Came across this paper: Gender Differences In The Chinese Language: A Preliminary Report
by Marjorie K.M. Chan, Ohio State University
Summary: "Research on language and gender interaction is well into its third decade and yet there have been surprisingly few contributions from the Chinese language to the explosion of cross-linguistic literature on the topic. This paper brings together both scattered observations and detailed published works on Chinese to provide a preliminary report on gender differences in the Chinese language."
I recently finished watching Sweet Relationship
[美味關係 / Mei Wei Guan Xi ], which I'll review/comment on later, but just wanted to mention in light of the linked paper: the lead actress, Patty Hou, was criticized in an online review for having 'odd pronunciation' that the reviewer found annoying -- for being too precise. Perhaps, the reviewer said, this was because Hou was previously a newscaster (that is, had wrong/different training than an actress). Me, I found Hou's accent to be very familiar -- she reminded me strongly of the coworker who used to tutor me in Mandarin. (X. had a bachelor's in radio communications from a PRC university.) Hou's tonal inflections, like my friend's, are softer, yet she enunciates clearly. As my mother might say, Hou 'moves her mouth' -- something I can't say of many other Taiwanese actors and actresses (especially when you contrast male Taiwanese actors' near-constant slurring dropped-tones versus the extreme pitch-inflection of male PRC actors).
And here's a bit from the first section of the paper, about just that. For info on the meaning of [v], see the wiki page on labiodental consonants
. In this case, the [v] means the labiodental is a 'veh' sound, where you make the sound by putting your lower lip against your upper teeth to make the start of the sound. There are a number of labiodental consonants, but you can check the page to see the rest of them.
Interestingly, in Taiwan as well, one frequently hears news broadcasters using [v] in their speech, and this is typically (though not exclusively) produced by females. Such production is not accidental, as one trainee for television news broadcasting in Taiwan recalls. In her news broadcasting class at TTV in 1989, trainees were separated by sex, with female trainees taught by female instructors (and presumably male trainees taught by male instructors). In her all-female class, the trainees were asked to repeat and imitate their instructor, who used [v] in such words as yi wan ... Those who pronounced such words using the plain labial approximant, [w], were corrected by her. ... In Taiwan and mainland China, news broadcasters are often females. Shih (1984:224) attributes the greater use of female announcers to their more standard pronunciation and clearer enunciation. [Female newscasters also speak with] with steadier pitch (less pitch flunctuations) and in a lower and deeper voice... (Shih 1984:225).
And then, for those of you familiar with aegyo
(see previous post with link spammage, for a link to a series of blog posts that went into depth on aegyo
)... I came across behavior/speech in another drama that was almost identical to what I'd seen in kdramas. Honestly, for the first few minutes of the actress speaking, I couldn't even register her words as Mandarin, because she sounded like she was speaking Korean -- all nasalized vowels, drawn-out with complete exaggeration, and rising/falling tones where I least expected them.*
Check this out:
Gender differences in pronunciation may also be studied in association with a particular communication style, such as sajiao (撒嬌), analyzed by Farris (1995) in present-day Taiwan's setting. The sajiao style, which she describes as the adorable petulance of a spoiled child or young woman who seeks material or immaterial benefit from an unwilling listener, is analyzed as being marked for the feminine gender. Farris (p.16) reports on a friend's observation of a very nasal style in young unmarried women's use of sajiao with their boyfriends. Farris argues that the sajiao style indicates women's indirect and informal power in Chinese society; at the same time, it serves as a means to create and maintain that form of power.
...Zhang (1995) prefers the definition in the Modern Chinese Dictionary (Beijing: Commercial Press, 1979), namely, to deliberately act like a spoiled child in front of someone because of the awareness of the other person's affection. Zhang observes that in both mainland China and Taiwan, sajiao is a communication style that is typically used by children to their parents (to refuse things demanded of them or to get permission to do things prohibited by them), and by adults to their lovers or spouses (as a kind of romantic play)...
If I ever ruled the world and could change linguistic deliveries with one sweep of my hand, it would be to outlaw this style of petulant ultra-feminized delivery. I hear it, I want to KILL it. DED.* by the 5th or 6th appearance from her, I started muting my speakers rather than listen to her. Thank the heavens for subtitles, because it was that or reach into the screen and seriously bitch-slap her for talking through her nose. Of a choice between listening to someone whine versus listening to nails on a blackboard, I'll take the freaking nails, any day.