Language, Gender, And Internet Discussion Lists

2781 words - 12 pages

Background:The area of study I am focusing on is Internet chatgroups. Specifically, I will be looking at whether the gender identifiers and trends studied in class hold up over computer-mediated communication (CMC). One Internet email discussion list was chosen for the study, SacRaves (sacraves@hyperreal.org). SacRaves is an asynchronous chatgroup, meaning it is a discussion list that does not exist in real-time (Crystal, 2001). Messages exist forever and responses can be made at any time. Discussions can travel in any number of directions. The list is centered around electronic music and the greater Sacramento area (with users from as far away as Chico, Stockton, Reno, and Oakland). ...view middle of the document...

Of the 98 posts, 60 were written by males, 27 by females, one was of indeterminable sex.Preliminary Research:Preliminary research was focused on gender and language use. Most was picked up from what has been discussed in class. Areas of study I will focus on are intonation (Ward), swearing and taboo language (Crowston and Kammerer, 187), which sex talks more in public (Herring, Johnson, and DiBenedetto, 197, reader 199), and questions (specifically requests for information) (Ward).The Internet, Cyberspace, is a relatively new phenomenon. While its roots are over 50 years old, it had not fallen into the mainstream consciousness until around 1993 (right around the time AOL first offered Web access). As such, there are not volumes of research about language, gender, and the Internet.Items of linguistic significance in CMC are different from face-to-face or traditional written word. "Internet style," for one, dictates that one should "write how you talk" (Crystal, 25). Other areas of significance to CMC are kinesics/proxemics (36), prosody/paralanguage (35), amount of information in a message (144), and closings (143). Research into male/female roles and language use focus on adversarial vs. supportive nature of posts (Herring).When analyzing the data collected, I looked for trends that supported or deviated from traditional studies of male and female language use and for the same in regards to what has been highlighted as significant in CMC. Finally, I looked for overlap between CMC and traditional studies.It should also be noted that "Computer-mediated conversation (CMC) neutralizes such social status clues as appearance, and voice" (McNutt, 24), and thus some gender identity clues.Hypothesis:I expected to find that within the set of CMCs collected, men and women would hold fast to trends discussed in class. I thought that men would talk more and use more taboo and swear words while using less intonation and asking fewer questions. Within CMC areas, I thought that men would use kinesics and proxemics less than women. And expected genders hold fast to previous research that men tend to be adversarial in CMC while women are more often supportive and attentive. Finally, from these results, it will be possible to identify the gender of a CMC author by the language and style of the post mentioned above.Results:Paralanguage:When looking at many of the study of language and gender, I found that many could not be applied. Intonation, for example, is not present in CMC in its exact form. Paralanguage, as defined by Crystal for CMC as "phonological terms which capture the notion of 'it ain't what you say but the way you say it'" (Crystal, 34) comes close to mimicking intonation. Crystal describes paralanguage as repeated letters, all caps, spacing, and special symbols for emphasis (Crystal, 36). Flatness is generally associated with males and varied pitch with females (McConnell-Ginet, 74). As such, I expected to find that men used less paralanguage than...

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