Theorists - English Language

Robin Lakoff and Grice

Robin Lakoff- Has 3 rules to help speakers get along with each other:

- Dont impose

- Give Options

- Make the receiver feel good

Grice's Co-Operative Principle - Explains how spakers ensure that they build conversation co-operatively. They follow four maxims:

- Be True

- Be Clear

- Be Brief

- Be Relevent

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Brown and Levinson (1978)


- studied politeness in widley diverse languages and cultures

- concluded that in order to enter social relationships, all people must acknowledge the face of other people.

- people have two faces:

Negative face says: 'no one has the right to tell me what to do'

Positive face says: 'I have my own value systems that I dont want challenged'

If you challenege someones face they will often challenge you back , eg. if you tell someone what to do it implies you have rights over them, the other person may disagree wth this so challenges back.

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Deficit Theory - Pamela Fisherman (1980)

Deficit Theory assumes that Men use powerful language to take control and women use tentative language or powerless language.

Pamela Fisherman:

- Men succeed in introducing a topic 96% of the time, even though women attempted to introduce topics more often (use direct statements and give minimal responses)

- Women ask nearly 3 times as many questions (used attention beginnings like 'You know what'

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Deficit Theory - Zimmerman and West (1975)

Zimmerman and West

- Man rarely interrupted one another but frequently interrupt women

- Women frequently overlap each oter but do not overlap men

West and Woods

Where status and gender are in conflict, eg. female doctor and patient, gender seemed to override status so that low status males would interrupt female doctors.

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Deficit Theory - Robin Lakoff (1975)

Robin Lakoff

1) Women use tentative language

     - Hedges and tentative language eg. 'sort of', 'kind of'

     - Modal verbs eg. 'might' 'could'   - Adverbs eg.'possibly' 'maybe'

     - Excessive polite forms     - Tag Questions    - Question intonation in statements

2) Women use more varied intonation by use of 'so and 'very'

3) Women use different lexis

     - Empty adjectives eg. 'sweet' 'adorable'     - Euphemisms 'little girls's room'

      - Specialised fashion and colour terms eg. 'mauve' 'maroon'   - Weaker expletives than males

4) Women generally use more standard grammar and pronunciation

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Difference Theory - Jennifer Coates (1989,1991)

Jennifer Coates

1) Topic and Development - Women talk about feelings rather than about things, Topics are developed slowly with participants building on each others contributions

2) Minimal Responses - Women use these to signal they are listening and to give support, They also mark the end of a topic or start a new topic.

3) Hedges - Respect the face needs of all participants, Used during sensitive subjects, Mitigated utterances encourage disscussion because they prevent speaker taking a hard a line

4) Questions - Women use questions to invite others to paticipate and check what they are saying is acceptable. most authority is usally the one who asks the most questions.

5) Tag Questions - They can be tentative and ask for reassurance, They can encourage others to give their own opinion.

6) Turn-taking - Women ask questions to make comments while another person is speaking but these signal that they are listening while contributing to the conversation, They also correct or repeat each others words.

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Difference Theory - Deborah Tannen (1992)

Deborah Tannen

1) Information and Consultation - Men think women are simply exchanging information, while women think they are negotiating.

2) Topic Raising, Interrupting and Reinforcing - Women do more work in raising conversation and to get others to take them up, Women use reinforcers more than men, Men appear to interrupt women more than the other way round.

3) Reporting and Rapporting - Men dont give enough information when the recount incidents, Men complain that women give out to much information. Men report and women rapport.

4) Problem-Solving or Problem-Sharing - Men are trained to be active and find solutions to problems, while women are encouraged to think of themselves as listeners and compare problems with each other to try and find a solution. When men share difficulties with friends,they often dismiss their worries as insignificant.

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Structure of a narrative - William Labov

The structure of the story follows a specific pattern:

Abstract - A brief explanation of what the story is going to be about

Orientation - The 'who', 'what', 'when' and 'where' of the story

Complicating Action - The evnts that create difficulty, tension or conflict

Resolution - The conclusion that suggests solution to the action

Coda - The story is often linked back to the present situation

Evaluation - Throughout the story are made additional comments and gestures that show how the story is interesting or important

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Bronislaw Malinowski

Bronislaw invented the phrase phatic commuication

- Different spoken genres are sometimes called speech events, this is a whole interaction with a specific purpose.

- Even a casual exchange of words at the bus stop with a stranger has a purpose; that of acknowledging that you are two people in a common situation.

- The purely social, 'human contact' purpose of some of our interactions, where the contact itself is more important than the words, is often called phatic communication.

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