classic case of chicken and the egg?

So tell me, which came first: gender or purpose? what, you ask well, let me explain. last night i spent a long, lovely time in the bathtub reading Jennifer Coates introductory book, Women Men and Language. In the chapter discussing quantitative studies, Coates exemplified the classic sociolinguistic gender pattern: i.e., that men tend to speak in regional dialects, while women tend to strive for the standard dialect (due to reasons such as prestige and covert prestige). All the studies shown in this book were separated by *both* gender and socioeconomic patterns. Which makes me wonder it the emphasis on the socioeconomic does not skew the findingsat least making it difficult to say that it is only gender at work. What makes me question this mix are the findings I have read in the last two days by Herring, as well as by Huffaker and Calvert. Both studies (and I will look more at the Huffaker/Calvery article later), showed non-significant relationship with gender and variables traditionally associated with gender. There was a much stronger correlation with genre. And this makes me start to think if gender can be more easily disguised online, and patterns hereto associated with gender are not present in any significant way, then maybe gender was not the defining characteristic after all. Maybe features traditionally associated with gender (hedging, pronoun usage, etc.) have much more to do with the communicative purpose and the audience than the speaker/writer’s gender.

Comparing these off-line and online patterns is helping me focus my next hypotheses (article forthcoming). One aspect I want to examine is each posts communicative purpose and intended audience to determine if patterns traditionally associated with the bloggers gender could actually be originating from the purpose.