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Gossip Revisited: Language in All-Female Groups

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Addy Kryger

on 10 October 2013

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Transcript of Gossip Revisited: Language in All-Female Groups

Gossip Revisited: Language in All-Female Groups
By Jennifer Coates

Research on language and gender has focused on gender differences, rarely on women as a single sex group
This leads us to accept generalizations about "the way women talk", which come from their behavior in mixed groups
Goals of Article
Analyze in detail part of a corpus conversation between women friends
to see whether the evidence supports Jones' general claims
to establish what formal features are typical of all-woman discourse
to explore the notion of co-operativeness
Addy Kryger
Deborah Jones's paper, "Gossip: notes on women's oral culture" was seen as a landmark in research on all-female discourse, but there are some problems with it
the weakness stems from the lack of empirical data
Maltz & Borker 1982 and Tannen 1982, 1987, all draw on cooperativeness for all-female interaction whereas earlier works on women's language view it as tentative or powerless

Why do you think there is little research on all-female discourse?
Do you believe there is more research on all-male discourse than all-female, or is there the same amount of research for both? Why?
The Data
the group recorded was a group of women who had all previously known each other
they had been meeting once a fortnight (once every two weeks) since 1975
they were recorded for nine months in 1983-1984
author was a part of this friend group
five headings are focused on: setting, participants and topic, formal features and functions
covers both time and place
division between a private and public setting is important
Jones identifies the private domain as the place for women's talk
this division between private and public caused significant sociolinguistic consequences
"men were firmly placed in the newly defined public world of business, commerce and politics; women were placed in the private world of home and family" (Hall 1985: 12)
Jones describes the setting of gossip in terms of time
"Time to gossip is usually snatched from work time" (1980: 194).
Coates finds this debatable, for example
"Old women sit on park benches or in social clubs, chatting for extended periods"
"adolescent girls often congregate on neutral territory and have considerable spare time in which to talk"
Do you agree or disagree with Coates, when she says Jones' findings are debatable?
Jones says, "Gossip is essentially talk between women in our common role as women".
gossip arises from women's perception of themselves as a group with a great deal of experience in common
Blum-Kulka (2000: 213) has noted that 'all students of gossip agree that in some forms it has to do with exchange of information between at least two people about a non-present third party
Guendouzi 1996 questionnaire
talk about others in a derogatory way
idle chatter usually about others and their misfortunes
scandalous pieces of information
two types, harmless gossip to keep in touch and malicious
Which definition of gossip do you most agree with? Is there another definition that works better?
Jones claims that the topics discussed by women are crucially related to their roles as wives, girlfriends, and mothers
but Coates believes this overemphasizes the place of motherhood in women's lives
Do you agree or disagree with Coates? Since we are in modern times, how would the everyday women view Jones' opinion?
It seems to be typical of all-women groups that they discuss people and feelings, whereas men discuss things (Coates)
Jones made a general claim that 'the wider theme of gossip is always personal experience' (1980: 195)
Do you agree or disagree?
Coates views Jones's section on gossip functions as weak because she merely categorizes four different types of gossip
Instead, Coates uses the term function in relation to the goals of all-women interaction
"All-women interaction has as its chief goal the maintenance of good social relationships."
What do you believe is the goal of all-women conversation? Is there a goal?
Distinction between public & private discourse
Public - exchange of information is an important goal
Males are socialized into public discourse, females are socialized into private discourse - Why do you think this is?
Private - goal is the establishment and maintenance of social relationships - reaffirming and strengthening friendships
Formal Features
Four aspects of interactional patterns found
topic development
minimal response
simultaneous speech
epistemic modality
Topic Development
women develop topics progressively, yet the claim has not been supported by empirical evidence
prefer continuity over discontinuity
Aries 1976: 13 says that a single topic can last up to 30 minutes
1 A introduces topic;
2 B tells anecdote on same theme;
3 C tells another anecdote on same theme, leading into;
4 general discussion
5 D summarizes;
6 A has last word.
telling of anecdotes is a common way of introducing a new topic on conversation
they are monologues - the telling of a story gives the speaker unusual rights to speak
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