Recent trends in feminist theory, and in social theory more generally, have made explicit the role of language in shaping, reproducing and challenging power relations. Judith Butler (1990, 1993), for example, has argued persuasively from a poststructural-ist stance that the categories of sex and gender themselves are linguistically constructed through cultural discursive practices. Ironically, however, the new theoretical focus on language has not been accompanied by close, systematic attention to how the details of language are employed in particular situations for social purposes. Even feminist linguists working within different theoretical traditions, such as Julia Kristeva (1980), are more abstract than empirical in their approach to language and gender. Sociolinguists, trained in the study of how social categories and linguistic practices constitute each other, are well positioned to remedy this situation. Through the deployment of sociolinguistic methodologies that allow scrutiny of language in use, linguists can test and refine models of gender that emerge from other disciplinary perspectives. Likewise, as Deborah Cameron (this volume) argues, the interpretative resources of feminist scholars outside of linguistics may offer fruitful new explanations for language data.