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International Journal of the Sociology of Language

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Gender, sex, and language in Valencia: attitudes toward sex-related language among Spanish and Catalan speakers

José Santaemilia
  • Universitat de València.
Published Online: 2008-03-12 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/IJSL.2008.010


This article includes two parts: the first part is a review of the work which is being done in Valencia in the field of gender, sex(uality), and language. The land of Valencia (the old “Kingdom of Valencia”), once an independent political entity, is now part of today's constitutional Spain, and its history is a dynamic mixture of religious, cultural, and political traditions. In Valencia two languages and cultures coexist: Spanish (as the dominant language) and Catalan (or “Valencian,” in a situation of diglossia or “asymmetric bilingualism”). While both are Romance languages and have important linguistic similarities, Spanish and Catalan differ significantly as to their legal situation, political status, literary tradition, or degree of (in)formality. The second part of the article presents the discussions of a questionnaire on sex-related language (SL), held with two groups of undergraduates at the University of Valencia whose native languages were, respectively, Spanish and Catalan. Students discuss their ideas of what “sex(uality)” is; the texts or communicative situations in which they use SL; the sex-related words or expressions which they are (un)likely to use; how they are affected by SL (whether they are offended, embarrassed, etc.); their attitudes towards certain SL manifestations (dirty jokes, swearing, insults, or erotic literature); the connection between SL manifestations and gender; and so on.

The results reveal, among other things, the overwhelming presence of SL in their (our) daily lives; the undergraduates' willingness to discuss sex-related matters; the virtual non-existence of “impoliteness” among close friends; the existence of slightly different culture-specific attitudes towards SL; etc. There is also a prominent subtext: sex(uality) is a highly sensitive area in language use and might well serve as a reliable index of concern for the feelings of others and/or a reliable testing ground for how close we judge our friendship/relationship with others. Besides, sex-related language is, without a doubt, a highly “gendered” type of language which — via socialization and power conflicts — constructs people as complex “sexual” (and “gendered”) beings.

Published Online: 2008-03-12

Published in Print: 2008-03-01

Citation Information: International Journal of the Sociology of Language. Volume 2008, Issue 190, Pages 5–26, ISSN (Online) 1613-3668, ISSN (Print) 0165-2516, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/IJSL.2008.010, March 2008

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