LINGUIST List 13.2839

Mon Nov 4 2002

Review: Sociolinguistics: Baron & Kotthoff (2001)

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  1. Lauren Hall-Lew, Baron and Kotthoff (2001) Gender in Interaction

Message 1: Baron and Kotthoff (2001) Gender in Interaction

Date: Mon, 04 Nov 2002 17:08:41 +0000
From: Lauren Hall-Lew <>
Subject: Baron and Kotthoff (2001) Gender in Interaction

Baron, Bettina and Helga Kotthoff, eds. (2001) Gender in Interaction.
John Benjamins Publishing Company, xxiv+352pp, hardback 
ISBN 90 272 5112 6, Pragmatics and Beyond New Series 93.

Book Announcement on Linguist: 

Lauren Hall-Lew and Malcah Yaeger-Dror, University of Arizona


This text is one of the many edited texts published in the last few
years which focus on gender and interaction [see references]. In fact,
'Interaction' here is construed not in the narrow sense of
conversational interaction, but in a broader sense which includes non-
discursive forms of interaction and presentation of self. The book
begins with a comprehensive preface by the editors (ix-xxiv), which
informs us that 'with this title we want to allude not only to the
interaction between the sexes, but also to gender as an interactional

Part 1 consists of a review by a senior researcher in this field,
Barrie Thorne (pp.3-18), intending to prepare the reader for
''widening the conceptual scope'' of current approaches to
gender. Thorne reviews the difference/dominance discussion, discussing
and attempting to broaden the theory (p.11). She also opens a
discussion on formulation of sex as a display of physical
'aggressivity,' which can influence interactive presentation of
self. Her paper serves as a general introduction.

Part 2 ''Perspectives on gender in childhood and adolescence,''
includes four papers which focus on the acquisition of interactive
gender displays. These articles follow the ground-breaking work of
Goodwin (e.g., 1980) in the 1970's and 1980's, which showed the
importance of societal input on the developing child's understanding
of gender. Note that three of the four papers in this section focus on
the acquisition of female-gendered interactive strategies.

Cook-Gumperz (21-49), ''Girls' oppositional stances: the interactional
accomplishment of gender in nursery school and family life,''
discusses the use of gendered self-presentation among a group of
nursery school girls. It appears from her transcripts that it is the
boys who actually initiate oppositional stance vis-a-vis other members
of the group, but her data appear to demonstrate that nursery school
girls can display verbal violence [boiling babies, killing baby
kitties] without feeling constrained by its 'inappropriateness' for
'little girls.' She presents helpful background information, and draws
some nice conclusions for how the child's social world mirrors the
adult society.

Kyratzis (51-74), ''Constituting the emotions: a longitudinal study of
emotion talk in a preschool friendship group of boys'' analyzes
interactions in nursery school, tracking the increase in - and
apparent learning of - gender-appropriate presentation of self by a
group of nursery school boys during one school year, finding that an
increase in gender specific behavior may be correlated with an
undocumented learning taking place outside the school. She does not
appear to find evidence for gendered self-presentation imposed by the
teachers themselves, nor does she appear to support a theory that the
increase in aggression is merely a developmental pattern. She shows
the boys arriving at the social consensus about what is 'girlish' and
should be viewed as unacceptable. Kyratzis is the first author thus
far to mention cross-cultural data, which is imperative to other
articles in the book.

Cahill (75-97), ''Notably gendered relations: relationship work in
early adolescents' notes'' analyzes 164 notes collected in middle and
junior high schools (grades 6-9) in unidentified communities in the US
in the mid-1980's. A (primarily) written discourse medium, mostly used
by girls, the notes are analyzed ethnographically for the importance
given to romantic relations and how the writers' understanding of
these relations is negotiated verbally within the group. Cahill
concludes that girl to girl discourse about heterosexual relationships
is more significant for intra-sex bonding than for cross-sex
relationship building. The assumption is that middle class communities
across the country have basically the same rules for such notes, with
the same, or similar, underlying cultural expectations of

Bloustien (99-136), ''Far from sugar and spice: teenage girls,
embodiment and representation,'' closes this section. Bloustien
analyzes video data collected by 10 working class adolescents in
Adelaide, Australia, to demonstrate ways in which these girls develop,
enact, and discuss their 'sense of self' in their everyday lives. She
shows that the gendered presentation of self is mediated by the girls'
developing shared understanding of gender-appropriate appearance and
actions. This article has a wide scope and a strong conclusion.

Part 3, ''Perspectives on masculinity,'' is comprised of three
articles. Connell, ''Masculinities and men's health'' (138-152),
demonstrates ways in which male role models in German society cause
double binds and conflicts; the article provides a focus for research
projects tying gender ideologies of 'risk' and gendered division of
labor to men's high risk behavior. The article introduces the concept
of the characterization of masculinity within a specific community.

Behnke and Meuser's ''Gender and habitus: fundamental securities and
crisis tendencies among men'' (153-174), presents a theoretical
discussion of Bourdieu and the extension of his concept of 'habitus'
to gender presentation. The authors' claim that all masculinities and
femininities should be subsumed under one 'habitus' of gender
(p. 174), reminds one of the theory that there is a panlectal grammar
which all speakers of a language share. Their insistence on this point
is particularly surprising given that the preceding paper discussed
German men's 'habitus' as primarily bound up with earning power and
risk, their own paper points out class differences in habitus, and the
following paper's German Turkish 'habitus' is primarily concerned with
the need to display control over the sexuality of women in the family.

The last paper in this section, ''Male honor: towards an understanding
of the construction of gender relations among youths of Turkish
origin'' (175-207), by Bohnsack, Loos and Przyborski, follows a group
of Turkish men in Germany. The men's behavior controlling the
presentation of 'sexuality' used by the female members of their
families is contrasted with the women's wishes to adapt themselves to
self-identificatory rituals more appropriate to the new culture.

Unfortunately, the authors' not having read each others' papers
prevents us from understanding how the Turkish men visualize the local
men's identity, or how the authors relate to the theories of the
preceding paper which would assume that the habitus of both groups of
men can be subsumed under one 'male' identity, while the naïve reader
of these ethnographies sees much greater similarity between the
'habitus' of the American preschool males (Karatzis' paper), Adelaide
teenaged girls (Bloustien's) and the German men, than between the
German-Turkish men and the German men.

''Perspectives on femininity'' is the title of Part 4; the papers
anecdotally document a contrast between a male self-presentation which
is assumed to be unmarked and a female pattern which is assumed to be
marked. The first two papers further limit themselves to a discussion
of gendered discourse strategies in specific academic discourse

Baron (247-281), ''Arguing among scholars: Female scientists and their
shaping of expertise,'' is based on the assumption that any discussion
in an academic setting should be unmarkedly considered an 'argument.'
Baron examines ways in which women academics do not conform to the
confrontational 'rules' that she postulates, and how this might be
damaging to the advancement of female academics' careers.

Gunnarsson, ''Academic women in the male university field'' (247-280),
compares men's and women's discourse strategies during classroom
seminars. In both of these papers, age and gender appear to be
confounded in a way which would preclude an accurate analysis (i.e.,
younger women vs. older men). Both papers document the fact that even
in the late 90's, women still limit their critical interventions to
less direct strategies and are more likely to use self-deprecation. It
appears that gender is a key determinant of prestige and of dominant
behavior in an academic setting, and that women's advancement in the
professional 'marketplace' is limited by the double bind of balancing
a supportive gendered 'habitus' against academic-behavior that
requires power-based strategies. Gunnarsson also documents that the
field with more women in it (Social Sciences) permits greater use of a
solidarity responses than the field dominated by men (Humanities).

In ''Gender, emotion and poeticity in Georgian mourning rituals,''
Kotthoff (283-327) documents a Georgian women's poetic genre, the
mourning lamentation, or motiralebi. She found that the women are
those permitted and even expected to express these lamentations, which
include not only sad memories of the departed, but happy memories in
which the departed took part. The article has a more literary approach
then the others, discussing details of poetic strategy and narrative

Giora, (329-347) ''Theorizing Gender: Feminist awareness and language
change,'' presents a more extensive review of the literature than most
of the papers, but the primary focus of the paper is a review of
previous work on women's writers' use of politeness strategies. The
author's thesis is that, in the late twentieth century, feminist
politicized playwrights should favor in-group members [women] over the
dominant out-group members. She found that while 100% of the men made
their male characters dominant, 'only' 50% of the feminist authors did
so. She relays that a majority of international late 20th century
women script writers scripted dominant female characters. She shows
that not only is there a change in ideology of interaction, with
female characters showing less 'politeness' in more recent plays, but
that the change can be traced to the rise in feminism in the late 20th


The editors of the present volume should be credited with bringing a
diverse group of papers to the public. The papers present both cross-
disciplinary and cross-cultural perspectives, and are organized
according to age differences as well as gender differences. However,
given the plethora of articles on the theme of ''Gender in
Interaction,'' and the many edited volumes which have been devoted to
it [see the References below, as well as the Berkeley Women and
Language Proceedings, IGALA proceedings, and the Lavender Languages
and Linguistics Proceedings], one would expect a tightly constrained
group of coherent papers to be found in one edited
volume. Unfortunately, this expectation is disappointed. Not only do
these authors appear not to have read each others' papers, but it is
also frustrating to find that some of these authors are still bound by
cultural expectations that much of the literature on women and
language has been at great pains to dispel. Furthermore, while some of
the articles claim to be backed by quantitative as well as qualitative
evidence, readily accessible quantitative results are neither referred
to nor included in these studies.

Most editors who turn to Benjamins realize that copy editing must be
done before the articles get to the publication house; unfortunately,
the present editors have vetted neither authors' English nor egregious
typos. Nevertheless, individual articles in this collection will be of
interest to scholars whose work intersects theirs.

REFERENCES (a partial bibliography on gender in interaction)

Bergvall, Victoria, Janet Bing & Alice Freed, eds. (1996) Rethinking 
Language and Gender Research. London: Longman.

Campbell-Kibbler, Kathryn, et al. (eds.) (2002) Language and Sexuality: 
Contesting Meaning in Theory and Practice (selected papers from IGALA-
1). University of Chicago: CSLI.

Coates, J., ed. (1998) Language and Gender. Oxford: Blackwell.

Coates, J. and D. Cameron, eds. (1988) Women in their Speech 
Communities. New York: Longman.

Eckert, Penny & McConnell-Ginet, Sally (2002) Language and Gender.. 
Cambridge: CUP. 

Goodwin, M. (1980). ''Directive-Response Speech Sequences in Girls'
and Boys' Task Activities.'' In McConnell-Ginet, Borker, and Furman
(1980), pp. 157-173.

Kotthoff, Helga and Ruth Wodak, eds. (1997) Communicating Gender in 
Context. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

McConnell-Ginet, Sally, Ruth Borker and Nelly Furman, eds. (1980)
Women and Language in Literature and Society. New York: Praeger.

Phillips, Susan, Sue Steele and Chris Tanz, eds. (1980) Language
Gender and Sex in Comparative Perspective. Cambridge: CUP.

Sheldon, Amy (1996), ed. Constituting Gender through Talk in Early 
Childhood. RoLSI 29(1), Special Issue.

Tannen, Deborah, ed. (1993) Gender and Conversational Interaction.
Oxford: OUP.

Thorne, Barrie and Nancy Henley, eds. (1975) Language and Sex. Rowley,
MA: Newbury House.

Wodak, Ruth, ed. (1997) Gender and Discourse. London: Sage.


Lauren Hall-Lew received her B.A. in Linguistics from the University
of Arizona in August, 2002. Her interests include gender studies,
sociolinguistics, phonetics and phonology. She currently works with
Malcah Yaeger-Dror, Research Scientist in the Cognitive Science
Program, University of Arizona.
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