The effect of gender on linguistic politeness in written discourse
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis study contributes to the growing body of research on gender and writing and extends previous research suggesting that women adapt diverse discourses as they write for the academic discourse community. This study asserts that college women writers attempt to present themselves as more powerful writers by suppressing gender-typical linguistic features in their writing. This tendency to suppress linguistic politeness strategies, which are associated with female-typical language use, provides specific evidence in support of this assertion. In the introductory chapter, I indicate the source of my personal interest in the issue of women writing for the academy. I then review the literature that depicts women literary writers as a muted group and attests to the suppression of women's voices in the academy. Chapter 2 provides a critical review of the essentializing tendencies of the research on gender and language. In this chapter, I also review studies on women's epistemology and present an alternative metaphor for representing gender differences. Finally, I review the research on linguistic politeness theory. In Chapter 3, I indicate the purpose and limitations of the study, and I describe the methods and procedures for this study. In Chapter 4, I discuss my findings, which reveal only limited evidence of gender differences in the use of politeness strategies. I interpret these results in light of current reviews of research in gender and writing that report similar disparate results. I conclude my study with a discussion of the various theories that may account for gender differences in written discourse as well as some suggested pedagogical implications for these theories of gender difference. The significance of this study is that it provides a functionally oriented analysis of gender and writing; that is, it describes the social functions indicated by gender-typical syntactic features. In this way, it provides insight into the ways that discursive practices construct gender identity.
Degree ProgramGraduate College