Over the last 15 years, a series of books and articles have told us that women talk a lot more than men do. According to Dr. Scott Halzman in Psychology Today, women use about 7,000 words a day, and men use about 2,000. On the other hand, Ruth E. Masters, in her book ``Counseling Criminal Justice Offenders," tells us that ``Females use an estimated 25,000 words per day and males use an estimated 12,000 words per day." And according to James Dobson's book ``Love for a Lifetime," ``research tells us" that God gives a woman 50,000 words a day, while her husband only gets 25,000.
A bit of Googling easily turns up at least nine different versions of this claim, ranging from 50,000 vs. 25,000 down to 5,000 vs. 2,500. But a bit of deeper research reveals that none of the authors of these claims actually seems to have counted, and none cites anyone who seems to have counted either.
As it happens, there are many scientific studies that count the words used by females and males in a variety of same-sex and mixed-sex interactions: phone conversations, interviews, group discussions, and so on. These are always time-limited situations-a few minutes to a few hours of talking-not recordings across the whole range of people's daily activities. But together, these studies involve thousands of speakers of many ages, regions, languages, and cultures.
The findings? According to a 1993 review of the scientific literature by researchers Deborah James and Janice Drakich, ``Most studies reported either that men talked more than women, either overall or in some circumstances, or that there was no difference between the genders in amount of talk." The research since that review, including counts from my own research, follows the same pattern.
Let me repeat that last bit for you:
Most studies reported either that men talked more than women, either overall or in some circumstances, or that there was no difference between the genders in amount of talk.
I have a number of other good links for you, as well:
- "Do Women Really Talk More?" @ The Guardian
- "Word Counts" @ Language Log
- A good list of posts related to Brizendine's The Female Brain @ Language Log
And, of course, I shouldn't leave out the seed to which all of this is a response:
And one last thing I should mention: You'll see a number of references throughout these links to the number of words Eskimos have for 'snow.' For those of you who don't study linguistics, there is a widely propagated myth that Eskimos have anywhere from seventeen to 200 words for 'snow' to which linguists often refer as an example (and reminder) of the way ludicrous ideas (not unlike the one that has women talking nearly three-times as much as men) can snowball (pun intended) in pop-science, pop-journalism, and the popular consciousness, without a single shred of actual fact involved. The truth is that Eskimos have basically as many words for 'snow' as English speakers do, and you can read more here.