LINGUIST List 4.585

Wed 28 Jul 1993

Qs: Emoticons, Periphery, Gender

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  1. Cathy Ball, Query: Emoticons
  2. Paul T Kershaw, Gender and periphery
  3. Kathy Hargreaves, gendered speech references requested

Message 1: Query: Emoticons

Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1993 12:21:23 Query: Emoticons
From: Cathy Ball <>
Subject: Query: Emoticons

I have just been talking to a writer from the Washington Post, who is doing
some research on the meaning and use of 'emoticons' (smiley faces, etc.) in
electronic discourse. He wanted a linguist's view on (a) why they are used and
(b) whether they have anything in common with hieroglyphics. I gave him my own
opinion (they are more common in informal e-discourse, e.g. in newsgroups; they
compensate for the absence of voice or face in e-conversation; they may have
evolved to avert flaming, etc.). I said I'd also ask the LINGUIST list. Please
reply to me, and I will forward the responses to the writer (unless you'd
rather not be quoted). Thanks!

 -- Cathy Ball (
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Message 2: Gender and periphery

Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1993 13:21:39 Gender and periphery
From: Paul T Kershaw <>
Subject: Gender and periphery

While we're on the topic of gender bias in language, I have a query that's been
brewing in my mind for a while. I had always thought that peripheral grammar
forms come from (a) interference with other languages or (b) the need to fill
communicative gaps left by the core grammar. A counterexample to this is the
extremely widespread use of "woman", used as an adjective, agreeing with the
noun it modifies, as in women doctors, women scientists, etc. I thought this
was only an American phenom, but I've sent it in British Linguist postings, a
United Nations title, and even a recent posting of examples from non-native
speakers of English. I don't see how this could come from another language,
and as for filling a communicative gap, we have "female" which is already an
adjective and etymologically not gender-biased and perceptually no more biased
than "woman". Furthermore, we have "child prodigy" vs. "child prodigies" (NOT
the parallel *"children prodigies"). So I'm not sure where the "women doctors"
form came into being. Was it (a) a mandate by a particular feminist group
(such mandates, of course, are typically unsuccessful) or (b) the result of
something I have yet to see?
Querelously yours,
Paul Kershaw, Michigan State University, KershawPStudent.MSU.Edu
(P.S. I give the analysis of women doctors as [N' [A women] doctors] or
something like that. An alternate analysis as [N [N women] doctors] seems less
likely, since this structure seems completely unused in English. I may be
wrong, of course.)
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Message 3: gendered speech references requested

Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1993 13:48:45 gendered speech references requested
From: Kathy Hargreaves <>
Subject: gendered speech references requested

Does anyone out there have references for how male and female speech
differ? I'm not interested in PC reconstruction of words, but rather
gendered syntax, inflection, etc. I'd like to know if there are markers
whereby someone could tell what gender person they were talking to
without any other cues, such as overall voice pitch.

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