Male conversations

Male (single sex) conversations

Can you guess who is speaking in this transcript? Analyse the dialogue below.

B:

Uh you know that really gay guy in our Age of Revolution class who sits in front of us? He wore shorts again, by the way, it’s like 42 degrees out he wore shorts again[laughter] it’s like a speedo, he wears a speedo to class he’s got incredibly skinny legs, you know

E:

You know like those shorts women volleyball players wear?  It’s like those it’s like French cut spandex

B:

You know what’s even more ridiculous? When you wear those shorts and like a parka on

C:

He’s either got some condition that he’s got to like have his legs exposed all the time or else he’s got really good legs

E:

He’s probably he’s he’s like he’s like at home combing his leg hairs

C:

He really likes his legs

B:

He doesn’t have any leg hair though

E:

He really likes his legs

A:

Very long very white and very skinny

B:

Yes and oh those ridiculous Reeboks that are always (indecipherable) and goofy white socks always striped tube socks

E:

He’s the antithesis of man

The point of reading this  transcript is that to any normal person they features and the nature of the transcript means that is appears to be a group of females However, actually this was a group of males. This research came from Deborah Cameron, who basically believed you can never know – males and females are very similar.

So what features did we find in this transcript?

 

  • Intensifiers ‘incredibly’
  • Fixed expressions ‘you know’
  • Filer ‘like’
  • Specialised vocabulary ‘French cut spandex’
  • Support 
  • Empty adjective ‘ridiculous’
  • Knowledge of female topic – apparel ‘Reeboks’
  • Initiation
  • Cooperative
  • Bitchiness 
  • Hedging ‘its like’
  • repetition ‘really likes his legs

 

 

Language and Gender Key Terms

All the following definitions have been taken out the textbook ‘AS AQA English Language B’. This is a textbook so I am sure it is ok to use this information however if you are stating these definitions anywhere other than an exam remember to source it – it is not your information! That is only some definitions – many are made by me.

A

Actor: the individual or entity responsible for the action of a verb process.

Affected: the person or entity affected by a material action process.

B

Boosting device: a linguistic device used to intensify the force of an expression for added emphasis or power e.g. ‘really’

C

Covert marking: marking that is understood e.g. in the antonyms young and old which can be used to ask someone their age so e.g. ‘how old are you?’ ‘how young are you?’ young is the marked and old is the unmarked.

Covert prestige: a form of high status given to non-standard forms.

D

Deixis: Context-dependant word.

E

Ellipsis: missing out words in a sentence.

F

Folklinguistics: attitudes and assumptions about language that have no real evidence to support them e.g. the assumption that women are generally more ‘chatty’ or prone to gossiping than men.

G

Gender: the differences in behaviours and roles that are a result if societal expectations.

H

Hedging device: a linguistic device used to express uncertainty e.g. ‘kind of’

I

Intonational emphasis: This is where we emphasis on words with the tone of our voice e.g. by making it go high or low.

J

Jargon: specialised lexis

K

Known-answer question: this is when the person asking the question already knows the answer.

L

Labov: William Labov put together six narrative categories which people follow when they are telling an anecdote.

M

Marked form: that which stands out as different from a norm.

N

Negative face: this is our right not to be imposed upon.

O

Overt marking: marking that takes place through affixation or modification.

p

Positive face: this is our right to be accepted and approved.

Q

R

Representation: the projection of a certain way of thinking about a particular individual, group or institution through the use of language.

S

Semantic derogation: the sense of negative meaning or connotation that some lexical items have attached to them e.g. Mistress. 

Semantic deterioration: the process by which negative connotations become attached to lexical items.

Sex: biological differences between males and females.

Socialisation process: a process by which individuals’ behaviours are conditioned and shapes.

Stereotyping: assigning a general set of characteristics to a group as a whole, often with negative connotations.

T

Tag questions: a group of words that turn a declarative into an interrogative e.g. ‘It’s cold’ becomes ‘It’s cold isn’t it?’

U

Unmarked form: the measured norm, against which marked lexical items can be compared.

V

Vocative: adress e.g. ‘you’ ‘Ben’

W

X

Y

Z

Stereotypes

Stereotypes 

Stereotypes are a general set of characteristics that are associated with a particular group of people. These characteristics usually have a negative connotation.

The following texts are taken from the AQA English Language B (AS) textbook.

Read texts A and B below.

Text A

The Mothers and Toddlers Group is a very welcoming and friendly meeting place for mums to chat while their children can play safely and in a fun environment. We welcome mums with children of all ages and would love to see you whenever you can make it.

Whilst the children play, the mums can relax and chat and enjoy tea or coffee with biscuits.Many of our members enjoy this time to talk about their families and share experiences of their children.

Text B

The Mother/Father/Grandparent/Nanny and Toddler Group

Please come and join us for a cup of tea or coffee whilst your children enjoy some play time, refreshment and a craft activity

Only £1.00 for your Toddler (Babies 50p)

We meet in the Pavilion every Tuesday from 9.45am – 11.45am

Everybody is welcome.

If you would like to borrow the tables and chair for a private party at home, they are available. 

To help raise funds a small donation (£2 to £5) would be appreciated

Questions…

To what extent do you feel that Text A presents a stereotypical view of women (and excludes men) ?

Text A is a stereotypical text. Again and again it stereotypes its audience. 

Firstly, it has a very narrow audience because all the way through the written discourse it address the reader as ‘mums’ ‘mother’ etc. This neglects other relations a child might have e.g. grandma, sister etc. Also, characteristics are assigned to ‘mums’ e.g. ‘talk about their families and share experiences of their child’. This assumption can both work successfully and unsuccessfully because if this what somebody is like they will feel the invitation has connected with them whereas someone with a different personality may feel that this is not for them as that is not they are like.

What do you make of the alternate text B?

Text B has a wider audience because it does not stereotype its audience. Also it does not limit who it attract e.g. in text A it says ‘ we welcome mums’ whereas in text B it says ‘ Everybody is welcome’. Text A is too a certain extent more personal than text B because if that is what the reader is like then it is doing a good job at synthetic personalisation but if not it is loosing out on a wide range of readers. In text B has an unlimited audience but it doesn’t connect with the audience too well because its lack of stereotyping.

Assumptions

Folklinguistics are attitudes and assumptions about language that have no real evidence to support them.

Activity – Can you match the assumption to the gender?

Below are 19 assumptions – separate them into which link to males and which link to females.

  1. Talk more
  2. Interrupt more
  3. Complain and nag
  4. Speak with more authority
  5. Ask more questions
  6. Give more commands
  7. Talk about sport more
  8. Dominate conversations
  9. Are hesitant
  10. Don’t talk about emotions
  11. Are more co-operative
  12. Are very competitive in conversation
  13. Support each other
  14. Are more polite
  15. Talk too much
  16. Insult each other frequently
  17. Talk about women and machines in the same way
  18. Are indecisive
  19. Swear more

Answers

  1. Talk more (F)
  2. Interrupt more (M)
  3. Complain and nag (F)
  4. Speak with more authority (M)
  5. Ask more questions (F)
  6. Give more commands (M)
  7. Talk about sport more (M)
  8. Dominate conversations (M)
  9. Are hesitant (F)
  10. Don’t talk about emotions (M)
  11. Are more co-operative (F) 
  12. Are very competitive in conversation (M)
  13. Support each other (F)
  14. Are more polite (F)
  15. Talk too much (F)
  16. Insult each other frequently (M)
  17. Talk about women and machines in the same way (M)
  18. Are indecisive (F)
  19. Swear more (M)

Some of my thoughts…

Assumptions are usually believed to be true by the average punter but when one starts to explore language in social contexts they begin to realise there is more to it and these are mere assumptions. We see this assumptions everywhere in our life making it hard to see to believe they are incorrect. For examples, movies either depict women with all these assumptions or with all the male attributes to create humour – the reality is not presented which is fair enough because they have money to make. However, we must remember these are assumptions, not the truth. Furthermore, there are a bunch of other factors which affect the way women speak.

It could be that because in the past we had male dominated society women were forced to follow social rules which altered the way they spoke, giving birth to these assumptions which are false because the 21st century is very different to lets say the 15th century.

 

Language and Gender: Further Observations

Key terms:

Sex; biological facts about men and women

Gender; (1) grammatical groupings      (2) characters based on their sex

Representation; constructing stories from language (including images) about what people are like

Deficit model; It suggests that women need to change because their language is not good enough

Fun Facts:
  • According to research e.g. Fishman 1990, it is found that the average amount of time for which a man will speak has found to be approximately double the amount a women speaks, especially in mixed-sex conversations.
  • A women’s approach to conversation tends to be co-operative, whereas a man’s approach tends to be competitive.
  • American researchers Zimmerman and west (1975) taped several case studies. One of the big findings was that men interrupted 96% of the time whereas women only interrupted 4%. Analysis of parent-child conversations shows that fathers tend interrupt the mode and more to daughters than sons. I believe this is because our society still has stains of the old society where sons were more important and valuable than daughters.
  • Topical differences between men and women exist. Simply, women talk more about ‘feelings’ and men talk more about ‘things’