Some years ago, a buddy of mine whom I haven't seen for a long time, Robin Lakoff, published a book Language and Women's Place that made a number of claims about differences in how men and women talk that reflect differences in the statuses and roles of women in society [my characterization]. This book was not based on any actual research. They simply reflected her experiences as well as common stereotypes. Although the evidence supporting her views was anecdotal at best, this didn't stop Robin's book from being powerfully influential.
Another friend, Deborah Tannen some year's later wrote a book
You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation which I critiqued chapter by chapter before publication, a fact which was acknowledged in her preface. In this book, Deborah argued that men and women have different speech styles reflecting differences in how boys and girls are raised and these different speech styles can result in men and women failing to understand each other. This book was also based on anecdotal evidence and some taped conversational data but this didn't stop it from being powerfully influential as well. In the several years after publication some 3 or 4 men came up to me complaining about how their wives had used the book as a weapon, demanding that they read it. The implication was that the failures in communication in the marriages was the man's fault. I complained to her in my critique that she was presenting a one-sided picture and she did try to even things out a bit. In general, howeverm Deborah has taken the position that when gender or ethnic or other differences lead to failures to communicate it reflects differences that result from how people are raised. It is my understanding that she took some heat for this from feminists for doing as much as she did by way of not laying blame on failures to communicate on men. The reality is that sciencewants objectivity and feminists don't.
There is some truth in both women's books but another friend, William O'Barr, has shown that men and women who enjoy equal statuses tend to talk in similar ways when in the some sorts of contexts, which falsified many of Lakoff's results at least to the extent of showing that they don't hold in every context. This would hardly be surprising considering that context always affects how we talk. Always.
Way back in 1962, Martin Joos wrote a paper called, “The five clocks”, which came out in The International Journal of American Linguistics in 1962, a paper that argued pretty persuasively that there are at least five speech styles that are employed in different contexts ranging from formulaic (the language of wedding vows, for instance) to formal (as when speaking with some dignitary at a formal gathering), consultative (the sort of talk one finds in business meetings), informal (how one might talk to an acquaintance on the phone), to intimate (how lovers and very close friends talk). I can't find my copy of this paper and am going by memory so don't hold Joos entirely responsible for what I have just written. In any event, as contexts become more formal, we find greater leveling of language differences whether these are gender based differences or dialectal differences.
O'Barr and his colleagues found this similarity in how men and women talk to be true, for instance, in how they talked when given testimony in court and concluded that men and women of equal social power will talk in similar ways. I once served as the outside examiner on a dissertation that showed that there were few differences between how male and female hosts of morning television talk shows spoke and how their guests spoke as well. One reasonable inference is that it is the speech context that is leading to the leveling of differences in how men and women talk. But, as I noted, these results argue less against the view that men and women have different speech styles and more for the view that the more formal speech is the fewer differences will be found -- that differences are leveled. Testifying in court and hosting and appearing on national television shows bring out a relatively formal, usually consultative, speech style. Anyone who has traveled to an English speaking country will note that the speech of the natives when talking to each other can sometimes seem not even to be a species of English it is so hard to understand but when talking to our touristic selves they magically become understandable because they (and we) move to more formal speech styles that tend to level the differences.
The work by Tannen, as I noted, has tended not to cast blame on speakers who have different speech styles whether the basis is gender or ethnicity or geographic in nature, just to cite a very few such bases. Boys and girls are raised differently and Tannen, a sociolinguist, noting this saw differences in how males and females talk as akin to cross-cultural differences, which, to a large degree seemed to let males off the hook for tending to try to dominate females by ignoring topics introduced by females, interrupting females more than males, and valuing the views of males over females. After all, boys are raised to be competitive and to dominate whomever they can. As feminists have noted this can't be right. Men can moderate their tendencies to dominate females if they try and should be chastised when they don't. Though I have always been very aggressive and therefore might have been (and maybe sometimes still am to some extent) one of the worst of the worst in regard to dominating whomever I could, I have spent a good deal of my life struggling to rid myself of these tendencies. Fortunately, my mother was a professional and when I went to Rice I learned to value intelligent women and these sorts of women are hard to push around. This was followed by being in graduate school and later in academic departments with very smart and accomplished women which discredited any assumptions I might have brought to adulthood bout male superiority. The last two experiences that helped me to change me was marrying a Phi Beta Kappa wife (an honor I was so far from reaching it is embarrassing) and finding that women students were much more pleasant to teach since they performed at a higher level than males in general.
Gender differences in speech style is a topic I have only a passing professional acquaintance with though I have dipped into the literature from time to time so I won't try to say much about the claims researchers into gender differences have made. I tend to think that the differences that do exist reflect differences in how males and females are raised but the less attractive features of male interactions with women need to be defended against by females to the point of kicking a little male butt when required. One thing is for sure -- any male who thinks males are superior to women in any way other than a few physical respects is laboring under a very unhelpful falsehood. It is in any man's interests to marry above himself intellectually. You will be much better entertained at home than you would be by marrying some bimbo with bit breasts.
I will conclude by noting a joke Rita Rudner used to tell. She said that women had once thought that they should marry older men since they are more mature but then women realized that men don't mature so they might as well marry a younger one. This is my all-time favorite joke.