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81 Seiten, Note: 17.50
Table of Contents
List of Tables
Chapter One: INTRODUCTION
1.2 Statement of the Problem
1.3 Significance of the Study
1.4 Domain of the Study
1.5 Research Questions
1.6 Research Hypotheses
1.7 Definition of Key Terms
Chapter Two: LITERATURE REVIEW
2.2 Translation Studies
2.4 Gender Studies
2.5 Gender and Discourse
2.6 Gender and Feminist Linguistics
2.7 Gender and Translation
Chapter Three: METHODOLOGY
Chapter Four: DATA ANALYSIS AND RESULTS
4.2 Data Analysis and Results
Chapter Five: DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
5.3 Implications of the Study
5.4 Limitations of the Study
5.5 Suggestions for Further Research
I declare that this thesis was composed by myself, that the work contained herein is my own except where explicitly stated otherwise in the text. This work has not been submitted for any other degree or professional qualification except as specified.
To my caring wife and affectionate family
I feel much obliged to appreciate the time and patience of my supportive and sharp-witted supervisor, professor Tahririan, who helped make this work a reality.
I am also grateful to all the individuals, both friends and family that showed their concerns and gave me assistance regarding the present study.
My special thanks should, too, go to all the teachers at Sheikhbahaee University, particularly, Dr. Vahid Dastjerdi, Dr. Kusha and Dr. Talebinejad for their inspiration.
Table 4.1 The total number of words
Table 4.2 Results of t test for the total number of words
Table 4.3 The number of pronouns translated into pronouns
Table 4.4 Results of t test for the number of pronouns translated into pronouns
Table 4.5 The number of pronouns translated into nouns
Table 4.6 Results of t test for the number of pronouns translated into nouns
Table 4.7 The number of pronouns omitted
Table 4.8 Results of t test for the number of pronouns omitted
Table 4.9 The number of correct conjunctions
Table 4.10 Results of the t test for the number of correct conjunctions
Table 4.11 The number of incorrect conjunctions
Table 4.12 Results of the t test for the number of incorrect conjunctions
Table 4.13 The number of conjunctions left out
Table 4.14 Results of the t test for the number of conjunctions left out
Table 4.15 The number of correct translations of sexually-explicit terms
Table 4.16 Results of the t test for the number of correct translations of sexually-explicit terms
Table 4.17 The number of incorrect translations of sexually-explicit terms
Table 4.18 Results of the t test for the number of incorrect translations of sexually-explicit terms
Table 4.19 The number of SL intrusions of sexually-explicit terms
Table 4.20 Results of the t test for the number of SL intrusions of sexually-explicit terms
Table 4.21 The number of sexually-explicit terms omitted
Table 4.22 Results of t test for the number of sexually-explicit terms omitted
Table 4.23 The number of misspellings
Table 4.24 Results of the t test for the number of misspellings
Table 4.25 The number of SL intrusions
Table 4.26 Results of the t test for the number of SL intrusions
Table 4.27 The number of active verbs
Table 4.28 Results of the t test for the number of active verbs
Table 4.29 The number of passive verbs
Table 4.30 Results of the t test for the number of passive verbs
Table 4.31 The number of past verbs
Table 4.32 Results of the t test for the number of past verbs
Table 4.33 The number of present verbs
Table 4.34 Results of the t test for the number of present verbs
Table 4.35 The number of simple verbs
Table 4.36 Results of the t test for the number of simple verbs
Table 4.37 The number of progressive verbs
Table 4.38 Results of the t test for the number of progressive verbs
Table 4.39: The number of perfect verbs
Table 4.40 Results of the t test for the number of perfect verbs
Table 4.41 The total number of verbs
Table 4.42 Results of the t test for the total number of verbs
Table 4.43 Punctuation
Table 4.44 Results of the Chi-square test for punctuation
The purpose of the study was to investigate whether there is a meaningful relationship between translators’ gender and their translations in terms of such linguistic features as reference, conjunction, misspelling, SL intrusion, punctuation, verbs and sexually-explicit terms. For that reason, the same sample English text was imparted to both female and male translators to be rendered into Persian to ascertain if they vary linguistically, and if they do so, what areas are more frequently different. The organizational factors, rather than pragmatic ones, of language, namely, grammatical as well as textual dimensions were scrutinized in the study. The participants were 30 male and 30 female undergraduate senior students of English at three universities in Qom, Iran. These 60 participants were selected out of 150 students who scored as high as 6 in the IELTS given to them and showed their English proficiency. By analyzing the data elicited descriptively from each translation, primarily, via t test; only 6, out of 22, variables demonstrated a significant difference between translations made by both genders contributing to the research. Thus, although these 6 variables verify the meaningful relationship between translator’s gender and translation, these elements are not enough to indicate that grammar and discourse of translations are significantly different. In addition to raising awareness and developing the scope of translation studies, the present study has several implications. As a case in point, a text with a particular feature may be assigned to a specific gender to be better translated.
According to Flotow (2001), “The combination of gender and translation continues to be a productive and stimulating area of research….” There have been plenty of researches and projects exploring and scrutinizing gender-related issues. As claimed by Simon (1996), women by and large saw themselves as being marginalized and suppressed by the male-dominated societies throughout the history, and, since women were not allowed to write, they envisaged translation as a means through which they could establish themselves in the language and culture of the dominant groups; i.e. the only outlet to express themselves.
The idea of “superiority” of men over women appears to be also in line with that of the original text over the translation (Hatim and Munday, 2004). However, the concept of “secondariness” or “inferiority” of women and translation has been challenged, criticized and troubled since the early 1970s by feminism in general and feminist translation theory in particular (Simon, 1996). Another leading scholar, Chamberlain, has worked on the gender metaphorics used in translation. Chamberlain (1998) believed the metaphors such as “faithfulness” or “fidelity” and “contract” which were consistently defined in terms of gender and sexuality have always marked the history of translation. Flotow (1997) categorized the relationship between gender and translation into the “first gender paradigm” shaped by the women’s movement, feminist thinking and feminist activism and the “second gender paradigm” chaacterized by the destabilization of the term gender (as cited in Newmark, 2001).
Translation is deemed indispensable for global communication in the era of information. If one were even to look at the “trans-“ part of the very term translation, one would be able to discover that there is a sense of “crossing” involved in it. According to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, translation is generally defined as “the process of changing something that is written or spoken [a text or a piece of utterance] into another language”(p. 1632). It also entails “problem-solving and decision-making” (Wilss, 1996). A translator always encounters problems in the course of translation. No matter what strategy is utilized, a decision must be made correspondingly.
As Pym (2010) puts, “Translators are theorizing all the time” (p. 1). Every translator comes up with his or her own translation after understanding the source text, going through the selection process and generating the target text. Therefore various theories arise when translators endeavor to apply their conscious and unconscious ideas. “Only when there are disagreements over different ways of translation does private theorization tend to become public theory” (Pym, 2010, p. 2).
Translation has a long history to itself. From the time of Roman rhetorician and orator Marcus Tillius Cicero (106 to 43 BCE) and the Bible translator St. Jerome (c. 347 to c. 420 CE) with their emphasis on free (sense-for-sense) and literal (word-for-word) translation strategies to the present day look at translation studies as an interdisciplinary field thanks to the Holmes’s seminal paper, translation in and of itself has undergone a lot of changes. One of those changes which emanated from the cultural studies with its growing influence on the TS was “cultural turn” coined by Snell-Hornby and legitimized by Bassnett and Lefevere, as yet another term for “paradigm shift” by Theo Hermans (Munday, 2009; Pym, 2010). Among the concepts discussed in the cultural studies is the issue of gender studies as feminism developed over the last few decades. There was “a burst of activity” around questions of gender in translation in the mid-1990s conducted by many academics (Flotow, 2001).
Understanding a text could be somewhat problematic due to the different interpretations, let alone a text being translated into another by a translator. Not to mention, the linguistic world-view theory or Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis (as cited in Yule, 2006) as well as the hermeneutics-driven and epistemologically skeptic principle of indeterminacy of translation propounded by Quine (1960) goes beyond the scope of this study. Suffice it to say, this uncertainty might get full and precise communication broken down philosophically speaking. As a last straw, this problem is aggravated when translators of both genders attempt to construe the text. No one can deny that the outcome will be the same however faithful the translator tries to be to the SL on account of the variety of decisions made. If a given text possesses a particular facet, let’s say pronouns, it may be a better and wiser idea to give it to a special gender of translators that showed that particular characteristic. Hence, the present study sought to investigate how the translators’ linguistic performances vary by gender.
The affinity between language and gender cannot be denied or neglected thanks to the increasing number of researches conducted in this respect. As new it may sound, gender studies is gathering momentum day by day. Likewise, there is good reason to claim that translation is one dimension of the language. Lakoff (1975) and Jesperson (1922) are among the first scholars who addressed the issue and paved the way for their successors to develop it further. However, most of the researches carried out center around the role of gender in language, not in translation properly, and when they do so, they focus on the role played by women’s translators whose ideas were once suppressed, yet now who are free not only to express themselves but to “feminize their texts on purpose” (Simon, 1996, p. 1). As remarked by Hamerlain (2005), translators always bring into a text a number of beliefs and values, and as promoted by Talbot (2003), gender is an ideological prescription for any kind of behavior. There seems to exist a lack of research about the “differences of linguistic features” in the area of translation resulting from the gender of the translators, and whether these differences are consistent.
Since there is little work done along the same line, this study aimed to investigate any possible consistencies revealed by the linguistic differences of the Persian translations of an English text as a result of the gender of the translators. The hypothesis that the female translators have a different rendering from the male translators has recently been brought up in the academic circles. Due to lack of sufficient empirical research and evidence in this regard, the subject is fresh and requires trial with various languages for a good amount of time after controlling all other irrelevant variables that might impair and affect the outcome of the research. If the hypotheses are positive, translators may be assigned a certain text type to yield as efficient a translation as possible. These issues are going to be addressed in five chapters beginning with the current one labeled introduction. It is, then, going to raise a theoretical background for whatsoever related to and beneficial for the research, which is called literature review. That is going to be followed by methodology of the study. The next chapter will be data analysis and results. The last chapter provides a discussion of the issue under investigation and a conclusion for that. Any references benefited by the researcher and supplementary materials will accompany the research in the form of appendices.
In this present study, there are two main questions that the researcher was trying to investigate. The first one seems microscopic in the sense that there are certain areas in some texts to be translated which need to be scrutinized such as reference, conjunction, misspelling, verbs, etc. The second, in comparison with the above-mentioned query, appears to be macroscopic. In other words, a bigger picture like the whole text is going to be probed here in this study. Some of these large-scale and small-scale points went unnoticed in previous studies, so to speak. Anyway, the following research questions would be addressed in this research:
Q1: How do translations done by male and female translators differ in the use of such linguistic features as reference, conjunction, misspelling, SL intrusion, punctuation, verbs and sexually-explicit terms?
Q2: In what areas do translations differ by the gender of their translators? Are grammar and discourse different in the translations made by both genders?
The present researcher has made the following hypotheses in order to answer the aforesaid questions:
H1: Female translators translate six of those linguistic aspects of a text differently from male translators: translation of pronouns into nouns, incorrect translation of conjunctions, erroneous translation of sexually-explicit terms, use of past-tense and present-tense verbs and total number of words in the translations of both groups.
H2: There is no significant evidence demonstrating the fact that translators’ gender plays any role in the way they approach the same text in terms of grammar and discourse.
Translation is generally defined as “the process of changing something that is written or spoken into another language” (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, 2005, p. 1632).
Cultural studies is an interdisciplinary field concerned with the role of social institutions in the shaping of culture; however, modern cultural studies is recognized as a discipline drawing on and at the same time influencing many academic realms such as sociology, anthropology, historiography, literary criticism, philosophy, and art criticism (Encyclopædia Britannica, 2010).
Gender is referred to by Shapiro (1981) as the natural, physical or biological constructions of masculinities and femininities although it might connote only females these days (as cited in McElhinny, 2003, p. 22). Gender is tantamount to the sex of the translators here in this research as what Litosseliti (2006) maintained.
Linguistic features are divided into organizational and pragmatic dimensions. The organization in turn comprises grammatical and textual elements whereas the pragmatic category pertains to the sociolinguistic aspect of language in the present study.
Anyone who starts to work toward the interface between translation and gender might be perplexed at how much research has been conducted and how many varieties it has been branched off into, particularly with feminism and gender studies on the rise. According to Flotow (2001), there was “a burst of activity around questions of gender in translation in the mid-1990s”. Some researchers have taken it into linguistics and fostered the topics under their investigation whereas others have had a cultural look at the issue. What is vivid is that they attempted to better explore the tie between translation and gender and do something which would come in handy for future researchers. However, the initial claims as to the differentiations between men’s and women’s languages were biased and unscientific.
Argamon, Koppel, Fine and Shimoni (2003) quoted Holmes (1998) as saying that the existence of consistent differences in male and female speeches has been put to argument for quite some time. Argamon et al. (2003) added that most preceding work has probed apparent phonological and pragmatic differences between male and female language use in speech (e.g. Trudgill, 1972; Key, 1975’ Holmes, 1990; Labov, 1990; Eckert, 1997), informal writing (Mulac et al., 1990; Mulac & Lundell, 1994) and electronic messaging (Herring, 1996).
Gramely and Patzold (1992) stated, “There have been relatively few studies in the field of vocabulary choice in the sense of sex-preferential usage” (p. 265). They also noted that “a number of areas have been subject to investigation including topics of polite language, taboo words, exclamations, color terms and spatial concepts” (p. 266). As many academics including students are engaged in combing through gender issues, Flotow (2001) gave a brief account of research areas in which gender and translation could be examined:
- historical studies (Who translated what, when and how; and how did gender play into this?)
- theoretical considerations (How do different gender affiliations, definitions, constructions play themselves out in translation and translation research?)
- issues of identity (How does gendered identity or a lack of it affect translation and translation research?)
- post-colonial questions (Does our largely Anglo-American "gender" apply in other cultures and their texts, and how about "queer"? Does it translate into other languages? And what does it mean if it doesn’t?)
- more general questions of cultural transfer (Is the current government-supported export of Canadian women’s writing about Canadian tolerance and egalitarianism a hot commodity in some literary markets?)
The present study tended to investigate the variability of linguistic features of Persian translations by translators’ gender. In other words, it compared and contrasted translations made by both female and male translators in order to discover consistencies which could be claimed to belong to either of the two aforementioned groups. A kind of linguistic approach is being adopted throughout the research to rule out other interfering perspectives, and as a result, to be empirically valid. For that reason, some issues like the previously-established findings need to be explained in advance.
Translation was once regarded as an art although it might also be true in some particular cases. The history of translation shows various attitudes toward it. The first trend in terms chronology is prescriptive. The key term “should” appear in the statements released by the thinkers of that time such as Dolet (five principles) and Tytler (three general laws) as to how to better improve the global quality of translation. Put simply, translators are dealing with norms, or rather, a sort of criteria to separate men from the boys; ideal translations from the immature ones. Literal (word-for-word) versus liberal (sense-for-sense) translations characterize this perspective.
The second route along the path of translation studies is generally referred to as pejorative. All translations are considered deficient in some way. This look at translation reveals the traditional tropes of loss and betrayal, i.e. it views translation as merely secondary in comparison with its original text. That the translation is either beautiful or faithful is indicative of this philosophy. Berman (1985) refers to typical translation weaknesses as “deforming tendencies” (as cited in Munday, 2001, p. 149). In a nutshell, translations are assigned a kind of negative features.
The genuine approach which put TS on the right track was descriptive. It does not necessarily mean anything other than descriptive approach is darkness or the previous schools were completely wrong. They have certainly made their contributions and paved the way. Toury (1995) believed that the translated texts tend to have specific characteristics such as greater standardization and less variation in style. For Toury (1995), cultures and societies are constraints that affect translation in different times. Therefore, descriptive theory regards translation as a culture-bound phenomenon. Translation studies as an interdisciplinary field of study owes a lot to Holmes (1988) because of his endeavor to put forward an overall framework which has later been presented by Toury. One of the highlights of this approach is the application of corpus, which was not available to the foregoing scholars due to growing progress in technology.
As old it may sound, equivalence is a relevant notion encountered throughout the long history of translation. The comparison of texts in different languages inevitably involves a theory of equivalence. Equivalence can be said to be the central issue in translation although its definition and applicability within the field of translation theory have caused many debates. When one could not achieve equality between the source and target texts, one might as well resort to equivalence. That is, if a specific linguistic unit in one language carries the same meaning as the message encoded in another specific linguistic unit, then these two units are considered to be equivalent.
After centuries of circular debates around literal and free translation, theoreticians, in the 1950s and 1960s, began to attempt more systematic analysis of translation. The new debate revolved around key linguistic issues. The most prominent of these issues were meaning and equivalence. Over the following twenty years, many further attempts have been made to the nature of equivalence. Accordingly, equivalence was interpreted by some of the most innovative theorists in the field like Vinay and Darbelnet (1958), Jakobson (1959), Catford (1965), Nida and Taber (1969), House (1977) and finally Baker (1992). These theorists have studied equivalence in relation to the translation process using different approaches, and have provided useful ideas for further study on this topic.
These theories can be substantially divided into three main groups. At first, there are those translation scholars who are in favor of a linguistic approach to translation and who seem to forget that translation per se is not merely a matter of linguistics. In fact, when a message is transferred from the SL to the TL, the translator is also grappling with two different cultures at the same time. This particular aspect seems to have been taken into consideration by the second group of theorists who regard translation equivalence as being essentially a transfer of the message from ST to TT. Finally, there are other translation scholars that seem to stand in the middle, such as Baker, who claims "equivalence is used for the sake of convenience - because most translators are used to it rather than having a theoretical status" (as quoted in Kenny, 1998, p. 77).
Vinay and Darbelnet (1958) view equivalence-oriented translation as a procedure which replicates the same situation as in the original whilst using completely different wording. According to them, equivalence is therefore the ideal method when the translator has to deal with proverbs and idioms. However, later they note that glossaries and collections of idiomatic expressions "can never be exhaustive" (as cited in Munday, 2001). They conclude by saying that the need for creating equivalences arises from the situation and it is in the situation of SL text that translators have to look for a solution.
Jakobson's (1959) study of equivalence gave new perspective to the theoretical analysis of translation since he introduced a different notion of equivalence. According to his theory, translation involves two equivalent messages in two different codes (as cited in Venuti, 2000). Sometimes the translator may face the problem of not finding a translation equivalent or there is non-equivalence. Both theories stress the fact that whenever a linguistic approach is no longer suitable to carry out a translation, the translator can rely on other procedures to do that such as loan-translations, neologisms, semantic shifts or circumlocutions.
Nida (1964) argues that there are two different types of equivalence: formal equivalence and dynamic equivalence. Formal equivalence consists of a TL item which represents the closest equivalent of SL word or phrase. Nida and Taber (1969) make it clear that there are not always formal equivalents between language pairs. Dynamic equivalence is defined as a translation principle according to which a translator seeks to translate the meaning of the original in such a way that the TL wording will cause the same impact on the TL audience as the original wording did upon the SL audience. According to their theory, sometimes the transformation in the receptor language may occur because of formal non-equivalence; the message is preserved and the translation is faithful.
Catford’s (1965) approach to translation equivalence clearly differs from that adopted by Nida owing to his preference for a more linguistic-based approach to translation. His main contribution in the field of translation theory is the introduction of the concepts of types and shifts of translation which are mostly utilized when there is a problem of equivalence or non-equivalence.
House (1977) is in the favor of semantic and pragmatic equivalence and argues that ST and TT should match one another in function. House's theory of equivalence in translation seems to be much more flexible than Catford's since she relates linguistic features to the context of both source and target texts.
An extremely interesting discussion of the notion of equivalence can be found in Baker (1992) who seems to offer a more detailed list of conditions upon which the concept of equivalence can be defined. She distinguishes between equivalence that can appear at word level and above word level: grammatical equivalence, textual equivalence and pragmatic equivalence. Baker acknowledges that equivalence is the first element to be taken into account by the translator. The role of translator is to recreate the author’s intention in another culture such that it enables the TL reader to understand it clearly.
The present research tends to look at gender approximately similar to sex as Litosseliti (2006) states that the term sex and gender could at times be used interchangeably like synonyms although some scholars such as Shapiro (1981) hold while the term gender refers to the social and cultural characteristics of a person, sex is associated with the physical and biological facets (as cited in McElhinny, 2003). Thus, the distinction between gender and sex is too broad and complex to be simply explained so briefly by a statement like above. For this reason, this part is going to come to grip with some aspects of the issue in question in more detail.
Gender studies, like translation studies, is an interdisciplinary field that tries to analyze gender-related phenomena. Healey (2003) describes gender studies as the study of class, race, ethnicity, sexuality and location. The aforementioned field has sprung from a number of various areas like the sociology of the 1950s, the theories of psychoanalyst Jaques Lacan and the work of feminists such as Judith Butler as well as the influences by feminist theory of psychoanalysis articulated by Julia Kristeva, Bracha Ettinger and Freud (as cited in Wikipedia, 2009). Hence, this field of study incorporates a wide range of disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, psychology and cultural studies.
It is worth mentioning that the term gender, as a noun, encompasses three meanings. One of the meanings refers to kind, type or sort, which has etymologically come from the Middle English “gendre,” a loanword from Old French; this, in turn, originated from Latin “genus” which meant “birth, family, race, kind or nation” (as cited in Oxford Concise English Dictionary, 2004; Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 2005). Gender might sometimes be used to refer to either masculinity or femininity in English, i.e. the state of being male or female chiefly in cultural or social contexts (as cited in Oxford Concise English Dictionary, 2004). Finally, or more technically, it is employed in the grammatical context to denote to a class (usually masculine, feminine, common, or neuter) into which nouns and pronouns are placed in some languages, such as Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic, French, German, Polish and the Scandinavian languages, distinguished by a particular inflection (as cited in Oxford Concise English Dictionary, 2004; Wikipedia, 2009).
It is interesting to note that although gender can be viewed as a broader and more complex term and that many different life experiences of women and men cannot be explained by merely biological differences of the sexes (Graddol & Swan, 1989), most researches inevitably utilize the biological distinction between men and women to examine gender differences in terms of using language, social roles, abilities, etc. (Coates, 1993). It is probably because there might not be good feasible control over the participants’ sociocultural variables. After all, it is hard, if not impossible, to supervise the participants’ lives from early childhood to the time of research completion and results announcement. Wodak (1997) and Talbot (1998) maintain that many variations and traits of maleness and femaleness are assigned to individuals depending on their time, place, generation, culture, to just name a few.
The early body of researches carried out concerning gender has not been devoid of bias. As a case in point, it was rumored that women tend to talk more than men; hence, the expression talkative women, rather than talkative men. It was not until the early 1990s, according to Thimm, Koch and Schey, that the researchers have vigorously and seriously investigated the relationship between gender and communication from a number of perspectives such as language use (Tannen, 1995; Woods, 1988), competence and competence expectations (Foschi, 1992), interpersonal distance (Lott, 1995), leadership behavior and leadership perception (Butler & Geis, 1990) and many more (as cited in Holmes & Meyerhoff, 2003). All that can be traced back to the ideas and claims propounded by Jesperson (1922) and Lakoff (1975). One could see the interaction between gender and discourse (whether spoken or written) as more prominent within the vast scope of the field.
According to the traditionally-held beliefs and later-conducted studies, the language of the men and women varies to some degree. As a case in point, no one doubts the fact that one of the characteristics of female speech is the higher pitch enjoyed by women (as cited in Fromkin, Rodman & Hyams, 2003, p. 486). That is why Owens (2001) brings up the term “genderlect” (p. 33). Coates (1993) refers us to Lord Chesterfield’s (1754) contribution to the English newspaper The World that claims women change the meanings of the words as in “vastly glad” or “vastly little” (as cited in Sunderland, 2006).
The Danish linguist Jespersen (1922) made various claims about gender differences and speech tendencies that women have smaller vocabularies, show extensive use of certain adjectives and adverbs, produce less complex sentences and break off, more often than men, without finishing their sentences. Jespersen’s ideas were chiefly based on impressionistic data, reflecting the epistemologies of his time, and there seems to be a lack of “empirical investigation” conducted by scholars of the kind at that juncture (Sunderland, 2006, p. 5). Also, Goddard and Patterson (2000) criticize Jespersen’s claims as “stereotyped although written into academic literatures” (p. 95). Goddard and Patterson (2000) refer to the stereotypes like “silence” or “talkativeness” and popular sayings like “Nice girls don’t swear” or “Talk in a lady-like manner” as folklinguistics. However, it is interesting to note that a few of these ideas have been put to experiment and approved by empirical studies like the importance of learners’ gender, as far as teaching is concerned, since researches consistently found that girls outdo their male peers when it comes to language learning (Schmitt, 2002, p. 171).
Trudgill (1974) found that women used fewer non-standard forms in both formal and informal conversational styles in comparison with men, and that the use of non-standard forms such as multiple negations was associated with working-class speakers as well as males, suggesting that women are more status-conscious than men (as cited in Litosseliti, 2006). However, Litosseliti (2006) mentioned that such a biological explanation ignored men’s and women’s social roles and positions.
One of the first theories published by a woman on the existence of women’s language was that of the Lakoff’s (1975). Lakoff (1975) asserted that women used more hedges such as “kind of, sort of, it seems like…, etc.” and more (super)polite forms such as “would you mind…, I’d appreciate it if… and …if you don’t mind”. She also claimed that women used more tag questions, direct quotations, empty adjectives like “divine, lovely, adorable, etc.,” in addition to hypercorrect grammar and pronunciation. Lakoff (1975) contended that women have a special lexicon, i.e. while females prefer to make more use of colors to describe things, males use more words for sports. According to Lakoff (1975), women are observed to apply question intonation even to their declarative statements by raising their pitch toward the end of the statements, which is an index to uncertainty. She also stated that women use more qualifiers like “I think that…,” modal structures like “can, could, etc.,” indirect requests and commands, intensifiers like “so and very,” apologize more, avoid coarse language and lack sense of humor (as cited in Moore, 2002). Earlier to her 1975’s research, Lakoff (1973) concluded that women’s insecurity, owing to sexism, resulted in more proper use of the rules of Standard American English grammar that was found in the speech of men (as cited in Fromkin, Rodman & Hyams, 2003, p. 486).
As could be seen, that Lakoff (1975) described female language as having more adjectives like “divine, lovely, adorable, sweet, etc.” rather than adjectives more neutral to both genders like “great, terrific, neat, etc.” reminds one of Jespersen’s (1922) comments on women’s language described as a deviant form of men’s language; not to mention, women apologize more and employ more polite structures. Although features such as the frequency of tag questions and modal verbs are easier to count, Lakoff’s claim as for humor is hard to prove and can be put into question. Furthermore, conversational features such as tag questions may have different functions in different situations. Litosseliti (2006) attacks Lakoff based on the fact that “politeness, too, can be strategically employed to change or affect power relations” (p. 29). However, it should not be forgotten that Lakoff’s work made many contributions to the subfield of sociolinguistics despite all those criticisms which were exacerbated by feminists’ empirical studies. As Sunderland (2006) put, her endeavor has spawned an impressive array of empirical studies delving into various linguistic features of women’s and men’s language such as interruptions, verbosity, questions, minimal responses or back-channeling, and particularly tag questions.
Steiner (1975) wrote about the “universality” of the hierarchy of gender arguing that male and female roles are “essential” rather than “accidental”. He noted that the rules for discourse (and, presumably, for intercourse) are social; and he outlined, as quoted by Chamberlain (1988), some of the consequent differences between female and male language use:
At a rough guess, women’s speech is richer than men’s in those shadings of desire and futurity known in Greek and Sanskrit as operative; women seem to verbalize a wider range of qualified resolve and masked promise…. I do not say they lie about the obtuse, resistant fabric of the world: they multiply the facets of reality, they strengthen the adjective to follow it an alternative nominal status, in a way which men often find unnerving. There is a strain of ultimatum, a separatist stance, in the masculine intonation of the first person pronoun; the “I” of women intimates a more patient learning, or did until Women’s Liberation. The two language models follow on Robert Graves’s dictum that men do but women are. (Venuti, 2000, p.321)
Flynn (1983) examined gender differences in writing by exploring the essays of five male and five female freshman students. The results revealed that male students made few references to women and mainly wrote about male topics such as cars, nuclear power, gun control, etc. Women, by contrast, made many indications to the world with men present in it even though they often revealed contradictory attitudes toward men and traditional sex roles.
Coates (1986) critically reviews Lakoff’s (1975) claim regarding the fact that women use more hedges and tag questions on account of their weakness and uncertainty. The use of tag questions demonstrates power because questions oblige the addressee to provide an answer (Coates, 1986). “Women use polite forms, empty adjectives, hyper correct grammar and pronunciation, direct questions, question intonation in declarative context and lack sense of humor” (Coates, 1986, p. 132). She also mentions the “accepted beliefs about men pursuing a style of interaction based on power while women adopt a style based on solidarity and support” (p. 138); “men are believed to use more swearwords and imperative forms” (p. 139); “women use minimal responses encouraging others to embark on speaking and do not interrupt whereas men seize a turn as soon as it arises and listening is not highly valued to them” (p. 192). According to Coates (1986), women tend to view conversation as an opportunity to discuss problems and share experiences while, for men, the discussion of personal problems is not a common component of conversation since they intend to advise and lecture the other speaker. To sum it up, she criticizes some of these conventional opinions and the methods of these generalizations by asserting that “gender differentiation in language does not exist in a vacuum because it forms a more complex interaction with other kinds of social differentiation” (p. 203).
What is worth mentioning concerning the origins of gender differences is the claims made by Haas (1975). He held that gender differences would start early in childhood, and that their language would begin to reflect the gender differences of adults’ language by the age of 4 to 5. However, Tannen (1994) believed that any study analyzing the bond between gender and language should take account of cultural background. According to Tannen (1991), “many of these discrepancies arise because boys and girls grow up in what are essentially different cultures, so speech between women and men is cross-cultural communication” (p. 18).
Tannen (1991) declared that “men are more comfortable doing public speaking while women do private speaking” (as cited in Norman, 2006). Having based her work on a bicultural approach, Tannen (1992) propounded that for women “conversations are negotiations for closeness in which people try to seek and give information and support and reach consensus” whereas for men “conversations are negotiations in which people try to achieve and maintain the upper hand if they can and protect themselves from others (pp. 24-25). As claimed by Norman (2006), this model suggests that much talk between men and women can lead to miscommunication for which neither side is to blame. Correspondingly, Gumperz (1982) believes that neither of the two parties is right, and blame should be apportioned in case of miscommunication. That is why Maltz and Borker (1982) combined Gumperz’s theoretical framework with the research findings of anthropologists and sociologists studying males and females and their language use, and concluded that it could account for some of the frustrations of cross-gender conversations.
Tannen’s idea and the two-culture approach also found some critics. Her findings have been criticized, especially by Cameron (1992), for reifying such differences while ignoring issues of power and male dominance, for perpetuating gender stereotypes, and for holding women responsible to understand men’s language (as cited in Litosseliti, 2006). However, the main criticism regarded this model as being apolitical and interethnic, reducing everything to only gender and ethnicity, and as remarked by Cameron and Coates (1988) that many of these differences between the two genders are direct result of cross-sex inequality (p. 11).
Sterkel (1988) investigated the relationship between gender and writing style in business texts. 108 undergraduate business communications students of Colorado University were participants. Sterkel (1988) intended to determine the existence of style variations in 20 different dimensions including the number of sentences, passive verbs, courtesy words, etc. No difference in terms of business communications writing styles has been found across the two genders. Likewise, Shuman (1992) analyzed both genders’ autobiographical essays for possible changes in styles. The research suggested while females tended to focus more on relationships in their writing, males wrote about issues related to themselves.
According to Gramely and Potzald (1992), “Women have been observed to use more emotive and supportive language, yet at the same time, less assertive language as opposed to more competitive and domineering behavior of men” (p. 266). They additionally claimed that women employ more intensifiers such as “gorgeous, quite, such, so, vastly, etc.” and adjectives such as “adorable, divine, charming, lovely, sweet, etc.” in comparison with their male counterparts that utilize such words as “damn good” more than females.
Johnson (1993) investigated gender differences in proscribed language behavior, attitudes and beliefs. This empirical study was designed in the form of a self-report questionnaire to check taboo language attitudes and usage in various situations. Results indicated that most men and women believed in the existence of a double standard assuming that men use taboo language, and if women do so, they are criticized for being unladylike although the majority of women and men held that taboo should be equally appropriate for both sexes (Johnson, 1993). The majority also believed that college women, compared with college men, were less prone to use taboo language; that swearing was a matter of morals rather than just etiquette; that male individuals rated themselves as more frequent users of taboo than females; that male participants were reported to use taboo language in public places more than females; and that female respondents used taboo as the only reason for venting their emotions (Johnson, 1993).
One of the other researchers working on the issue of gender was Mulvaney (1994) by arguing that gender was both a product of and an influence on communication and that language reflects differences in social status between genders. Males and females are taught different linguistic practices such as tag questions, qualifiers and fillers to soften their messages from an early age, so the communicative behaviors acceptable for boys may not be totally appropriate for girls (Mulvaney, 1994).
Okamoto (1995) studied the sentence-final forms (feminine, masculine or neutral) of the conversations exchanged by ten female Japanese students aged 18 to 20 (as cited in Hall & Bucholtz, 1995, pp. 297-325). The finding was somehow interesting and showed that the speaker’s gender could not simply reveal speech styles, and that factors other than gender, such as age and occupation, played a part too. Okamoto (1995) also stressed that speakers would make strategic choices to communicate certain pragmatic meanings in particular social contexts. For instance, the American author, Hill, claims that men do not use euphemisms (as cited in Cooper, 1997). That is, they are more straightforward when it comes to calling things. They do not make self-depreciatory or disclaiming statements. They do not employ expressive adjectives.
Along the same path, Mizokami (2001) confirms the claim by saying that female speakers utilize more conversational support like minimal responses. Mizokami (2001) believes that these findings gave rise to the hypothesis referring to the employment of more polite and cooperative way of speech by women. Holmes (1995) said that women in general learned communication skills in order to survive in the society despite their powerlessness due to male domination. Holmes (1998) attempted to formulate a set of sociolinguistic universals as for the gender differences in language use. “Women and men develop different patterns of language use” (Holmes, 1998, p. 426); “Women tend to focus on the affective functions of an interaction more often than men do” (Holmes, 1998, p. 463); “Women tend to interact in ways which will maintain and increase solidarity” (Holmes, 1998, p. 472); and “Women are stylistically more flexible than men” (Holmes, 1998, p. 475). Cameron (1992) summarized all the styles ascribed to women as politeness, taciturnity, well-timed supportive minimal responses, style shifting and code switching.
Argamon, Koppel, Fine and Shimoni (2003) enjoyed a large subset of the British National Corpus with a wide range of genres to discover cross-gender writing differences. The variables were simple lexical and syntactic features in both fictions and non-fictions authored by men and women. The results showed different strategies and significant differences between the aforesaid documents according to the use of certain types of noun modifiers and pronouns, i.e. males used many more noun specifiers whereas females made more use of pronouns. In addition, male writers preferred to use more generic pronouns while female writers were reported to use more personal pronouns referring explicitly to the gender of the thing under discussion such as third person singular personal pronouns.
Enticingly, Ball (2003) employed a computer program to be capable of identifying whether a piece of work has been written by a male or a female. This claim was later confirmed by a simple scan of the key words and syntax that revealed 80% accuracy. Herald (2003) also talked of this program as an attempt to affirm the stereotypical perception of the differences of language use by males and females. In other words, while male writers use more nouns, female writers use more pronouns. According to Herald (2003), depending on the type of writing, the use of pronouns varies, and for this reason, no computer program can actually claim 100% accuracy.
Vasilieva (2004) selected the semantic categories of adverbs like adverbs of degree to analyze their modifying force on the utterance from a gender perspective. She grouped them as boosting (intensifiers and certainty) and hedging (downtoners, hedges and doubt) adverbs. This attempt was made to review the assumptions, developed by earlier researchers, about men’s and women’s use of boosting and hedging linguistic devices like the ones that women use intensifiers, hedges and downtoners more frequently than men, and that women are more polite as a result. The findings were stunning. Vasilieva (2004) discovered that male texts show a higher frequency of adverbs of degree as well as amplifiers. The proportion of the adverbs of certainty and doubt was also higher in male texts. Lastly, men often used hedges as explanatory ones. She concludes that her findings were in sharp contrast to those of the preceding researches and showed a reverse relationship as regards the use of boosting and hedging adverbs by male and female authors.
Colston and Lee (2004) investigated gender differences in terms of verbal irony use, a new variable. The study concluded that male participants reported a greater likelihood of employing verbal irony. Hence, these results were in favor of greater risk-taking by males in relation to female individuals.
Salami (2004) studied the emotional responses of male and female undergraduates of a Nigerian university, using English as a second language, from a sociolinguistic point of view. He attempted to correlate vocabulary usage to speakers’ sex. He demonstrated that women and men tend to appraise the issues differently, and that their feelings are reflected in the variable patterns of adjective selection. In other words, the speakers’ sex and context were observed to be important determinants of the selection of English adjectives. Of course, he stressed that his investigation held down such factors as the speakers’ age, the impact of speakers’ exposure to films and novels of Western origin as well as their religious affiliations. Salami (2004) also observed that women adopted a more positive attitude toward standard language and dialect. Later, Salami and Awolowo (2006) tried to concentrate on the differential use and attitudes toward six selected English taboo words, including four-letter swear words or vulgar and obscene words, among undergraduates of a Nigerian university according to the variables of gender and religious inclination. The study demonstrated that although the speakers’ gender was important in the attitudes toward the taboo words, religion played no significant role.
Gyllgard (2007) managed to detect differences in boys’ and girls’ language use by studying a number of English compositions written by Swedish students. The findings of this research indicated that some linguistic differences such as the use of stative and dynamic verbs were more conspicuous than others. On the other hand, no significant differences between boys’ and girls’ use of adjectives were found.
Matthew, Groom, Handelman and Pennebaker (2008) employed standardized categories to investigate gender differences in language use. For that, 14000 text files from separate studies have been analyzed. The study revealed that while men made more references to object properties and impersonal topics, women used words pertaining to social and psychological processes.
Given the world of cyberspace, a number of researches have also been carried out in the last decade or so. Katoka (1997) shed more light on how Japanese women used “invented punctuation marks, pictorial signs and intentionally transformed letters” to express emotions in the correspondence to their friends (as cited in Johnstone, 2008, p. 222). More particular studies on electronic discussion groups (Herring, 1993; Herring, Johnson & DiBenedetto, 1995) showed that messages by female participants tended to be more aligned and supportive than male respondents which were more oppositional, and that men sometimes objected to women’s styles of participation(as cited in Johnstone, 2008, p. 223). “Rodino (1997) summarizes many other studies that explore how conventional ways of indexing gender are drawn on and manipulated in online interaction, as interactants create identities that draw on gender stereotypes in complex ways” (as cited in Johnstone, 2008, p. 223).
Despite all these distinct discoveries contributed by distinguished scholars, two general limitations apply to most of these researches. First, variables other than gender may be at play to account for patterns of language use, i.e. some other factors which have been neglected in most studies might be responsible for the variations in male or female linguistic usage. Gender or sex does not stand alone and other facets, like age which has not come under scrutiny much, should be taken into considerations. Second, women as well as men may not constitute a homogeneous social group. According to Schmitt (2002), “identity” has also been raised among other “social factors that correlate with language variation” such as “geographical and social mobility, gender and power, age, audience, and social network relations” (pp. 158-159).
It might not be inappropriate to bring up the dichotomy of grammatical versus sociological or semantic genders within languages. Not only do some languages have “masculine” and “feminine” differentiation applied to their lexicons, but a few of them like Arabic and German also have the middle point of “neuter.” Johnstone (2008) nicely stated:
It could be argued that dividing the world up in this manner, into two categories associated with a supposedly two-way distinction, is one of the ways in which languages’ categorization systems encourage speakers to view biological sexes and cultural sex roles as categorical and binary. It could be argued, in other words, that systems like this predispose speakers to imagine that people are either essentially male or essentially female and that there is one prototypical male way of acting and one female way of acting, rather than imagining, for example, that maleness and femaleness are matters of degree or that a person’s maleness or femaleness could fluctuate and change. (p. 39)
Vassi (2005) explains the term “gender identity” or psychologically-speaking core gender identity is the gender(s), or lack thereof, a person self-identifies as, and is not necessarily based on biological fact, either real or perceived, nor is it based on sexual orientation, which incorporate maleness, femaleness as well as somewhere in between called “third gender”. It is important how an individual perceives oneself or understands how others perceive them, which might sometimes be inconsistent with one’s sex, as in the case of transsexuals. According to Henslin (2001), one’s self-perception or gender identity may be influenced by a number of social factors such as family, mass media and other institutions (as cited in Wikipedia, 2009). Whatever the reason, the formation of gender identity seems to be a complex process that might be traced back to one’s childhood or even infancy (Wikipedia, 2009). So, no wonder this matter is too difficult to gauge and most often doomed to elude studies. Anyway, it went beyond the scope of the present research.
Simon along with many feminist translation activists like Bassnett, Chamberlain, Flotow, Godard and Spivak disapproves of the belittling of women’s contribution to social and literary spheres in the patriarchal society by ascertaining the “agenda” of feminist translation that “aims to identify and critique the tangle of concepts which relegates both women and translators to the bottom of the social and literary ladder” because translation as a process of interlinguisttic and cultural transfer does not simply mirror the original, but contributes to it (Simon, 1996, p. 1). Cameron (1997) believed that feminist linguistics hangs between pre-feminist linguistics viewing that women’s and men’s language signals biological differences and a perspective which argues for the social gender roles (as cited in Litosseliti, 2006, p. 12). As discussed before, the former trend was more presumed on a sort of stereotypes, folklinguistics or bias, if you will, whereas the latter was based on a more methodological approach, which has been enriched by a tremendous wealth of research in the last three decades or so.
Feminist linguistics, in general, aims to theorize gender-related linguistic phenomenon and language use, and to link these to gender inequality or discrimination, on the assumption that linguistic change is an important part overall social change. Feminist linguists assert that people produce their identities in social interactions, in ways that sometimes follow and other times challenge dominant beliefs and ideologies of gender. The scope of feminist linguistic work is broad and multidisciplinary, especially as result of overlapping with theories of critical linguistics and critical discourse analysis. (Litosseliti, 2006, p. 23)
Some scholars maintain that early and sometimes recent studies have taken a wrong assumption for granted and regarded “men’s language as the norm and women’s language as a deviation” (Mizokami, 2001). So, all the premises that naturally follow would be conjectured on the basis of the previously-assumed hypotheses. That is why some feminist critics have rejected those studies conducted on women’s language as a product of “androcentric” ideology and prejudices that work to suppress women (Mizokami, 2001, p. 2). However, true feminist linguistics is bent on identifying the ways in which language is used in social contexts so as to reflect gender divisions and inequalities in society (Talbot, 1998). Thus, the problem pointed out by feminist linguistics was that all those studies treated the masculine as the unmarked because language had been shaped from the men’s perspective (Jackson & Jones, 1998). For example, by focusing on the stereotypical speech of women, Lakoff (1975) and Spender (1990) made their generalizations characterizing female speech as more deferent, hesitant and polite with a higher frequency of back-channels and tag questions. However, Tannen (1991) challenged those stances by claiming that this goes back to the difference in style rather than the difference in power.
A genuine feminist linguistics should have a critical view of gender, which does not only zoom in on differences but also takes similarities into account. Litosseliti (2006) held that it has, for a long time, concentrated on gender differences in terms of intonation, pronunciation, vocabulary, syntax, conversational strategies, and interactional or discursive patterns. Another scholar, Shaffer (1994), suggested that while some argue for the biological differences between the sexes, others trace the differences in female language from those of the male to women’s inscription in culture.
The speakers of each and every language have different nonlinguistic attitudes to elements of the same language like words. They may look at it with a positive connotation in mind or a negative one. “The discussion of obscenities, blasphemies, taboos, and euphemisms showed that the words of a language are not intrinsically good or bad, but reflect individual or societal values” (Fromkin, Rodman & Hyams, 2003, p. 482). For example, some people might treat “terrorists” in such countries as Palestine as “freedom fighters;” “war casualties” as “martyrs;” or “courageous feminist advocates” as “castrating female or ballsy women’s libber”. Thus, it all depends on who is speaking and what socio-cultural background the speaker comes from. Moreover, it is considered insulting for a woman to be called an old maid or even a spinster because of its own pejorative connotation whereas men could be addressed as bachelor without leaving them mentally hurt or belittled.
By the same token, one might claim that language itself is not sexist, but it reflects sexism in society. In other words, when the society institutionalizes such attitudes, language reflects it. The 1969 edition of the American Heritage Dictionary illustrated that “manly courage” might be regarded as “masculine charm” or “womanish tears” as “feminine wiles” (as cited in Fromkin, Rodman & Hyams, 2003, p. 482). In Iran, if one uses the term secretary or nurse, most people perceive it to be female, but when the same person talks about a steel worker or an engineer, others think of it as male. So, the nonlinguistic features of the language may influence the way interlocutors may interpret the meanings and references of the words.
What is conspicuous in most languages is the fact that there is a kind of linguistic asymmetry in male/female gender pairs such that the male term usually remains unmarked while the female is marked; for instance, actor/actress, waiter/waitress, prince/princess, hero/heroine, etc. The female term is generated by adding a bound morpheme or by compounding. However, many of the female words have been replaced by the male ones that refer to either sex since the advent of feminist trend, except for the type of language used among small groups of aristocratic women such as “author, poet, manager, actor, etc.” used instead of “author/authoress, poet/poetess, actor/actress manager/manageress, etc.” respectively (Fromkin, Rodman & Hyams, 2003, p. 484; Swan, 2005, p. 197).
Traditionally, “he/him/his” has been used in English to refer to individuals regardless of their sex, especially in formal style, which was labeled as “generic” whereas now, in an informal style, “they/them/their” is often used particularly after somebody, anybody, nobody and person, which is called “unisex” (Swan, 2005, p. 197). Thanks to feminist movement, there has been a growing interest to swap the old masculine-sounding terms such as “chairman, fireman, mailman, mankind/man, manpower, foreman, etc.” for “chair/moderator (so as to avoid the clumsiness of “chairperson”), firefighter, postal worker, people/human race, personnel/human resources, supervisor, etc.” Likewise, that is also the case with gender pairs in English such as “steward/stewardess, policeman/policewomen, etc.” which are being replaced by “flight attendant, police officer/public safety officer, etc.” (Fromkin, Rodman & Hyams, 2003, p. 485; Swan, 2005, p. 197).
That reminds everyone of Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis or Whorfian Hypothesis that holds the way people view the world is determined wholly or partly by the structure of their native language. This hypothesis has been proposed by two American anthropological linguists, Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf (1956). These two great champions built a bridge between language and thought and maintained that “each language imposes on its speakers a particular worldview” (as cited in Brown, 2007, p. 43). “The above-mentioned hypothesis has unfortunately been overstated and misinterpreted over the years” (as cited in Brown, 2007, p. 211).
Given the differences in language use as evidence of different ways of speaking about external realities, Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis falls into two categories. In its weaker form, it is referred to as “linguistic relativity,” which says the structure of our language, with its predetermined categories, must have an influence on how we perceive the world, i.e. we not only talk, but to a certain extent probably also think about the world of experience, using the categories provided by our language whereas, its strong version, called “linguistic determinism,” captures the idea that language determines thought, meaning that we can only think in the categories provided by our language (as cited in Yule, 2006, p. 218).
Eskimos are reported to have a variety of expressions for the only term “snow” used by English-speaking people at wintry scenes. This example has been given repeatedly to support the view that Inuit are able to distinguish different types of snow, and so, see the world differently from English speakers (as cited in Yule, 2006, p. 218). On another inspection, Whorf argued that since Hopi, a language spoken in Arizona, has no grammatical forms referring to the notion of time, Hopi-speaking people do not have general intuition or comprehension of time either; furthermore, there is a distinction between “animate” and “inanimate” entities in the grammar of Hopi, with clouds and stones being categorized as animate (as cited in Yule, 2006, p. 218). Therefore, Whorf (1956) drew this conclusion that the language of this tribe leads them to believe these entities are living creatures. However, a number of opposite viewpoints have been presented which argue that there seems to be a confusion between linguistic classification (animate, feminine, etc.) and biological classification (living, female, etc.) like the expressions la femme (the woman), la pierre (the stone) and la porte (the door) spoken in French; no one can conclude that French speakers think of the woman the same way as the door and the stone because all of them are female (as cited in Yule, 2006, p. 219).
Here, it appears relevant to also speak about the term sexism. Litosseliti (2006) stated that sexism was coined in the 1960s to describe discrimination within a social system based on sexual membership. It only makes sense within a hierarchical system of relationship between women and men, i.e. a sort of pecking order. One should be designated as the norm, and the other marked. In other words, the former is considered superior; and the latter, inferior or other. In relation to a wide range of social practices, women, and in some cases men, are prone to exploitation, manipulation or constraints on account of their sex (Wodak, 1997).
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