Gossip – have you heard the latest? – Irish Times

Sir, – Tanya Sweeney’s article “Why is gossip so central to female friendships?” (People, August 10th) underscores the importance of talk, or “gossip”, within female friendships.

However, it is important to note that the research by Deborah Tannen cited in the article is situated within a “two cultures” approach to language and gender.

This is rooted in the notion that men and women use language in different ways due to their inhabiting different social worlds.

This approach is contested in sociolinguistics, and can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby people will come to use language in the way they are expected to.

Furthermore, Prof Deborah Cameron of the University of Oxford has found that what is termed “gossip” is practised by men too, yet it is not labelled as gossip due to pre-formed ideologies of how men and women speak.

It is, therefore, only by interrogating gender and language ideologies that we can avoid perpetuating them. – Yours, etc,



School of Applied


and Intercultural Studies,

Dublin City University,

Dublin 9.

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