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GENDER AND DISCOURSE by Deborah Tannen

GENDER AND DISCOURSE

By Deborah Tannen

Pub Date: June 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-19-508975-8
Publisher: Oxford Univ.

 In attempt to defend and expand upon her theories of miscommunication between men and women, sociolinguist Tannen provides the scholarly underpinnings of her 1990 bestseller, You Just Don't Understand. The material included in these five previously published and ponderous essays differs from Tannen's earlier book primarily in that it is addressed to a jury of her academic peers. Jargon abounds throughout, from terms like ``kinesic/proxemic analogue'' to ``the polysemy of power and solidarity.'' However, the central ideas are quite familiar: Pervasive miscommunication between men and women is due, in large part, to a complex set of ``cross- cultural'' and stylistic differences; though men do tend to dominate women in society, their domination of women in conversation is not necessarily born of an intent to dominate; linguistic strategies (such as interruption) can mean different things in different instances; and understanding style differences allows for adjustments without casting blame on either gender. Also repeated are many of the studies and examples Tannen cites elsewhere (Marianne and Johan's conversational strategies in Ingmar Bergman's Scenes From a Marriage; videotaped dialogues between eight pairs of same-sex friends). Tannen is at her most interesting (and original) in the introduction, in which she elaborately defends her own ``culture difference theory and research.'' Responding primarily to her scholarly critics who see gender and language according to models of power and dominance, rather than cultural differences, she insists that one does not preclude the other. Though she does not convince so much as pique interest in the debates raging in her field, this is one of the book's more compelling sections. This may offer intrepid Tannen fans or academicians worthy bits of information and insight, but general readers are likely to find little reward in this dense tome.