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The Moral Parameters of Good Talk

A Feminist Analysis

By Maryann Neely Ayim
Subjects Philosophy, Ethics, Social Science, Women’s Studies
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Paperback : 9781554584406, 263 pages, March 1997

Table of contents

Table of Contents for The Moral Parameters of Good Talk: A Feminist Analysis, by Maryann Neely Ayim


Chapter One: Introduction

Chapter Two: The Male Dominance Theory of Gender and Language

Chapter Three: The Sex Roles Socialization Theory of Gender and Language

Chapter Four: The Appropriate Registers Theory of Gender and Language

Chapter Five: The Moral Criteria of Language

Chapter Six: Morality and Gender in Language

Chapter Seven: Feminist Critiques of Language

Chapter Eight: Violence in Language

Chapter Nine: Political Correctness: Some Linguistic Issues Regarding Race and Gender

Chapter Ten: Educational Reform: Impediments and Expectations




Should we not apply the same moral standards to language as we do to behaviour? Should we not demand fair treatment in how others speak to us or include us in conversations?

In The Moral Parameters of Good Talk, Ayim contends it is ludicrous to exempt language from the moral standards we apply to other behaviours. Language, like any other behaviour, is capable of creating harm or good — we should strive to talk in morally appropriate ways. While freedom of expression is a right we strive for in a democratic society, it is acceptable only when it is conducive to freedom of expression for all. Racist and sexist speech fails the moral test.

Ayim discusses her proposed moral criteria for language on two levels: on a theoretical level, where she applies her moral analysis to the major competing theories on the relation of gender and language, and on a practical level, when she examines one circumstance where such moral criteria have been applied to a study of women in educational administration.

With passion yet with logical rigour, Ayim provides a topical and controversial moral discussion of speech patterns which will interest everyone concerned with the effects of language use, in addition to scholars in the areas of gender studies, linguistics, philosophy, sociology and education.


"I find Ayim's argument both lucid and compelling. ...Throughout her book Ayim clarifies and deepens her argument by rigorous analysis of significant current research into theories in which issues of language, gender, race, ethics and violence intersect. One of her most fascinating chapters explores the level of violent metaphor we routinely accept in everyday language. ...Ayim's Good Talk is a clear call for all of us to re-examine the suit of words in which we clothe ourselves as we venture forth into the larger world. It is a reasonable and lucid book which should be required reading for every first-year college and university student – and all of their teachers. "

- Lynne Van Luven, Literary Review of Canada

"This is an interesting and intelligent book which will be fruitfully read by teachers and others interested in combating sexism in their everyday lives. ...The author's contribution is an application of reasonable moral principles to empirical data in defence of feminist conclusions about our current linguistic practices. This is an important task, and one which Ayim accomplishes well. ...Thinking about whether adversarial discourse really serves our own goals, and in what ways it is morally problematic, is a neglected but important task, and Ayim does well to focus our attention on these questions. "

- Valerie Tiberius, Dialogue

". ..this book is respectful in tone, qualified, thoughtful, well researched, cogently argued -- and a timely intervention into the debates on linguistic politics. "

- Roberta Hamilton, Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology

"I recommend this book with this proviso, that it be the springboard for a discussion of these larger questions concerning social/global transformation not only of language but of how we think about the environment, racial/ethnic relations, relations between gender, sexes, abilities, classes, and geographic regions at a time when stopping the juggernaut of the global economy might truly present us with a challenge befitting a new millennium. "

- Magda Lewis, Resources for Feminist Research