How to do an article/book report? An example from Lakoff in Context: critical approach by Deborah Cameron The basic elements in your report What do you choose? Why do you choose this work? Its relation to the course and to what you want to do for the final presentation. Summarize the main points in the chosen work. How would these help your project and our understanding of the topic. Others Lakoff in Context (the tag questions) Why choose this article? We have discussed the characteristics of women’s speech from Lakoff (1975). Many of you are interested in applying those features to your research projects. A rich literature on gender studies also use Lakoff (1975) as a reference point. Lakoff (1975) hypothesis? Women’s language and why they speak these way. Women tend to use hesitation, intensifiers, qualifiers, tag questions, rising intonations on declarative, trivial lexical items and empty adjectives. They do so because of the lack of confidence, awareness of their inferior social status as well as show of deference/politeness for others. Cameron’s critical approach Urge future investigators to be aware of the complexity of relations between linguistic form, communicative function, social context and social structure (p. 74). Use tag questions as examples for contentions. Lakoff’s claim of tag question usage What are the contentions? Lakoff equates rising intonation on declaratives with showing tentativeness; tag questions are associated with a desire for confirmation or approval which signals a lack of self-confidence in the speaker. Qualifiers and intensifiers function in discourse as hedges. Types of tag questions It’s a nice day. It’s a nice day, isn’t it? (+ tag, less assertive) I don’t really want it. (+qualifier, less assertive) I don’t want it. What’s wrong? According to Lakoff (1975), a speaker who uses these mitigating features frequently will appear weak, unassertive and lacking in authority. From her claim that features are typical of women’s speech it follows that women appear weak and unassertive (p. 76). ….Studies taking their cue from LWP have too often been preoccupied with its empirical dimension (do women use more of features x, y, and z?) to the exclusion of crucial underlying problems. Two problems need to be discussed The form and function problem That was a silly thing to do, wasn’t it (parent to child). (p.77) Problem with explanations Lakoff relates unassertive female speech to the norms of femininity which follow in turn from women’s subordinate social position. Whether gender role (femininity) and status (defined in terms of a cluster of features like age, social class, sex, position in occupational and other hierarchies) should be conflated. If not, whether one is more important than the other in determining or influencing an individual’s speech style. Put crudely, is “women’s language” a consequence of being female, or of being subordinate, or some mixture of the two? Holmes’s approach to tag questions Holmes suggests 1984:50 At least two interrelated contextual factors need to be taken into account, namely the function of the speech act in the developing discourse, and the relationship between the participants in the context of utterance (p. 82). Tag questions again from Holmes’ Modal tags are those which request information or confirmation of information of which the speaker is uncertain; in Holmes’s terms they are ‘speakeroriented’, i.e. designed to meet the speaker’s need for information. You were missing last week/ weren’t you? But you’ve been in Reading long than that/ haven’t you? The other type of tag question Affective tags by contrast are addressee-oriented. They are used not to signal uncertainty on the part of the speaker, but to indicate concern for the address. This concern can take two distinct forms. It can exemplify what Brown and Levinson (1978) call ‘negative politeness’: a speaker may use a tag to ‘soften’ or mitigate a face-threatening act. Open the door for me, could you? The other type of tag questions (Cont.) The other type is the facilitative tag: His portraits are quite static by comparison, aren’t they? Quite a nice room to sit in actually, isn’t it. It is precisely the ‘facilitative’ tag which Lakoff would read as ‘illegitimate’, a covert request for approval. Conclusion Firstly, the relation between linguistic form and communicative function is not a simple thing. We cannot state a priori what tag questions do, even using something like Holmes’s modal/affective distinction. This should make future researchers rather wary of the line of argument popularized by Lakoff, that if women use form x more than men. we should seek an explanation of this in terms of the invariant communicative function of x. Conclusion (cont.) Secondly, our findings suggest that the patterning of particular linguistic forms may be illuminated by a number of variables, not just gender. This includes the role taken by participants in interaction, the objectives of interaction, participants’ relative status on a number of dimensions and so on. ‘women’ do not form a homogeneous social group. Gender is cross-cut with other social divisions and their relative importance is affected by the specifics of the situation (for instance, in a courtroom or classroom occupational role is likely to be more salient than any other social variable).