From: Ibrahim Haji-Hassan <ihaji9hotmail.com>
Subject: Language, Gender, and Power: Analysis of theme and topic management in Arabic conversational discourse
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Institution: Georgetown University
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 1999
Author: Ibrahim Ali Haji-Hassan
Dissertation Title: Language, Gender, and Power: Analysis of theme and topic management in Arabic conversational discourse
Subject Language(s): Arabic, Mesopotamian Spoken (acm)
Roger W. Shuy
Based on cross- and same-sex audio-taped conversations in Syrian Arabic,
this study examines how women exercise conversational control, and how men
and women manage their conversational themes/topics. It is often argued in
language and gender studies that women interact in ways which promote
solidarity and equality, whereas men interact in ways which maintain and
increase their power and status. This study addresses this issue
theoretically and practically.
Theoretically, the study attempts to unify the dominant and different
approaches to language and gender. Using the theoretical construct
'intention' in the pragmatic and interactional discourse analysis, it
accounts for the role of power in the difference approach and shows
'explicitly' women's ability to interact competitively.
The findings of quantitative and qualitative analysis of theme/topic
management patterns run counter to most language and gender studies. On the
whole, these women exercise conversational control in cross-sex
conversations by contributing a higher proportion of themes/topics than do
the men, by getting their themes/topics 'successfully' developed and with a
higher percentage of turns than do the men, and by changing more
themes/topics abruptly than do the men, notwithstanding the differences in
social distance variables among the participants. Overall, theme/topic
management patterns of men and women in same-sex conversations are similar
to those found in cross-sex conversations.
Qualitative analysis shows that these women strategically use topics/themes
to practice one-upmanship on the co-participants. They employ linguistic
strategies such as address form, disagreement, and advice to increase
status, while the men show sympathy and use minimal responses, third person
pronoun, laughter, among other strategies to protect the positive face of a
co-participant and promote solidarity.
The study concludes that cooperation and competition are mutually inclusive
and represent the two sides of the same coin, just like the dominance and
difference approaches to language and gender studies.
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