Language investigation ideas: Language and gender

Do female MMA fighters use ‘masculine’ speech features?  

Given combat sports are a violent and competitive environment, they might be thought of as a stereotypically masculine environment. An investigation could look at whether female participants use features that researchers have claimed are more commonly used by men.

The obvious core of the data would need to be transcripts of interviews with female MMA fighters, but then data for comparison could include transcripts of interviews with male MMA fighters, or transcripts of interviews with female athletes in other (non-violent or not stereotypically masculine) sports. It might also be interesting to look at differences in how fighters speak after wins or losses, or in interviews from the start of their careers compared to when they’re more established. If they've appeared in more casual media environments like podcast discussions or chat shows, those might offer a contrast to ringside interviews. 

AO1 – features that researchers have claimed are masculine or feminine (e.g. all of Lakoff’s ideas for ‘women’s language’, having their topics taken up, face-threatening turns, interrupting and overlapping etc…)

AO2 - work by people who’ve claimed genderlects exist – Lakoff, Tannen, Fishman, Trudgill (for differing male/female use of non-standard forms) etc.., Zimmerman and West re overlapping/interrupting, people who support the Gender Similarities Hypothesis (Cameron and Hyde), Bassiouney for non-standard gendered speech in Arabic, and O’Barr and Atkins’ work that suggests that context and social role affects speech style more than gender. 

AO3 – important contextual factors would include the idea that combat sports are violent and competitive, something that would be seen as male, traditionally, but could also consider things like what sort of media interview is it? Is there an obligation to hype an upcoming fight (perhaps by pretending there’s real animosity between the competitors)? How established are the fighters involved? How old are they? Are they winning a lot or losing? How high-status are they within the sport? Do they have a comfortable relationship with whoever’s interviewing them? Have they had media training that recommends a certain style of interview? Do they speak differently in different sorts of interview (e.g. maybe a ringside interview after a match versus how they may speak on a podcast). 


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