1.12.13

Just finished reading Lang and Gender stuff for Tuesday. I have to come up with a question or two to spur discussion. Hum. I am not exactly sure what to ask–Robin discouraged us from asking ‘clarifying’ questions in the guise of discussion questions, so I am going to try to avoid it–though I have to admit there is a lot I am not clear about. I guess what I am centrally interested right now is the treatment of speech vs. writing. It seems that “language”–within the language and gender field–means “speech” by default (to use the language of the field, it is ‘normative’), but then, sometimes, a research project dealing with corpus linguistics is dropped in and writing is substituted for speech in the conversation–though that move is never made explicit. I think I am probably more interested, at least now, in presentations-of-self through writing (than through speech), so the question is, since writing–like speech–is performative, but writing is much different temporally (as in it is made permanent to some degree) whereas speech is ephemeral, how does the analysis of these two language forms differ? How does the nature of writing change the performance and the perception of the language created? Do the “gender patterns” of Labov exist in the same ways in writing as they do in speech–in regards to prestige variants and the like? Still, that seems like a clarification question, not a discussion question. . .

I was also interested by the discussion of the institution throughout the reading. Maybe that’s the question to ask–in what ways do school environments function like other political / social institutions wherein “the interactional processes through which language helps make gender, sex, and sexuality available as indexical and indexed social resources. These resources are particularly visible within institutional contexts because of the highly conventionalized roles and stances people take when doing institutionalized work. These stances and roles are frequently ideologically gendered regardless of the actual sex of the person performing the role” (Queen, pp. 21-22). I know that the role of ‘elementary school teacher’ is ideologically gendered female–what about the role of secondary school teacher? Of professor? I am not as clear. I have a sense that there are some conflicting pressures at work in the institution of education. A female secondary teacher might, for example, feel pressure to perform a variety of stances including ‘nurturer / care-taker’ [indexed female],  ‘disciplinarian’ [indexed male], ‘subject-matter authority’ [index subject-dependent], ‘responsible adult’ [indexed as gender neutral or even gender-negating?]. . . Still, I suspect that these roles are, as Professor Queen writes, “highly conventionalized”–why does convention, then, feel slippery in this case?

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