English language theorists


Davis Crystal

·         “Range of opinions about the purpose of email as a communicative medium”

·         No one accepted style or type of language when it comes to writing an email

·         Most of the time the subject line is an indication of the identity of the message

·         Greetings and farewells do not always feature in emails

·         Mistakes are the result of the speed and spontaneity of which emails can be written

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Otto Jespersen (Defecit framework)

Published language “it’s nature, developments and origins” – (1922)

·         Women talk a lot

·         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 often use empty adjectives

·         Women have small vocabularies

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Robin Lakoff (Dominance framework)

“Language and a women’s place” (1975)

Women are more likely to...

·         Hedge – using phrases like “sort of,”, “kind of” and “it seems like

·         Use of super polite forms – “would you like”

·         Use tag questions – “aren’t you?”

·         Speak in italics (intentional emphasis on words such as so, very, and quite)

·         Use empty adjectives

·         Use hypercorrect grammar and pronunciation

·         Use direct quotations (men perhaps more often)

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Robin Lakoff (Dominance framework)

Women ...   

Speak less frequently

Overuse qualifiers such as “I think that”

Apologies more

Use modal construction (can, would, should, ought)

Avoid expletives

Use indirect commands and requests such as “isn’t it cold in here

Use more intensifiers such as “so” and “very”

Lack a sense of humour

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Zimmerman and West


·         In mixed sex conversations men are more likely to interrupt than women.  Their conclusion was that since men interrupt more often, or attempt to, they are dominating the conversations which reflects stereotypes of masculinity in patriarchal society

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Pamela Fishman

“Interaction : The Work Women Do” (1983)

·         Conversations between sexes sometimes fail because of they way men respond (or lack of response).  The success of men’s topics is due to the supportive efforts of women who use minimal responses supportively to develop the topic of conversation. Women are pushed into low status jobs just as they are into low status interactional work.  The difference in husband and wives conversation is due to the larger social order in every day interaction. 

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Dale Spender (Dominance approach)

“Man Made language” (1985)

·         The English language embodies a particular world view.  Language embodies structures that sustain male power.  Language patterns are manifestations of a patriarchal social order.  It is difficult to change this power system because we are part of it, our man made language bocks women’s version of reality.  Their meanings are systematically supressed. 

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Deborah Tannen

“Can we Talk?”

·         Status vs support

·         Independence vs intimacy

·         Advice vs understanding

·         Information vs feeling

·         Order vs proposal

·         Conflict vs compromise

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Janet Homes (Difference Framework)


·         Women make more compliments than men (reflected in Tannen’s theory – women seek support and sympathy)

·         “The chicken metaphor tells a story of a girl’s life.  In her youth she is a chick and then she marries and begins feeling cooped up so she goes to her hen parties and cackles with her friends.  Then she has her brood and begins to peck her husband.  Finally she turns into an old biddy.”

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Barbara Johnstone

Story telling – 1990

Men – protagonist usually teller, almost male

Women – protagonist often others, gender varies

Men – individual reality

Women – social reality

Men – contests among individuals or with nature

Women – community norms and fear of flouting them

Men – skill, resourcefulness, and heroism

Women – embarrassment and fear

Men – more detail on place, time, object and description

Women  more detail of characters, named characters and dialogue

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Jennifer Coates

 Men talk tends to fit stereotypes (tend to talk about impersonal things unlike women)

·         Women’s conversational topics flow in a natural order

·         Men seem to take turns, making individual monologue type speeches.  This is about “playing the expert”

·         Men also have conversations were participants are limited to single utterances per turn

·         Men appear to take turns more, as overlapping is seen as an attempt to grab the floor (this rule is avoided when participants are excited)

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Michael Halliday “Ideational Metafunction”

 Helps readers to deconstruct and identify how gender has been constructed and represented through language

·         What, who, where, when and how

·         Is the action presented objectively or neutrally?

·         Participants, process, and circumstance

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Brown and Levinson

 Positive face – desire to be approved of or liked

·         A positive face can be addressed through a compliment or threatened through criticism

·         A negative face is their desire not to feel imposed upon or not to be disturbed. 

·         A negative face can be addressed if another speaker refrains from asking the person something or if they ask it in a way that minimises the disturbance.  It can be threatened by the person being asked to do something that they do not want to be asked to do. 

·         Positive politeness – polite behaviour addresses a positive face

·         Negative politeness – polite behaviour addresses a persons negative face

·         Bald on record – nothing is done to reduce the threat.  It is a face threatening act

·         FTA (positive face) – you are clearly not a good cook)

·         FTA (positive and negative face) – close you mouth when you eat you fat swine

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Grice's maxims

 Maxim of Quantity – not too much or too little information

·         Maxim of quality – don’t lie or mislead

·         Maxim of relation – don’t be irrelevant

·         Maxim of manner – don’t be unclear or obscure

·         Observe a maxim – follow the rules of the maxim

·         Flout a maxim – not literally observing the maxim but not completely ignoring it

·         Violating the maxim – not following it at all

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Norman Fairclough

Synthetic personalisation – artificial friendliness that powerful institutions use to reinforce power

 Building relations through personalisation between the producer and receiver.  Often achieved through the use of personal pronouns

Manipulation of member’s resources – ideologies and cultural references are used by the producer to represent a product in a particular way

Building the consumer – the consumer is made to accept the product is what they need.

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Peter Trudgill

Trudgill found that men were less likely and women more likely to use the prestige pronunciation of certain speech sounds. In aiming for higher prestige (above that of their observed social class) the women tended towards hypercorrectness. The men would often use a low prestige pronunciation - thereby seeking covert (hidden) prestige by appearing “tough” or “down to earth”.

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Howard Giles

Accommodation Theory – Howard Giles – 1973

Describes how speakers change their language to resemble that of their listener: convergence, divergence, upwards/downwards/mutual.  (People adapt language and pronounciation so as to not stand out in a social environment.)

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Drew and Heritage

Goal orientation - within a work place, the conversations will revolve around a particullary topic or goal

Turn taking / restrictions - there are rules that imply who speeks when within a work place scenario

Allowable contribution - there are restrictions on what sort of participation is considered allowable within a working environment  

Asymmetry - one speaker may have more knowledge or power in a work place scenario than another speaker 

Preffessional lexis - there tends to be alot of jargon

Structure - workplace conversations are often structured in a specific way.  

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French and Raven

Legitimate power - dependent on a position (ie a President has legitimate power but looses this if he loses an election)

Reward power - if you have the power to reward people then they are more likely to do what you ask of them in hope of recognition

Coercive power - threats and punishment and the power to take things away 

Expert power - gained through knowlege and an understanding of a tpoic

Referent power - comes from someone liking you, and therefore respecting your charisma and appeal

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