Performativity

The concept of performativity, as proposed by the philosopher Judith Butler (1990), has become influential within sociolinguistics, particularly within the field of language and gender. Butler posits that gender is not something on inherently ‘is’, rather, it is something that one ‘does’ using social semiotic systems such as language. A number of studies have explored how speakers can use language strategically in order to performatively enact specific types of gendered personae (such as Cameron 1997). Butler’s concept of performativity is important because it highlights the fact that “people do not talk the way they do because of who they are, people are who they are because of (among other things) the way they talk (Cameron 1997:272).

References

Butler, Judith. 1990. Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. New York & London: Routledge Classic.

Cameron, Deborah. 1997. Performing gender identity: Young men’s talk and the construction of heterosexual masculinity. In Sally Johnson & Ulrike Hanna Meinhof (eds.) Language and masculinity, 47-64. Oxford: Blackwell.

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