- What predominant gender language features were employed by women in Changes by Ama Atta Aidoo and Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda N. Adichie?
- What predominant mood types and speech acts are employed by women and men in Changes by Ama Atta Aidoo and Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda N. Adichie?
1.5 Scope of the Study
This study focused on the socio-pragmatic features of gender language differences as it relates to context in the selected texts. Two gender based texts have been selected as the data for this study, both by female authors; Changes by Ama Ata Aido, Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda. The choice of texts arose from the need to do a thorough and unbiased study on issues around gender language differences (language features of men and women) reason being that only a detailed analysis will enable useful understanding of this study.
1.6 Significance of the Study
It is evident that many studies have been on the difference in the language of men and women and many studies have also been carried out on Changes by Ama Atta Aidoo and Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie, few studies have investigated the issues of gender and language differences using these two literatures as a case study to find out the impact of context on language use of both genders.
Bucholtz, (1999) states that what is needed is a form of analysis which is less focused on the individual woman or man and trends of speech in the society as a whole, but more focused on the way context and individual mutually shape the way interaction takes place. This study bridged the gap by investigating the gender language differences as it relates to context in Changes by Ama Atta Adioo and Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie.