Toward a comprehensive theory of language and gender

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The search for explanatory coherence in language and gender research has fostered a variety of research methods and analyses; this article evaluates the contributions of the Communities of Practice approach, with its focus on the constructive practices of a group - especially mutual engagement of learning a jointly negotiated practice of gender. Rather than presupposing gender differences as a starting point, CofP emphasizes the learning and mutability in gendered linguistic displays across groups; CofP theory thus naturalizes intragroup variation, not marking it as deviant. However while the CofP approach focuses much-needed attention on the social construction of gender as local and cross-culturally variable, gender research must be augmented by critical study of two other facets of gender: ideology and innateness which are critical components of a more comprehensive theory of gender for language research.

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Language in Society