Socialized Male Speech Dominance: Why women find themselves thinking, “I just said that.”

When children are growing up, in any culture, their parents and other people in their lives teach them social norms and values by showing them how to behave and take part in social interactions. That process is called socialization. When someone teaches a child how to talk and express themselves, that’s called language socialization — and it isn’t just about learning new vocabulary.

Many cultures expect men and women to speak in different ways, according to expectations about their personalities or roles within society. (And this socialization also happens with other social categories, such as race or class.) In her article “10 Words Every Girl Should Learn,” Soraya Chemaly points out that men are socialized to dominate conversations, and this has no small effect on how women are heard (or not heard, really):

As adults, women’s speech is granted less authority and credibility. We aren’t thought of as able critics or as funny. Men speak more, more often, and longer than women in mixed groups (classrooms, boardrooms, legislative bodies, expert media commentary and, for obvious reasons religious institutions.) Indeed, in male-dominated problem solving groups including boards, committees and legislatures, men speak 75% more than women, with negative effects on decisions reached. That’s why, as researchers summed up, “Having a seat at the table is not the same as having a voice.”

I can certainly recall situations where a man repeated something I had said just moments before (and others clearly heard and responded to him more than to me). Where I was interrupted while trying to explain an idea. Where I felt the need to apologize for talking too much, even when I wasn’t. It can happen in nearly any context.

Sometimes I think I’m lucky to work in an environment where gender is somewhat obscured — that is, we communicate primarily via text, which highlights the words and ideas rather than the person saying them. But that idea, too, can be dangerous: our language socialization spills over into text, into how we phrase our ideas and perceive what others write. Stepping behind a keyboard doesn’t solve the problem.

The solution will come from socializing all young people in our society to speak confidently — and to listen carefully — no matter their gender, race, or class. And in the meantime, we can encourage those who might otherwise go unheard to speak up, and speak out against others who try to take away their voice.

Read more: 10 Words Every Girl Should Learn

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The language and poetry of Stuart Davis

Stuart Davis has been one of my favorite singer-songwriters for many years. His lyrics are clever and thoughtful (and sometimes weird and crazy) and his music is both unique and catchy. Not to mention that he’s an incredible performer — his shows are a blast.

On top of that, he created his own language, IS. The language is part of Stu’s art but also an illustration of his philosophy. It’s beautiful and I’ve enjoyed seeing how it has developed. Check out the video above to learn more about it.

And if that piqued your curiosity, enjoy Stu performing songs from a handful of his albums:

When you realize that tweets are the future

Clive Thompson writes about the rise of subordinate clauses as complete thoughts in online writing like tweets and Facebook updates. You know, the ones that begin, “When you …” or “That moment when …”:

The point is, it’s up to you imagine the rest of the utterance. It’s like the author is handing you a little puzzle. Subordinate-clause tweets and Yik-Yak postings seduce us into filling out that missing info, McCulloch says. “Our brain has to work a little bit harder to figure out what it’s referring to, and so making that connection is very satisfying. It’s like getting a joke. You have to draw that connection for yourself a little bit — but because you can do it, it works really well.”

It’s not just a clever turn of phrase or a puzzle, either. It helps your readers identify with you (“Yes, I know just how you feel when that happens!”), it gets right to the point (useful for those 140-character witticisms), and perhaps most exciting, it paves the way for language change. Innovation can happen anywhere we’re experimenting and playing with language.

Read more: That Way We’re All Writing Now

Thinking in a Second Language

Do different languages make us think differently? In graduate school, I took a course in second language acquisition and psycholinguistics, and this was a hot topic. What do second languages do to our modes of thinking, to our brains?

Aneta Pavlenko points out that we likely have this relationship backwards. Rather than our second language (L2) making us think differently, we have to think differently to speak the L2 like a native speaker. We’re more aware of that effort when we’re speaking, but it surprises us when it pops up while we’re thinking:

… emergence of a new inner voice in the L2 often catches us by surprise. For some, the experience of hearing yourself ‘think’ in the new language is the embodiment of ‘thinking in the L2.’ The reality, however, is more complex and less dramatic. The ‘new’ voice of inner speech is not a guarantee that we attend and categorize similarly to speakers of the L2 – we may still speak the L1 in the L2. By the same token, not hearing yourself ‘think in the L2’ does not mean that you don’t.

I don’t think I ever got to a point where I noticed myself thinking in German. But I definitely internalized German ways of thinking. In a lot of situations with native German speakers, because of the social setting, I ended up speaking English with them. But I found myself picking up German sentence structure based on how they spoke. For example, German places time phrases closer to the start of the sentence. Instead of this:

We went to the store yesterday.

You’d say this:

We went yesterday to the store.

Many of my German friends and acquaintances retained this way of thinking when they spoke English, and I adopted it. In that sense, they kept speaking their L1 (using the German way of thinking) even in English, and I started thinking in my L2 despite not using German words.

Read more: What Does it Mean to Think in a Second Language?