, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 449-461

Gender and prestige preference in language

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A literature in sociolinguistics asserts that women tend to adopt and use the speech of richer people more readily than men where the difference between the speech of rich and poor is a variant/variant, a standard language/dialect, or a standard language/creole difference. This generalization is not found to be true of second language learning. Learning a second language differs from learning a variant of one's own or a very closely related form in that it requires more exposure and motivation. If these factors are controlled for, the effect predicted by the Gender and Prestige Preference Theory ought to appear. It does not. Whatever female preference there may be for the language of the rich, it is very small.

The authors thank Penelope Eckert and Robbins Burling for their comments, and Tom Wilkinson for programming assistance. A version of this paper was presented at the 1976 American Sociological Association meetings.