Deborah Tannen



Gender and Discourse

Oxford University Press, 1996

Gender and Discourse gathers together six of Tannen's scholarly articles, including her last and previously unpublished essay in which language and gender are seen as "sex‑class linked" (that is, specific ways of speaking are associated with the class of women and the class of men rather than necessarily with individual men and women).  For those unfamiliar with her scholarly work, these essays provide a theoretical backdrop to her general-audience books.  In an introduction, Tannen discusses her field of linguistics, describes her research methods, and addresses the controversies surrounding her field as well as her own work on gender and language. 

The essays cover a wide range of topics.  In one, Tannen analyzes selected conversational strategies, such as interruption, topic raising, indirectness, and silence‑‑and shows that, contrary to much work on language and gender, no strategy can be categorically interpreted to express dominance in conversation; all are ambiguous and polysemous with regard to power and connection.  In other words, the same way of speaking can signal either dominance or connection (hence ambiguity) or both (hence polysemy).  For example, speaking along with another can be supportive (showing connection) or interruptive (expressing dominance) or both (if speakers agree that a lively conversation includes mutual interruption).  The outcome of an interaction always results from the interactional context, the participants' individual styles, and the interaction of their styles.  Also included is an early article co‑authored with Robin Lakoff that presents a theory of conversational strategy, illustrated by analysis of dialogue in Ingmar Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage .


Gender and Discourse



Foreign Editions:
Germany, Goldmann
Spain and Argentina, Ediciones Paidos Iberica

© 2009 Deborah Tannen