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Linguistic politeness and sex differences in BBC Radio 4 broadcast interviews


By: Louise Mullany

Since the mid-1970s, investigating the difference between male and female speech patterns has come to be a prominent feature of sociolinguistic research. Previous language and gender researchers have found that female interactants are more linguistically polite than their male counterparts, as they favour co-operative discourse strategies. In contrast, males favour competitive strategies. This paper tests the co-operation and competition framework by analysing the amount of attention male and female interviewers and interviewees pay to the norms and conventions of linguistic politeness in Radio 4 broadcast interviews.

A pattern consistent with the co-operation and competitiveness framework is found, though there are exceptions, which cast doubt on the adequacy of previous theories that claim to explain why men and women speak differently.

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