Language Shapes Socially Constructed Gender Roles: Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’ in Focus


Haniya Munir


Language plays an important role in human life that can be seen from various perspectives such as the cultural perspective, linguistic perspective, social perspective, psychological perspective, perspective of gender and moral and ethical perspectives. This is undoubtedly a proven fact that we use language and at the same time, language uses us to define, designate, tag and shape our places in the society (Cameron, 2005). This role of language is generally suitable for all human race either male or female but the basic purpose of this study is to explain how language shapes a woman’s place and identity in society. Often we find that women face linguistic discrimination in two different ways: one is the way; they are taught to speak and use language and the other way is about how language treats them (Lakoff, 2004). These linguistic disparities tend to specify a woman’s role and function in the society as a sex object, a servant, a wife, a daughter, a mother and specifically a woman (Kerber, 1988). The researcher collected the data for this study from Ibsen’s (1999) ‘A Doll’s House’ in which different lexical items, phrases and sentences were uttered intentionally to explain the role of the main character Nora as a wife, as a daughter and as a woman. The researcher examined the speeches of different characters only to show the language –made and man- made places of women in the society. For this purpose, the researcher used a theoretical framework based on the qualitative approach while consulting the related ideas of Lakoff (2004) who, in her ‘Dominance Theory,’ explains how language shapes a woman’s place in the society by analyzing her own speeches and the speeches of different people in the society. The findings of the study go a long way in telling people and the upcoming researchers that language not only specifies gender roles individually, but also internally and externally as well. Basically different social characters surrounding a woman use language in such a way that it starts shaping a woman’s character in different sub- characters as explained in the work of Ibsen (1999). Furthermore, language use tells us that a man remains a man in every situation either as a father, as a husband, as a son, and above all as a man but a woman’s place in society is changeable according to language use and those tagged names that men have used for women ever. For example, if a little girl talks roughly like a boy, she is scolded by her parents and friends (Lakoff, 2004). This process of socialization is harmful in the sense that it is making women weak, incapable and less –confident but if we analyze the last lines spoken by Nora in the selected text of Ibsen (1999), we come to know that constant battering and hammering of socialization and generalization are now making women aware of their individual place and identity in the society and they are now looking at life from a different perspective that is still unacceptable in the man-made society (Kramer, 1974). This study will open new avenues for sociolinguists to study language and gender keenly and critically.


How to Cite
Munir, H. (2021). Language Shapes Socially Constructed Gender Roles: Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’ in Focus. Journal of Communication and Cultural Trends, 2(1), 19-30.


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