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What We Say What We Mean Who are We


The Maxim of Quality: Do not say what you believe to be false. ... Maxim of relevance: Be relevant. Maxim of manner: Avoid obscurity of expression. Avoid ambiguity ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: What We Say What We Mean Who are We

What We Say What We Mean Who are We?
Elaine Rich
Is This You?
The context A and B are colleagues. A has just
given an important presentation on their work. B
had to be in another city at a separate meeting.
B phones A to find out how things went. B So how
did it go this afternoon? A Pretty well, I
guess. They really liked our work. But you
would have done a much better job giving the
presentation. I wish youd been here. B Dont
be silly. Most of the ideas in that presentation
were yours. A Some were. But youre a better
talker and youre the one who figured out how all
the pieces fit together.
This Talk
  • What we say vs. what we mean
  • Do we all share a common language?

Language at its Most Straightforward
Propositional Content
  • Bill Clinton was the 42nd president of the United
  • Texas is in France.
  • The Matrix is playing at the Dobie.
  • Lunch is at noon.
  • What time is it?

When Theres More - Presuppositions
  • What is Clinton famous for?
  • Wheres The Matrix playing?
  • Who is the king of France?
  • Have you started making it to your morning
  • Im going to check out all the five star
    restaurants in Cleveland on this trip.

When Theres More (Shared?) Presuppositions
I dont think Alexanders getting a proper
education, he said to her one evening. Oh, hes
okay. I asked him to figure what change theyd
give back when we bought the milk today, and he
didnt have the faintest idea. He didnt even
know hed have to subtract. Well, hes only in
second grade, Muriel said. I think he ought to
switch to a private school. Private schools
cost money. So? Ill pay. She stopped
flipping the bacon and looked over at him. What
are you saying? she said. Pardon? What are you
saying, Macon? Are you saying youre
committed? Anne Tyler, The
Accidental Tourist, cited in (YJDU, p. 175)
Conversational Postulates
  • Grices maxims
  • The Maxim of Quantity
  • Be as informative as required.
  • Dont be more so.
  • The Maxim of Quality
  • Do not say what you believe to be false.
  • Do not say that for which you lack sufficient
  • Maxim of relevance Be relevant
  • Maxim of manner
  • Avoid obscurity of expression
  • Avoid ambiguity
  • Be brief.
  • Be orderly.

Conversational Postulates and Scalar Implicature
  • A Have you done the first math assignment yet?
  • B Im going to go buy the book tomorrow.

Another Example of Scalar Implicature
  • A When did you get home last night?
  • B I was in bed by midnight.

When Theres More Conversational Postulates and
  • A Joe doesn't seem to have a girl-friend these
  • B He's been going to Dallas a lot lately.

When Theres More Conversational Postulates and
A Lets go to the movies tonight. B I have to
study for an exam.
When Theres More Conversational Postulates and
Reviewer of new book It is well-bound and
free of typographical errors.
When Theres More Conversational Postulates and
A What do you think of my new dress? B Its
When Theres More Conversational Postulates and
Illocutionary Force
  • Do you know what time it is?

When Theres More Conversational Postulates and
Illocutionary Force
  • Do you know what time it is?
  • What time is it?

When Theres More Conversational Postulates and
Illocutionary Force
  • Do you know what time it is?
  • What time is it?
  • Im freezing.

When Theres More Conversational Postulates and
Illocutionary Force
  • Do you know what time it is?
  • What time is it?
  • Im freezing.
  • Get up and go close the window.

When Theres More Conversational Postulates and
Illocutionary Force
  • Do you know what time it is?
  • What time is it?
  • Im freezing.
  • Get up and go close the window.
  • Politeness

When Theres More Emotive Force
  • Come on. Just forget about it.
  • Hey, youre the best.
  • Maybe what we ought to do is …

When Theres More Emotive Force
  • Come on. Just forget about it.
  • Hey, youre the best.
  • Maybe what we ought to do is …
  • Do you think maybe we should …

When Theres More Emotive Force
  • Come on. Just forget about it.
  • Hey, youre the best.
  • Maybe what we ought to do is …
  • Do you think maybe we should …
  • What we need to do is …

This Talk
  • What we say vs. what we mean
  • Propositional Content
  • What we Mean
  • Presuppositions
  • Conversational Postulates
  • Illocutionary Force
  • Emotive Force
  • Do we all share a common language?

In Some Languages, A Fairly Strong No
  • In Japanese
  • Women use the honorific prefix o- more often than
    men do.
  • "Please proceed to the honorable second floor to
    do your money changing."
  • Women and men have some different vocabulary
    items women invariably praise food for being
    oishii (delicious), men are more likely to say

wn.html http//www.coolest.com/jpfm.htm
In Some Languages, A Fairly Strong No
  • In Japanese
  • Women use the honorific prefix o- more often than
    men do.
  • "Please proceed to the honorable second floor to
    do your money changing."
  • Women and men have some different vocabulary
    items women invariably praise food for being
    oishii (delicious), men are more likely to say
  • Older people are more likely to end sentences
    with ja.

wn.html http//www.coolest.com/jpfm.htm
The Language of Men and Women
  • In many languages, women generally conform more
    closely to the standard, correct dialect than
    men do.
  • The way people speak reflects their social roles,
    as well as their goals and priorities.

What About English?
  • Phonetics
  • Vocabulary
  • Speaking behavior

What About English?
  • Phonetics
  • In the county of Norwich, female speakers of all
    five income levels surveyed were consistently
    more likely to pronounce the final g in "going"
    (a characteristic of so-called "correct English")
    than their male counterparts, who generally
    perceived "goin'" as rougher and hence more
  • Vocabulary
  • Speaking behavior

Vocabulary The One You Probably Expect
Men are more likely to admit that they use swear
words In one study, 72 of men and 55 of women
admitted that they swear in public.
Vocabulary Color Terms
  • An experiment with five populations
  • I men aged 20-35. Graduate students or people
    working in technical areas.
  • II men aged 45-60. All technically trained,
    highly educated professionals.
  • III women aged 20-35
  • A technical, corresponding to group I.
  • B non-technical but well-educated.
  • IV women aged 45-60. Most of them married to
    the men in Group II.
  • V Catholic nuns, most of them over 30.
  • http//www.cs.utexas.edu/users/ear/Sex-Related_Col

Vocabulary Color Terms
  • Four responses
  • Basic one of red, orange, yellow, green, blue,
    purple, violet, white, black, brown, grey, pink,
  • Qualified a basic word qualified by words such
    as light or dark or by another basic word, e.g.,
    yellowish green.
  • Qualified fancy a basic word qualified by
    special words, such as sky blue or hunter green.
  • Fancy color words not in the basic category,
    e.g., lavender, magenta, chartreuse.

Vocabulary Color Terms
Speaking Behavior Two Simple Examples
  • Women produce more back-channel utterances
    (things like uh uh, I see, and yeah that
    acknowledge the speaker but do not grab the
  • Women use more tag questions (e.g., This will
    work, wont it? Or We need to install more
    memory, dont we?)

Speaking Behavior A More Complex Pattern
  • The rest of this talk is based primarily on the
    work of Deborah Tannen, as described in
  • You Just Dont Understand
  • Talking from 9 to 5
  • Caveat The claims that Tannen makes are
    statistical and anecdotal. They dont describe
    universal truths that apply all the time to all
  • Caveat The experimental evidence that forms the
    basis for this work was done almost entirely in
    the US. Not clear to what extent the conclusions
    apply to other cultures.

Language As Behavior
  • The core idea Language is behavior. As such,
    it is formed by
  • How we perceive the world
  • Men One Up One Down
  • Women A group of equals
  • The priorities we attach to our goals
  • Men Achieve status (and independence)
  • Women form social connection and intimacies

Language As Behavior
  • These differences affect
  • When we talk
  • How we talk
  • Our misunderstandings

When We Talk
  • Men talk in public.
  • Women talk in private.

When We Talk
  • Asking questions

But some situations are riskier than others. A
Hollywood talk-show producer told me that she had
been flying with her father in his private
airplane when he was running out of gas and
uncertain about the precise location of the local
landing strip he was heading for. Beginning to
panic, the woman said, Daddy! Why dont you
radio the control tower and ask them where to
land? He answered, I dont want them to think
Im lost. This story had a happy ending, else
the woman would not have been alive to tell it to
  • What about at school?

How We Talk
  • Men vie for control women try to equalize

Laurie Heatherington and her colleagues had
student experimenters ask hundreds of incoming
college students to predict how they thought
their first year at college would go by
forecasting the grades they expected to get. In
some cases, the predictions were made
anonymously They were put in writing and placed
in an envelope. In others, they were made
publicly, either orally to the experimenter or by
writing on a paper that the experimenter promptly
read. The researchers found that women predicted
lower grades for themselves than men did but
only when they made their predictions publicly.
The predictions the women students made in
private did not differ from the mens just as the
grades they actually earned as the year
progressed did not differ from the mens. In
other words, their lower predictions evidenced
not lack of confidence but reluctance to reveal
the level of confidence they felt. The same
researchers conducted a second study that
captured womens characteristic balancing act
between their own interests and those of the
person they are talking to. In half the cases,
the experimenters told their own grade-point
averages to the students they interviewed, and
the grades they claimed to have gotten were
comparatively low. Lo and behold, when women
students thought they were talking to someone who
had gotten low grades, they lowered their
predictions of what they expected their own
grades to be. Whether or not the experimenter
claimed to have gotten low grades did not affect
the predictions made by the men students.
How We Talk
  • Interrupting

How We Talk
  • Tooting our own horns
  • Social conversation who talks and who listens

I was at dinner with faculty members from other
departments at my university. To my right was a
woman. As the dinner began, we introduced
ourselves. After we told each other what
departments we were in and what subjects we
taught, she asked what my research was about. We
talked about my research for a little while.
Then I asked her about her research and she told
me about it. Finally, we discussed the ways that
our research overlapped. Later, as tends to
happen at dinners, we branched out to others at
the table. I asked a man across the table from
me what department he was in and what he did.
During the next half hour, I learned a lot about
his job, his research, and his background.
Shortly before the dinner ended there was a lull,
and he asked me what I did. When I said I was a
linguist, he became excited and told me about a
research project he had conducted that was
related to neurolinguistics. He was still
telling me about his research when we all got up
to leave the table.
How We Talk
  • Tooting our own horns
  • An experiment with expert/nonexpert pairs

Psychologist H. M. Leet-Pellegrini set out to
discover whether gender or expertise determined
who would behave in what she terms a dominant
way for example, by talking more, interrupting,
and controlling the topic. She set up pairs of
women, pairs of men, and mixed pairs, and asked
them to discuss the effects of television
violence on children. In some cases, she made
one of the partners an expert by providing
relevant factual information and time to read and
assimilate it before the videotaped discussion.
One might expect that the conversationalist who
was the expert would talk more, interrupt more,
and spend less time supporting the conversational
partner who knew less about the subject. But it
wasnt so simple. On average, those who had
expertise did talk more, but men experts talked
more than women experts. Expertise also had a
different effect on women and men with regard to
supportive behavior. Leet-Pellegrini expected
that the one who did not have expertise would
spend more time offering agreement and support to
the one who did. This turned out to be true
except in cases where a woman was the expert and
her nonexpert partner was man. In this
situation, the women experts showed support
saying things like Yeah and Thats right
far more than the nonexpert men they were talking
to. Observers often rated the male nonexpert as
more dominant than the female expert. In other
words, the women in this experiment not only
didnt weild their expertise as power, but tried
to play it down and make up for it through extra
assenting behavior. They acted as if their
expertise were something to hide. …
How We Talk
  • Tooting our own horns
  • An experiment with expert/nonexpert pairs -

Furthermore, when an expert man talked to an
uninformed woman, he took a controlling role in
structuring the conversation in the beginning and
the end. But when an expert man talked to an
uninformed man, he dominated in the beginning but
not always in the end. In other words, having
expertise was enough to keep a man in the
controlling position if we talking to a woman,
but not if he was talking to a man. Apparently,
when a woman surmised that the man she was
talking to had more information on the subject
than she did, she simply accepted the reactive
role. But another man, despite a lack of
information, might still give the expert a run
for his money and possibly gain the upper hand by
the end.
How We Talk
  • Use of personal examples

How We Talk
  • Story-telling styles

Each year, students in my classes record ordinary
conversations that they happen to take part in,
and transcribe a segment where people tell about
personal experiences. One year, two students
analyzed all the stories transcribed by class
members to compare the ones told by women and
those told by men. They found differences that
fit in with the patterns I have been
describing. The fourteen stories that men had
told were all about themselves. Of the twelve
stories told by women, only six were about
themselves the others were about incidents that
happened to other people. The men, but not the
women, had told stories in which there were
protagonists and antagonists. For the most part,
the stories that men told made them look good.
For example, two men told about times when they
had won a game for their team by their
extraordinary performance. Many of the women
told stories that made them look foolish. For
example, one woman told of not having realized
she had broken her nose until a doctor informed
her of the fact years later. Another told of
having been so angry at losing her hubcap to a
pothole that she stopped the car, searched in
vain among a pile of hubcaps that had found a
similar fate, and, not wanting to leave
empty-handed, took a Mercedes hubcap that was of
no use to her.
How We Talk
  • Use of indirect expressions

How We Talk
  • Trouble talk

HE Im really tired. I didnt sleep well last
night. SHE I didnt sleep well either. I never
do. HE Why are you trying to belittle me? SHE
Im not! Im just trying to show that I
understand. Girl Hey, Max, my babys not
feeling good. Boy So sorry. Im not the person
who fixes sick babies. Girl I wasnt telling you
to fix her, I was just telling you.
How We Talk
  • Who interrupts

How We Talk
  • The role of fighting (arguing)

For boys and men, aggression does not preclude
friendship. Quite the contrary, it is a good way
to start interactiona nd create involvement. A
woman told me of her surprise when she was a
member of a mixed group of students attending a
basketball game at the University of Michigan.
Although their tickets had seat assignments, the
usual practice among students at this university
was for spectators to take any seats they found
first come, first served. Following these
unwritten rules, the students took seats in the
front row of the balcony. Before long, a group
of men from Michigan State University arrived,
assuming they were entitled to the seats shown on
their tickets. Finding people in their seats,
they ordered them out. When the University of
Michigan students refused to vacate the seats, a
loud argument ensued in which the men of the two
groups denounced and threatened each other, and
the women sank down in their seats. After a
while, the visitors settled for the seats
adjoining the disputed ones. Then the men who
had just been engaged in an angry verbal fight
began a friendly chat about the teams and the
schools and the game about to begin. The women
were dumbfounded. They would never have engaged
in such an argument, but they assumed that if
they had it would have made them enemies for
life, not friends in the wink of an eye.
These Differences Show Up Very Early
  • Boys give orders girls use words like lets

Psychologist Jacqueline Sachs and her colleagues,
studying preschoolers between the ages of two and
five, found that girls tended to make proposals
for action by saying Lets,, whereas boys often
gave each other commands. For example, in
playing doctor, the little boys said things like
Lie down., Get the heart thing., Gimme your
arm., Try to give me the medicine. When girls
played doctor, they said things like Lets sit
down and use it. Marjorie Harness Goodwin found
exactly the same pattern in a completely
different group black children between the ages
of six and fourteen, playing on the streets of a
Philadelphia neighborhood. The boys, who were
(agonistically) making slingshots in preparation
for a fight, gave each other orders Gimme the
pliers!, Man, dont come in here where I am.,
Give me that, man. After this, after you chop
em, give em to me., Get off my steps. The
girls, who were making glass rings out of bottle
necks, didnt issue commands. They made
proposals beginning with Lets Lets go
around Subs and Suds a corner bar/restaurant.,
Lets ask her, Do you have any bottles? ,
Come on. Lets go find some., Come on. Lets
turn back, yall, so we can safe keep em.,
Lets move these out first. Other ways the
girls proposed activities were with We gonna
(We gonna make a whole display of rings), We
could (We could use a sewer), Maybe, and We
These Differences Show Up Very Early
  • Girls give reasons boys dont.
  • Girls get in trouble if they brag or stand out.
  • She thinks shes something.
  • In mixed groups, girls often become invisible
  • Different attitudes toward trouble talk

Conversational Style at Work
  • Meetings
  • One-on one interaction style

Conversational Style at Work Meetings Who
  • Men talk more

Barbara and Gene Eakins examined tape recordings
of seven university faculty meetings and found
that, with one exception, the men spoke more
often and, without exception, spoke longer. The
mens turns ranged from 10.66 to 17.07 seconds,
the womens from 3 to 10 seconds. The longest
contribution by a woman was still shorter than
the shortest contribution by a man.
Conversational Style at Work Meetings Who
  • Men talk more but meeting style matters.

Edelsky taped and analyzed five complete meetings
of a standing university department faculty
committee composed of seven women (of which she
was one) and four men. When she set out to
measure how much women and men spoke at the
meetings, she realized that the meetings broke
into two different types of interactions. At
times, interaction followed what one things of as
meeting structure One person spoke while others
listened or responded. But there were times when
the nature of interaction was quite different
They seemed like free-for-alls in which several
people talked at once or seemed to be on the
same wavelength. In order to answer the
question of who talked more, she first had to ask
which type of interaction was going on. She
found that men took more and longer turns and did
more joking, arguing, directing, and soliciting
of responses during the more structured segments
of the meetings. During the free-for-all parts
of the meetings, women and men talked equally,
and women joked, argued, directed, and solicited
responses more than men. In these parts of the
meeting, no one person held the floor while
others sat silently listening. Instead, several
voices were going at once as people either talked
over each other or talked to their neighbors at
the same time that other parallel conversations
were going on.
Conversational Style at Work Meetings How Do
People Talk?
  • Women use hedge expressions such as
  • I dont know if this will work, but …
  • Youve probably already thought of this, but …
  • This may be a silly naïve question, but …

Conversational Style at Work Ritualized Behavior
  • Women say Im sorry, Im confused, and

Sociologist Keller Magenau tape-recorded and
studied the talk of a woman who worked in the
central office of a large insurance company. The
woman, Karie, was responsible for approving
insurance policies referred to her by
underwriters. In one taped segment, Karie had
received a policy from Lisa that she could not
approve because it lacked a critical piece of
information that Lisa should have provided.
Instead of saying, Lisa, you havent given me
all the information youre supposed to, Karie
began, Im just a little confused. When she
pointed out the problem, Lisa took responsibility
for it No, I should have reworded that, and
went on to clarify. Karie did not lose face by
claiming confusion, because Lisa took the blame
back on herself. If Karie put herself in a
one-down position, it was only fleeting, because
Lisa quickly pulled her back up. It is only when
others do not do their part to restore the
balance that ritual self-deprecation leaves the
speaker in a one-down position. ------------------
-------------------- I had been interviewed by a
well-known columnist who ended our friendly
conversation by giving me the number of her
direct phone line in case I ever wanted to call
her. Some time later, I did want to call her but
had misplaced her direct number and had to go
through the newspaper receptionist to get through
to her. When our conversation was ending, and
had both uttered ending-type remarks, I
remembered that I wanted to get her direct number
for the future and said, Oh, I almost forgot
last time you gave me your direct number, but I
lost it I wondered if I could get it again.
Oh, Im sorry, she came back instantly. Its
Conversational Style at Work Ritualized Behavior
  • Women give compliments

Deirdre and her colleague William both gave
presentations at a national conference. On the
way back to their home city, Deirdre told
William, That was a great talk! Thank you, he
said. Then she asked, What did you think of
mine? and he told her in the form of a lengthy
and detailed critique.
Conversational Style at Work Fighting
  • Men argue and fight.

Conversational Style at Work Indirect Requests
vs. Bossiness
  • What if youre the boss?

A university president was expecting a visit from
a member of the board of trustees. When her
secretary buzzed to tell her that the board
member had arrived, she left her office and
entered the reception area to greet him. Before
ushering him into her office, she handed her
secretary a sheet of paper and said, Ive just
finished drafting this letter. Do you think you
could type it right away? Id like to get it out
before lunch. And would you please do me a favor
and hold all calls while Im meeting with Mr.
Smith? When they sat down behind the closed
door of her office, Mr. Smith began by telling
her that he thought she had spoken
inappropriately to her secretary. Dont
forget, he said, youre the president!
Conversational Style at Work Indirect Requests
vs. Bossiness
  • Women must be careful
  • What happens among peers? Its even more subtle.

Marian Sal, are you busy? Sally No. Marian
Whatre you doing? Sally Just talking to
Deborah. Do you need me to cover the
phone? Marian Yes, I have to go to the
accounting office. Sally Okay, Ill be right
Conversational Style at Work
  • Asserting control vs. soliciting consensus

Two coworkers who were on very friendly terms
with each other were assigned to do a marketing
survey together. When they got the assignment,
the man began by saying, Ill do the airline and
automobile industry, and you can do the
housewares and direct-mail market. The woman
was taken aback. Hey, she said. It sounds
like youve got it all figured out. As a matter
of fact, Id like to do airlines and autos. Ive
already got a lot of contacts in those areas.
Oh, he said, a little chagrined and a lot
Conversational Style at Work
  • Trying to protect others feelings

Amy was a manger with a problem She had just
read a final report written by Donald, and she
felt it was woefully inadequate. She faced the
unsavory task of telling him to do it over. When
she met with Donald, she made sure to soften the
blow by beginning with praise, telling him
everything about his report that was good. Then
she went on to explain what was lacking and what
needed to be done to make it acceptable. She was
pleased with the diplomatic way she had managed
to deliver the bad news. Thanks to her
thoughtfulness in starting with praise, Donald
was able to listen to the criticism and seemed to
understand what was needed. But when the revised
report appeared on her desk, Amy was shocked.
Donald had made on minor, superficial changes,
and none of the necessary ones.
Conversational Style at Work
  • Promoting oneself

Not only advancement and recognition, but hiring
is affected by ways of speaking. A woman who
supervised three computer programmers mentioned
that her best employee was another woman whom she
had hired over the objections of her own boss.
Her boss had preferred a male candidate because
he felt the man would be better able to step into
her supervisory role if needed. But she had
taken a dislike to the male candidate. For one
thing, she had felt he was inappropriately
flirtatious with her. But most important, she
had found him arrogant, because he spoke as if he
already had the job, using the pronoun we to
refer to the group that had not yet hired him.
Conversational Style at Work
  • The overall effect of feeling confident

The CEO of a corporation explained to me that he
regularly has to make decisions based on
insufficient information and making decisions
is a large part of his work life. Much of his
day is spent hearing brief presentations
following which he must either approve or reject
a course of action. He has to make a judgment in
five minutes about issues the presenters have
worked on for months. I decide, he explained,
based on how confident they seem. If they seem
very confident, I call it a go. If they seem
unsure, I figure its too risky and nix it.
What Matters?
  • Not the style itself
  • Its the mismatch

More Information?
rh/modules/LNG3001-1.htm http//www.linguistik-o
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