Gender-bias in Vietnamese address terms, a statistical study

Author: Andrea Hoa Pham (University of Florida)
Andrew Nguyen (Queens University)
Speaker: Andrea Hoa Pham, Andrew Nguyen
Topic: General sociolinguistics
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


Male-female inequality has been shown to exist in multiple countries and across a number of dimensions (Blair & Lichter 1991; Joseph 1996; Gershuny & Robinson, 1988). Vietnamese traditional family and society are not an exception. Inequality between Vietnamese men and women has been reported in labor division in household chores, employment patterns, and domestic violence. Research on gender-related issues in Vietnam is abundant (Drummond 2004, Knodel et al 2004); however, studies on gender and language are scarce. Those studies focus on gender differences in politeness in speech acts (Le 2010).

In Vietnamese, three pronouns (the pair tao-mày ‘I-you’, and the third person, singular nó ‘he/she’) are gendered-neutral and hierarchical. They are normally used among siblings or close friends, but not spouses or couples in romantic relationships. This study statistically surveys the usage of these pronouns in intimate relationships among Vietnamese couples. The results show that among independent variables, education and career have a strong statistical significance, and are correlated to both dependent linguistic variables tao-mày ‘I-you’ and nó ‘he/she’. Compared to those with less education, educated people are significantly more likely to exclude these pronouns with their partner.

White-collar workers are significantly more likely to omit these pronouns towards partners. Other independent variables (gender, age, marriage status, region) are insignificant.


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Drummond, Lisa. (2006). Gender in Post-Doi Moi Vietnam: Women, desire, and change. In Gender, Place & Culture, A Journal of Feminist Geography, 13(3). 247-250.
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Joseph, S. (1996). Patriarchy and development in the Arab world. Gender & Development, 4(2), 14-19.
Knodel, John, Vu Manh Loi, Rukmalie Jayakody & Vu Tuan Huy. (2005). Gender roles in the family – Change and stability in Vietnam. In Asian Population Studies, 1(1), pp 69-92.
Le Phuc Thien. 2013. Variation in linguistic politeness in Vietnamese. A study of transational context. Asia-Pacific Linguistics Published in SEAMLES. The Australian National University. Canberra.
Keywords: gender and language, Vietnamese, address terms, Vietnamese pronouns