Speak like a wo(man) : a corpus linguistic and discourse analysis of gendered speech

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
David "Forrest" Melton Caskey III (Creator)
Institution
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site: http://www.wcu.edu/404.asp
Advisor
Chandrika Balasubramanian

Abstract: Traditionally, studies in gender linguistics have been qualitative anecdotes which view gender on a dichotomous plane. Using normative research participants and small amounts of data, researchers in gender linguistics have made an array of assumptions about how men and women speak. Women are commonly thought of as being cooperative speakers while men are typically thought of as operating out of a power hierarchy. The study conducted in this thesis tests these assumptions by applying qualitative, corpus, and discourse analyses. A corpus of transcribed spoken conversational speech was compiled and measured for various linguistic and discourse elements which have historically been touted as paradigms of gendered speech. Using a demographically diverse sample of 185 participants, 50 hours of conversation were recorded and transcribed. From this corpus, various language elements such as theme, thematic conveyors, turn-taking, laughter, referencing, expletives, adjectives, hedges, `polite speech', and verbs were identified and measured for frequency of use by gender and by sexuality. The results from this study indicate that women and men do indeed use language with idiosyncratic linguistic and discourse features and at significantly different frequencies of use. When language use based upon sexuality was examined, the results indicate that queer men speak using a distinct language variety from women and heterosexual men. Thus, the planar dichotomy of gender and language does not appear to be a valid view due to the sharp divergence from the binary by a third group based upon sexuality. The results further demonstrate that using corpus analysis is an effective and optimal approach for analyzing some aspects of language use. The quantitative composition of corpus data has allowed research, to dispel and support many assumptions made by anecdotal observation. It is my hope that the results drawn from this study inspire other researchers to use corpus-based methodology in examining gender, sexuality, and language.

Additional Information

Publication
Thesis
Language: English
Date: 2011
Subjects
Language and languages -- Sex differences
Gender identity