A Comparative Study on the Korean and English Genderlect: Focused on Polite Expressions

한국어와 영어 성별어 비교연구: 공손표현과 관련하여

  • Kim, Hyun Hyo (Department of English Language & Literature, College of Social Science & Humanities, Kongju National University)
  • 김현효 (공주대학교 인문사회과학대학 영어영문학과)
  • Received : 2015.09.21
  • Accepted : 2015.10.08
  • Published : 2015.10.31


It is generally accepted that there are differences between men and women in linguistic communication style. Genderlect is a socio-linguistic term to refer to the linguistic differences spoken by specific gender. Some linguistic features are provided as evidence to show the genderlects: pitch, lexicon, intonation, grammar and styles. The purpose of this paper is to compare the characteristics of genderlect in English and Korean. To do so, I analyzed the scripts of an English movie, 'Mrs. Doubtfire' and Korean tv drama, 'Oohlala couple'. In "Mrs. Doubtfire, tension and laughter arose out of discrepancy from the way he looked (as a woman) and the way he spoke (like a man). The same is true with "Oohlala couple." In the language of Mrs. Doubtfire, male speech characteristics with nouns were salient while in "Oohlala couple" with verb forms, especially with honorific style, which shows a difference between Korean and English genderlect. Korean language has special genderlect characteristics with honorific speech style realized in verb endings. In Korean the highest honorific speech style, 'Habsho-che' is used in official situation and men are more accustomed to it than women. When women have to use polite expressions they have to choose between the highest honorific style, 'Habsho-che' losing the female characteristics or the second highest honorific style 'Haeyo-che' keeping the female characteristics.


Supported by : 공주대학교


  1. Hur, S.H., A Pragmatic Study on Expression of Politeness in Korean, Series of Studies on Korean Honorifics 2, pp. 49-248, Sotong, 2012.
  2. Lee, J, Functions and Principles of Korean Honorifics, Series of Studies on Korean Honorifics 3, p.63, Sotong, 2012.
  3. National Institute of Korean Language, Korean Grammar for Foreigners I, Series of Korean Language Education 1, pp. 222, Communication Books Inc., 2005.
  4. Kang, H.S, "A Quantitative Sociolinguistic Study of Variation between Haeyo and Hapsyo Styles with a Focus on the Gender Factor", The Sociolinguistic Journal of Korea, Vol. 19, no. 2, p. 12, 2011.
  5. Lakoff, R., "Language and a Woman's Place", Language in Society, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 45-80, 1973. DOI:
  6. Park, S.R, "A Study on Diachronic Change of male and female Language in Korean", Seoul National University Graduate School, pp.20-21, 2004.