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In Japan, my home country, men and women speak slightly differently in terms of word choice and how to end a sentence, to give you just a few examples. This is especially true in informal situations. In some cases, completely different words are used to mean the same thing. e.g. "Boku" for men and "Uchi" for women, both to mean "I".

Are there any such gender-specific ways of speaking in English as well? e.g. word choice, pronunciation, intonation, how to start/end a sentence etc.

  • No,that is really a phenomenon in Japanese. – Lambie Jul 28 at 20:26
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This is an interesting question, understandably from a native Japanese speaker. There are no gender markers in personal pronouns in English as in Japanese. English does not have a separate female speech style/women's language like the Japanese 女性語. In most romance languages nouns are gendered, but that is not the case in English either (English is a Germanic language, although historically heavily influenced by multiple romance languages).

However, since you mentioned other possible linguistic gender indicators, I will briefly comment on some of them. Word choice: no real concrete difference there. Although women have been expected to swear less, use less vulgar language, make fewer obscene (poop, fart, sex) jokes, that is also the case in a lot of other cultures/languages where a patriarchal society is a given and a reality. Good thing is things are changing and women swearing doesn't raise eyebrows as it used to in the world of Jane Austen.

"How to start/end a sentence": again, no real difference.

Pronunciation/intonation: Now we are entering a very intriguing space. When upspeak, also known as high rising terminal, first burst into a fad, it started with young girls from Southern California. It started out as a markedly young female thing but quickly became a fad across young generations. But it is no longer a girl thing, nor a California thing, nor young people only. I have heard people in their 40s from all over of the U.S. uptalk. Different people have different opinions about upspeak, but to me it still signals lack of confidence in what they say. I have noticed a lot of nonnative speakers pick up upspeak patterns real quick, which makes sense because it reinforces and manifests their lack of confidence in speaking English. There isn't a noticeable gender difference in the use of upspeak any more.

Another interesting phenomenon among young American women is vocal fry, which also started among young college age women making a much lower sound than their normal pitches. It is also used by men, but to a lesser extent than women. In general, linguists agree it is not just a girl phenomenon but something all speakers employ from time to time.

These are some sociolinguistic features in American English that were gender specific but not so much nowadays. I suspect there must have been similar cultural things in the UK.

P.S. If I am not mistaken, "uchi" (うち) as a first person pronoun only occurs in 関西弁, right? わたし/あたし is the standard Japanese (標準語) female first person pronoun.

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  • Very informative. I didn't know anything about "upspeak", but a similar phenomenon is observed in Japanese as well, and interestingly it also started from young girls in junior high and high-school age as far as I know. Also interesting is the vocal fry, but I don't really understand what is good about that. By the way, I guess you are right regarding the use of "uchi". I'm not fully sure, but obviously Kansai region is the main area where the word is used. Also, you are right about わたし/あたし. One note is that while あたし is the female-specific pronoun I guess, わたし is used by both genders. – Takashi Jul 29 at 8:24
  • @Takashi Oh I didn't know ending a sentence with a rising intonation was also popular among young Japanese girls. What is that phenomenon called? Did it start in Tokyo? – Eddie Kal Jul 29 at 14:43
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    I don't think there is any commonly acknowledged fixed word describing the phenomenon, but my quick Google search returned that some people call it like ごびあげ (Gobiage). Where it started is still a question for me too. – Takashi Jul 29 at 21:53

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