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English Language: Janet Holmes
Transcript of English Language: Janet Holmes
What are Tags?
Tag questions a grammatical structures in which a declarative is followed by an attached interrogative clause or tag. There are two types of tag: modal and affective. Affective tags are split into two categories, softeners and facilitatives.
Modal tags request information or confirmation e.g. John's away,
Affective tags indicate concern for addressee.
Softeners reduce the harsh tone of a demand e.g. open the door for me,
Facilitatives are used to encourage conversation, e.g. x factor was good last night,
Tag Use In Relation To Gender
Women use more affective tags which are used to encourage converation and soften harsh requests. In contrast to this, men use more modal tags than women, which request information or confirmation.
In each case, one of the participants can be identified as "powerful" - "responsible for the conduct of the talk", and typically also have greater social power and status in the context of the conversations e.g. doctor vs. patient, teacher vs. student. The data was sampled so that men and women were represented in the "powerful" and "powerless" roles. All tag questions were identified and classified according to Holmes' categories. The results:
First, you may notice there is no significant overall difference in tag usage between the sexes.
Second, men continue to use modal tags relatively more often, and affective tags relatively less often.
The most striking difference by far, however, is not the sex/gender effect but the power effect: it is only the people who are in charge of the conversations -- the "powerful" speakers -- who use affective tags
Overall, the interpretation of gender differences in language use - and the extent to which such differences are emphasized in the first place -- seems to have a strong political element. For example, the conclusion that women are more cooperative and men more competitive in conversation is highly political. In evaluating such interpretations, it is well to remember how widely they can vary.
Website infomation was obtained from;