Gender Differences in Child Discourse: The Linguistic Construction of Dominance/ Equality

Dr Marianthi Georgalidou
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This paper examines the discourse of children of nursery school age concerning the construction of gender. The central aim of the analysis is to contribute evidence to the line of research that adopts a critical stance towards the essentialization and universalization of sex-based differences, i.e. the Separate World Hypothesis (Maltz & Borker 1982), and takes into consideration both the local contextual parameters and the overall cultural context of naturally occurring discourse practices. It focuses on the use of control acts, i.e. conversational moves which attempt to change the behaviour of others since, as Goodwin claims, within the conversational negotiation of directive goals, contrastive forms of social organization arise, and directives and response to them affirm and ratify who has the right to make decisions and are therefore related to issues of dominance. Based on these assumptions, we will discuss the negotiation of directives, in relation to the linguistic construction of dominance/ equality relations, as these are reflected in the discourse strategies of Greek nursery school boys and girls. Based on the analysis it will be shown that a) Greek nursery school girls, as well as boys, make use of assertive language and imposing and aggravated directive choices systematically and b) there is a strong tendency of speakers of both sexes to contest hierarchy and preserve freedom of choice that seems compatible with the general trends of the Greek culture as discussed in Hirschon (2001). These findings confirm the claim made by Goodwin (2001) that dominance, rather than being sex-linked, is linked to one’s achieved position of power, often related to expertise, within single- and mixed-sex playgroups

Keywords: Child Discourse, Gender Construction, Dominance, Equality
Stream: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Gender
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Gender Differences in Child Discourse

Dr Marianthi Georgalidou

Teaching staff, Department of Mediterranean Studies, University of the Aegean
Rhodes, Greece

I received my Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Athens, School of Philosophy. I teach Pragmatics,Discourse Analysis, Sociolinguistics, Text Linguistics, Language and Gender, as well as Academic English at the University of the Aegean, Department of Mediterranean Studies since 1999.

Ref: I06P0451