It gets shelved in the Self-Help section of bookstores, but this is actually a sociolinguistic and rhetorical treatise that everyone, from academic to mechanic to house husband, should read:You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation
by Deborah Tannen
Ever wondered why men won't ask for directions? Or, better yet, ever wonder why so many other people wonder it on occasion? Well, the answer to both is this book; Deborah Tannen sparked a revolution 15 years ago when she published this book. In it, she posits, among other things, that men are more interested in "report-talk" and hierarchical relations, while women are more interested in "rapport-talk" and intergroup harmony. As such, conflicts between men and women arise when each views the behavior of others through the wrong style. In short, men and women live in two very different conceptual worlds, but both assume that they're living in the same one. The text is rich with information and possibility; while in college, I used Tannen's theory for cross-cultural dialogue and rhetorical discussion. The same theory might be applied to literary analysis. (So much usable stuff there.) In fact, Tannen does some off-the-cuff literary analysis herself--more than I would have preferred, actually, considering that she was using mock situations to illustrate what she considers to be very real phenomena. The book is also an excellent "how-to" guide for recognizing male and female speech--and reproducing it when necessary. I know that my speech is manly in that I am often conscious on some level of hierarchy; I've always hated asking for directions and am quick to disagree, for example. I also rarely indulge in small talk. The only time I am somewhat consistently feminine in my speech patterns with family. If you want to see a conflict of the likes Tannen describes in her book, you should watch me and my father go at it at some point. ^^; Though I'd never read the entire book until now (only excerpts), I have been utilizing deliberately female speech for years (especially *sighs* in Korea) on a conscious level when such is expedient. Highly recommended!
Oh, and before I forget, here's a select quote from the book for gynocrat_rex
Linguist Deborah Schiffrin showed that in the conversations of working-class Eastern European Jewish speakers--both male and female--in Philadelphia, friendly argument was a means of being sociable. (160)