In general, women tend to prefer to use the most standard or prestige form of a language regardless of cultural background or geography. Linguists have proposed several potential reasons for this. This post will share some of the most common ideas on why women often used the standard form of their language.
There is a belief among many linguists that women use the most prestigious forms of their language because they are more status-conscious than men. By using the standard version of their language a woman is able to claim a higher status.
The implication of this is that women have a lower status in society and try to elevate themselves through their use of language. However, this conclusion has been refuted as women who work outside the home use more of the standard form of their language than women who work in their home.
If the social status hypothesis was correct women who work at home, and thus have the lowest status, should use more of the standard form then women who work. Currently, this is not the case.
Women as Protector of Society’s Values
The women as protector of values view see social pressure as a constraint on how women communicate. Simply, women use more standard forms of their language than men because women are expected to behave better. It is thrust upon women to serve as an example for their community and especially for their children.
This answer is considered correct but depends highly on context. For example, this idea falls a part most frequently when women communicate with their children. The informal and intimate setting often leads to most women using the vernacular aspects of their language.
Women as Subordinate Group
A third suggestion is that women, who are often a subordinate group, use the more standard version of their language to show deference to those over them. In other words, women use the most polite forms of their language to avoid offending men.
However, this suggestion also fails because it equates politeness with the standard form of a language. People can be polite using vernacular and they can be rude using the most prestigious form of their language possible.
Vernacular as Masculine
A final common hypothesis on women’s use of standard forms is the perception that the use of the vernacular is masculine and tough. Women choose the standard form as a way of demonstrating behaviors traditionally associated with gender in their culture. Men, on the other hand, use vernacular forms to show traits that are traditionally associated with male behaviors.
The problem with this belief is the informal settings. As mentioned previously, women and men use more vernacular forms of their language in informal settings. As such, it seems that context is one of the strongest factors in how language is used and not necessarily gender.