In GENDER AND DISCOURSE best-selling and highly respected linguist Deborah Tannen has gathered together five of her essays on language and gender to elaborate the theoretical and empirical framework that underlies her best-selling book, YOU JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND. In an informative introduction, Tannen discusses her field of linguistics, describes the research methods she typically uses, and addresses the controversies associated with her field as well as some misrepresentations of her work. The essays themselves cover a wide range of topics. In one, she analyses a number of conversational strategies- such as interruption, topic raising, indirectness, and silence-and shows that, contrary to earlier work on language and gender, no strategy is linked inflexibly to dominance or powerlessness in conversation. Interruption (or overlap) can be supportive as well as dominant; silence and indirectness can express control as well as powerlessness. The interactional context, the participants' individual styles, and the interaction of their styles, Tannen shows, all influence the balance of power.
In these essays, she peels back the layers of complexity and strategy underlying even the most basic of conversational interactions to reveal a world where much more than the literal meaning of words is being communicated. Readers interested in a deeper and more detailed understanding of Tannen's work will find this volume fascinating. It will be sure to interest anyone curious about the crucial yet often unnoticed role that language and gender play in our daily lives.
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Oxford University Press Inc
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US Kirkus Review »
In attempt to defend and expand upon her theories of miscommunication between men and women, sociolinguist Tannen provides the scholarly underpinnings of her 1990 bestseller, You Just Don't Understand. The material included in these five previously published and ponderous essays differs from Tannen's earlier book primarily in that it is addressed to a jury of her academic peers. Jargon abounds throughout, from terms like "kinesic/proxemic analogue" to "the polysemy of power and solidarity." However, the central ideas are quite familiar: Pervasive miscommunication between men and women is due, in large part, to a complex set of "cross-cultural" and stylistic differences; though men do tend to dominate women in society, their domination of women in conversation is not necessarily born of an intent to dominate; linguistic strategies (such as interruption) can mean different things in different instances; and understanding style differences allows for adjustments without casting blame on either gender. Also repeated are many of the studies and examples Tannen cites elsewhere (Marianne and Johan's conversational strategies in Ingmar Bergman's Scenes From a Marriage; videotaped dialogues between eight pairs of same-sex friends). Tannen is at her most interesting (and original) in the introduction, in which she elaborately defends her own "culture difference theory and research." Responding primarily to her scholarly critics who see gender and language according to models of power and dominance, rather than cultural differences, she insists that one does not preclude the other. Though she does not convince so much as pique interest in the debates raging in her field, this is one of the book's more compelling sections. This may offer intrepid Tannen fans or academicians worthy bits of information and insight, but general readers are likely to find little reward in this dense tome. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Deborah Tannen
Deborah Tannen is University Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University. She is the author of the best-selling You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, Talking Voices: Repetition, Dialogue, and Imagery in Conversational Discourse, That's Not What I Meant: How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Your Relations With Others, Conversational Style: Analyzing Talk Among Friends, and most recently, Talking From 9 to 5: Women and Men in the Workplace: Language, Sex, and Power.