One of our good readers posted a comment asking, "What, pray tell, is 'feminized discourse?'"
First, in her book, Language and Woman's Place, and a subsequent article, "Woman's Language," feminist scholar, Robin Lakoff, named "hedging" as the first among ten basic assumptions of what is characteristic of the language of women. Hedges are phrases such as "sort of," "kind of," "It seems like," and so on.
Following up on this female characteristic in language known as "hedging," here's an article that goes some way down the road to indicating what's behind my use of this term, "feminized discourse." Here then are some excerpts that should help explain why I refer to academic discourse as the discourse of "a gelded age," and why I accuse Bishop Wright of undercutting the authority of the Word of God in his interview on Australia's National Radio...
As in other types of communication, in scientific writing politeness has been seen as the motivating factor for hedging. Myers (1989) claims that even in this type of discourse hedging is used for the sake of negative politeness, more specificially, to mark a claim "as being provisional, pending acceptance in the literature, acceptance by the community" (Myers 1989, 13). ...hedges reflect a relation between the writer and the readers, rather than the degree of the probability of the statement. Although Myers (1989, 4) suggests that everyone, regardless of their position, must appear as humble servants of the discipline, it can still be assumed that the amount of hedging writers employ depends on such factors as their position within the scientific community, the potential readership, and even the writers' personalities, i.e. how sure or unsure they feel about their own position within the field (cf. Markkanen/Schrder 1989; 1992).
...in academic writing the use of hedges varies according to the field the writer represents, i.e. that there are scientific fields in which hedging is more frequent than in others. It could be expected that the texts of fields like linguistics and philosophy, for example, would contain more hedging than the texts of natural sciences and technology because of the different bases of argumentation in these fields. Argumentation in philosophy is not based on bringing in experimental data and concrete evidence, as in natural sciences and technology. As Spillner (1983, 35) points out, in texts in which the use of experimental data and logical deduction are not so important, the style of writing becomes an essential element in achieving credibility. The convincingness of an argument in such texts depends on the use of linguistic devices, including hedges (Markkanen/Schrder 1989).
...In his article dealing with hypotheses in introductory science texts, Darian (1995, 101) also comes to the conclusion that "hedges are probably the clearest indicators of hypotheses"...
...hedging is not an inherent characteristic of a text but a product of writer-reader communication, i.e. the linguistic expressions used in hedging get their meaning through the response they produce in the readers.
...hedges (are) taken to be modifiers of the speaker's commitment to the truth-value of a whole proposition... Thus, for example, Vande Kopple (1985) in his categorization of metadiscourse types considers the use of hedges as showing a lack of full commitment to the propositional content of an utterance. In other words, hedges (e.g. perhaps, seem, might, to a certain extent) are by him seen as modifying the truth-value of the whole proposition, not as making individual elements inside it more imprecise.