english language theorists

FairClough -2001-

power in dicourse 

  • OWER IN SPOKEN DISCOURSE: unequal encounters between a powerful participant who imposes conversational constraints on the less powerful participator e.g. teacher-student/manager-employee
  • POWER WITHIN THE DISCOURSE: Power exercised by the choice of language e.g. formal register/sophisticated language e.g synonym choices/epistemic modal auxiliary verbs
  • POWER BEHIND THE DISCOURSE: The producers of the text have an external power behind linguistic features e.g. ideological/hierarchical/political/legal thus lexical choices reflect a wider power.
  • SYNTHETIC PERSONALISATION: Second person pronouns create relationship between text producer and receiver; constructs a ‘product image’ appealing to the lifestyle of a potential consumer (verbal cues) drawing on the members’ resources of cultural/cognitive models e.g. stereotype of teenagers embasrassed by parents but the new Kia family car will overcome this and reaffirm family bonds. Treat people recieving the text En masse as an individual.

language and occupation

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Wareing -1999-

types of power.

  • INSTRUMENTAL : Maintain and enforce authorty/ gain complicity
  • INFLUENTIAL : Influence and persuade others to do something
  • POLITICAL: politicians, police
  • PERSONAL: by occupation/role e.g. professional status of teachers/managers 
  • SOCIAL: class, gender, ethnicity, age.
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Robin Lakoff -2011-

politeness principle.

  • Don't impose
  • Do give options
  • Do make the receiver feel good.
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Sapier Worf hypothesis


  • Linguistic determinism
  • Language shapes thought-thought shapes language
  • E.g. political correctness attempts to neutralise bias and discrimination
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Giels Accomadation theory

  • CONVERGENCE: Accommodate to other speakers to reduce the social distance. Downward convergence: RP-> w/c Upward convergence: hide regional accent and dialect e.g. interview
  • DIVERGENCE: Assert social and cultural identity
  • Mutual: both converge towards each other/speak the same
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Donald McKinnon -1996-

Categorises the attitudes people may have to language use:

  1. As incorrect or correct
  2. As pleasant or ugly
  3. Socially acceptable or socially unacceptable
  4. Morally acceptable or morally unacceptable
  5. Appropriate in context or inappropriate in context
  6. Useful or useless

Change generally takes place over time but Political Correctness involves a conscious process. Donald Mackinnon’s 5th category – moral acceptability, is relevant here, but it is rarely clear-cut and context is everything. Whilst thought of as a positive thing because of the word ‘correct’ in its title, it is largely associated with the negative and there is no neutral way of seeing this term.

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Drew and Herritage -1993-

(DISCOURSE COMMUNITY/SOCIOLECT) Members of the same discourse community will share the same inferences, making it easier to communicate swiftly and succinctly

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(SOCIOLECT) Humour used in the workplace to build solidarity; self deprecation also used for humour; hierarchies and boundaries; workplace humour indicates a level of closeness and comfortableness.

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Pilkington -1992-gender-

Women in same-sex talk are more collaborative than men in all male talk; Women aim for more positive politeness strategies; Men are less supportive and complimentary to each other.

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Trudgill -1974-Gender-

Men are less likely and women more likely to use the prestige pronunciation of certain speech sounds (hypercorrection);women want to be viewed as though from higher social class;men want to appear 'down to earth'.

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Orwells Theory -power-

1. Never use metaphors, smilies or other figure of speech which you are use to seeing in print. 
2. Never use a long word were a short one will do. 
3. If it is possible to cut a word out then cut it out. 
4. Never use a passive when you can use an active 
5. Never use a foreign phase, scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday equivalent.

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Irving Goffman -1955-power-

Suggested that we present a particular image of ourselves to others
e.g. A good friend in one context and a knowledgeable student in another

This 'image' is called presenting 'face'.
(Think about how in everyday talk we might talk about saving face or losing face)

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Lakoff -1973- politeness principle-

Lakoff suggested that conversational interaction is governed by what she called the politeness principle. She defined this by specifying three rules or maxims which speakers usually observed

1.Don't impose - I'm sorry to bother you...
2.Give options - I wouldn't be offended if you don't want to...
3.Make your receiver feel good - What would I have done without you?

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Brown and Levinson -1987-power-

Like Politeness Principle by Lakoff, positive and negative politeness is how you imply or infer the language you use with polite words also being used.

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codon and cech -2004-technology-

suggest that 'when we respond to emails that ask a number of questions or raise different topics, we tend to cover these same issues in our replies in the order in which they occurred in the original text, regardless of whether we break up the original text or just write a continuous response as a single text.'

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thurlow -2003- technology-

Shortening (end letters) lang for language
Contractions (middle letters) gd for good
'g' clipping (final letter) goin for going
Other clippings hav for have
Acronyms/initialisms v for very
Letter/number homophones 1 for one
Non-conventional spellings sum for some
Accent stylisation wivout for without
Non-alphabetic symbols

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Leech -1983-power-

•Leech's view of politeness involves a set of politeness maxims analogous to Grice's maxims.
•TACT MAXIM: Minimize cost to other. Maximize benefit to other.
•GENEROSITY MAXIM: Minimize benefit to self. Maximize cost to self.
•APPROBATION MAXIM: Minimize dispraise of other. Maximize praise of other.
•MODESTY MAXIM: Minimize praise of self. Maximize dispraise of self.

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Otto Jesperson -1922- gender

foundation of the 'deficit theory'.   His ideas on women's language were:

  • Women talk a lot
  • Women have a smaller vocabulary than men  
  • Women know their limited vocabulary so well that they are more fluent and quicker spoken than men, who spend time to think of a precise word from their vaster vocabulary
  • Women use half-finished sentences because they speak before they have thought about what they want to say
  • Women link sentences with 'and' because they are 'emotional' rather than 'grammatical'
  • Women use empty adjectives like 'pretty' and 'nice' too much
  • Women use adverbs too much and tend to use hyperbole often
  • Women, by virtue of their sex, 'shrink from coarse and gross expressions'
  • Women have a preference for 'veiled and indirect expressions' which preclude them from being as effective as men
  • Men are responsible for bringing new words into the language
  • Women have a debilitating effect on the language and it is reasonable for men 'certainly with great justice [to] object that there is a danger of language becoming languid and insipid if we are to consent ourselves with women's expressions'.
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Zimmerman and West -Dominance Theory-

Zimmerman and West set out to investigate the presence of uncooperative features (interruptions, overlapping) of language in conversation and whether the gender of the speakers had any affect on the frequency of such features. 

Zimmerman and West defined an overlap as being the interruption of a speaker at the point where they were going to stop speaking and is seen as being accidental. Whereas an interruption is when a speaker begins to speak over a current speaker when there is no indication that they were going to stop speaking. This was seen as a purposeful violation.

In their 1975 work "Sex Roles, Interruptions and Silences in Conversation", Zimmerman and West found that in same-sex conversation the interruptions were distributed evenly among the speakers. But in cross-sex conversations, men were responsible for 96% of interruptions - 46 out of 48.

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Pamela Fishman -Dominance Theory-

Fishman conducted an experiment that involved listentning to fifty-five hours of recorded conversation between young american couples. There were six subjects in total and they were all white, aged between twenty-five and thirty-five and were femininists or sympathethic to the femininst movement. Five out of the six subjects attended graduate school.

Over the course of her research, Fishman found that the use of tag question was especially more common among women, which she argues is a method of gaining conversational power, rather than occuring as a lack of conversational awareness. Fishman suggests that questioning is needed when talking to males as their response to declarative statements is limited. 

Furthermore, Fishman strongly disagreed with Lakoff's theory, saying that women's 'inferior' language results from a lack of social training and instead said that their language is the result of lower social status and because they are generally the ones trying to keep conversation going.

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Jennifer Coats -1989- Difference theory-

Coates theorised that there are differences in male and female speech because of the friendship groups each respective gender socialise in their childhood. Coates said that Boys and girls interact within single-sex friend groups. She said that boys and girls are generally seperated and only communciate with the opposite sex when they have to (and even then, the interactions are often antagonistic). Gender is the most important factor affecting sociolinguistic development - according Coates - with boys and girls encouraged to act and behave with the typical gender roles expected of society.

Coates also theorised how women use 'epistemic modality' - the linguistic term to describe one's judgement /confidence/belief of the knowledge in a proposed proposistion - in her quote "Lexical items such as 'perhaps', 'I think', 'sort of', 'probably' as well as certain prosodic and paralinguistic features, are used in English to express epistemic modality...women use them to mitigate the force of an utterance in order to respect addressees’ face needs.". This means that women are concerned with the face of their conversational partners which supports Tannen's theory that women use language in order to build relationships as well as Lakoff's idea that women follow three maxims of politeness.


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Janet Holmes -1992-

Janet Holmes set out to if there any differences in male and female speech and if the differences were related directly to gender or to status and power. In order to study this, Holmes carried out an experiment in which she studied doctor-patient interactions in hospitals. 

Her findings were that in hospitals, female doctors are interrupted more often than male doctors and when in the workplace males dominated interactions. Her findings supports the stereotype that men have more authority than women, which might be a reflection upon a patriarchical society - similar to what Dale Spender speculated in her work.

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Jean Aitchinson -Prescriptivist approach-

Damp Spoon

Crumbling Castle

Infectious Disease

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the Queens English Society

To promote the maintenance, knowledge, understanding, development and appreciation of the English language as used both in speech and in writing; to educate the public in its correct and elegant usage; and to discourage the intrusion of anything detrimental to clarity or euphony.

The society strongly advocates the formal teaching of English in schools and the need for all teachers of all subjects to correct pupils’ English. The society lobbies government and makes representations to the media about standards of English usage. The society’s commitment to good standards does not preclude the acceptance of English as an evolving language, but some changes are harmful.

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James Milroy -written language-

  • childern can't speak/write propperly anymore
  • persistant texting is the best way to learn language
  • writtern language is lacking propper and correct spelling
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Tony Bex -1996-generic labels-

Used to describe groups of texts wich seem to have similar language features

  • generic labels state that genre is connected to change in 3 ways:

1. change within genre

2. New sub-genres

3. new discourse communities

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Guy Deutschner

a radical prescriptivist, beleives langagage is getting better and more suited to the world that we live in.

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Robbert Hopper

Identified patterns in phone opening routines.

  • Summens - person receiving call speaks first
  • identification sequence - person responding is identified 
  • greeting sequence - self identification
  • initial equiries - 'how are you' Question and Response
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Susanne Romaine -internal and external language-

internal - formation of new words looks at what happens inside the language with no external influences

external - the changing of social contexts, looking at language as an ongoing process.

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Robin Lakoff -1975- women speech - language and ge

women use:

  • hedgers and fillers
  • tag questions
  • apologetic requests
  • indirect questions
  • speak less
  • argued that these forms of speach made women seem more week and inferior, preventing them from being taken seriously.
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Camron -2007-

Argued that all theorists were biased as they concentrated on the differences between men and women rather than the similarities.

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Beatie -1982-

Argues against Zimmerman and West.

Says men interupt to show support and understanding rather than a sign of dominance.

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O'barr and Atkins -1980-

Said that both Males and Females of low special status use hedgers and fillers; tag questions and other linguistic features.

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Tanner -1990- differences not similarities

men - more concerned with status - interrupt more; give more direct orders. They don't ind conflict, more intensifiers in getting facts and saving problems.

Female -more interest in making bonds - tend to dissagree less and agree more, more polite and indirect orders to avoid conflict; aim to show understanding by comprimising and offering support.

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Coates -women talk-

'Womens talk' falls into Four catagories-

  • bitching 
  • chatting
  • house talk
  • scandal
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Jenny Cheshire -1982-

Boys tend to use more non-gramatical forms than girls. 

I.E. ain't

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Roger Hewitt and Mark Sebba -1980's-

Black Cockney - Made up of cockney, RP and creole 

Spoken by young black speakers in london.

Black and White Teens-

studied relations between black/white teens in london. Strong link between language use of identity.

  • cultural showcasing - white youth use creole to show off
  • close friendships allowing sociolinguistic violation of norms of black and white interactions
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Van Dyke -Media Representations-

Media Representation of Ethnic minorities Portrayed as:

  • stereotyped
  • violent
  • a threat
  • unimportant
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Mark Sebba -1997- jafraican-

london jamacan has diffused and is now used by Non - Caribbeans.

it features:

  • Phonological - these > Deze
  • Grammar - his belly > him belly
  • Lexis - (to) steal > t'eif
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John Pitts -2012-

Noticed a different shift in young black English speakers, who felt that mainstreem society was ignoring them and constraining them.

they moved towards a resistance identity through language.

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Jenny Cheshire -2008- multicultural English -

identified a new form of English from Londons inner city - Multicultural London English.

predominantly among young people.

renamed multicultural urban English. 

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Penelope Eckhert -1998-Language and Age-

Language and age, age is not just defined by chronological age but also by biological age and social age.

  • language is affected by important life events
  • assuming all people of a certain age range speak the same is incorrect
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Christopher Odato -2013-

Non-Standard use of syntatic use of 'like' being seen in childeren as young as 4.

  • Girls seem to develop onto using 'like' in more syntactical positions faster than boys
  • claims there is an element of childeren copying adults
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Douglas S. Bigham -2012- emerging adulthood -

Emerging Adulthood:

  • period of time where important life events occur
  • 18-25 years old
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Ignacio Palacias -2011- Teens vs Adults-

  • Teens use negatives more than adults
  • teens are more direct and are more unafraid of consequences than adults are.
  • negatives used > nah, nope, dunno,
  • multiple negotiations and use of 'never'
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