February 5th, 2006

ozarque figure

Logistics/personal note....

So many different threads/topics have been started, or proposed, or both, that we'd be in deep communication waters here if it were all going on in speech instead of in written language. Since it's not, I think it's possible to get to everything and keep it all straight -- but it's going to take me a while. It may look as if I'm forgetting something you asked about, but it's probably somewhere in the queue. Stem cell research, for example; I think a discussion of stem cell research would be an excellent idea, but it's going to take me a while to get there. I'll try not to forget anything, and will ask you please to remind me if I do lose track.

Last but not least: Thank you very much indeed for the tips on making sense of the "Battlestar Galactica" flight battle scenes. There's no way I can make time in my life to start playing videogames, but I'm going to try all the other things you've suggested, and am optimistic that they'll help.
ozarque figure

Linguistics; pragmatics; Deborah Tannen; clarification....

Thanks to an alert from coraa, I went looking for material online by Deborah Tannen to see if I have been misstating her position on the reason for gender differences in male/female language behavior in American English. I found a lot of things that didn't clarify matters for me -- and then, at "Annotated Bibliography: Language, Gender, and Writing," I found an abstract and critique of Tannen's article titled "The Power of Talk: Who Gets Heard and Why," from the September/October 1995 Harvard Business Review, pp.138-148. With this item (emphasis added by me):

"Tannen ... believes differences in linguistic styles is [sic] due to differences in socialization. In her research, she found that girls tend to focus on building rapport in relationships, whereas boys focus on status in relationships, and these behaviors extend into the adult workplace."

The bibliography itself is at http://course1.winona.edu/pjohnson/gender/bibliography.htm ; the Tannen item is at http://course1.winona.edu/pjohnson/gender/tannen4.htm .

It's possible that I've simply misunderstood and/or misinterpreted this aspect of Professor Tannen's work from the beginning, especially since I've had access to almost none of her scholarly articles, where she would have had the freedom and space to define her terms rigorously without running into resistance from some publisher's publicity or marketing department; it's also possible that her position has changed over time. I've either been wrong about this all along or I haven't kept up to date. Either way, I stand corrected, I'm very pleased to know that Tannen does not believe that gender differences in language behavior are biological, and I am grateful to coraa for bringing that fact to my attention.

This doesn't mean that I agree with her conclusions about male/female language behavior in American English -- as I understand them -- any more than I ever did. (I still don't believe in the reality of a "male conversational style" and a "female conversational style" in American English, for example. And I'll come back to that in another post.) But it does remove one disagreement from the table. That won't matter to Tannen in any way, but it does matter to me.


While I was hunting for Tannen material online, I also found a few items that might interest you:

1. Article by Tannen from the June 24, 1990 Washington Post, titled "Sex, Lies and Conversation; Why Is It So Hard for Men and Women to Talk to Each Other?" -- at http://www.georgetown.edu/faculty/tannend/sexlies.htm .

2. An interesting set of abstracts for various works on gender and communication -- with particular emphasis on Internet and other e-communication -- at http://tags.library.upenn.edu/tag/linguistics .

3. A long and detailed overview of research and literature on gender and language, at http://faculty.ed.umuc.edu/~jmatthew/articles/overview.html .
ozarque figure

Logistics; current discussion(s); threads/topics list...

Here's my list of the topics either already introduced or proposed here at the moment by your comments, in no particular order. If I've left something important off the list, please let me know; if you perceive something on the list as boring beyond belief, please let me know.

1. Whether a "male conversational style" and a "female conversational style" exist for American English or not.

2. Whether the "Life is Football" metaphor that I've said is a typical perceptual filter for adult male speakers of American English is a characteristic of American English or only of a dialect of AE.

3. Whether the current research alleging that there are significant differences between male brains and female brains is relevant and/or valid.

4. Who (men or women) -- has more power over the development of American English.

5. Whether multitasking is, at least for American English speakers, more a "female" ability than a "male" one.

6. Whether the construction of a language specifically designed to express the perceptions of women requires anything more than the construction of a different vocabulary. [Where "women" is defined as "women who are native or fluent speakers of English." Not because it's any less interesting to discuss women who are native or fluent speakers of other languages, but because I don't feel competent to discuss their perceptions.]

7. How topics 1-5 fit into the larger topic of hostile language, including hostile language online.

8. And -- more generally, because there's been no discussion yet that would develop threads -- the ethics of stem cell research.

Note: The fact that I haven't mentioned the language behavior of transgendered or other-gendered individuals in topics 1-7 on that list isn't an attempt to claim that gender is restricted only to binary "male" or "female," and it's not a matter of personal preference. It's because I don't know enough about other-gendered language behavior to say anything useful or relevant. For all I know, introduction of solid data about that language behavior would be extremely helpful in clarifying all these issues. But it's far beyond the most remote borders of my expertise.