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CORPUS LINGUSITICS RESEARCH

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Gender and Usage in the Units of Spoken Discourse ×
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CORPUS LINGUSITICS RESEARCH Vol.4 No. pp.1-25
Gender and Usage in the Units of Spoken Discourse
Michael Barlow1†
1 University of Auckland, Lancaster University
Vaclav Brezina1†
1 University of Auckland, Lancaster University
Key Words : gender; spoken corpus; dispersion; sequence; variation

Abstract

In this article we examine gender differences in the spoken usage using a selection of files from the British National Corpus (BNC). Our aim is twofold. First, to report on some similarities and differences in the words and phrases used by men and women in conversation. Secondly, we address some methodological issues related to the study of gender and to corpus linguistics research in general. In particular, we aim to address what we call the “bag of words, bag of people' problem. In many studies a corpus is treated as a bag of words in common techniques such as a keyword analysis. Such frequency-based analyses have led to many discoveries about the nature of language, but the backgrounding of discourse and text structure is problematic in obscuring some patterns of language usage. In addition, corpora are necessarily compiled using the language output of many individuals---a bag of people---and the individual contributions, and hence variation in usage, are often overlooked. These issues are explored with reference to some linguistic elements known to potentially sensitive to gender variation.
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