Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Forest, Kay

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Sociology


Business communication--Sex differences; Sexism in language; Communication--Sex differences


Public meetings such as city council meetings and school board meetings are considered by the general public to be open forums where opinions can be freely expressed and taken into consideration by those in power, the board and council members. These meetings provided a unique opportunity to observe the interplay of gender, language and power in the social enactment of a civic meeting. Hypotheses proposed that those in power would use more powerful forms of language than those in positions lacking power; that more men would use more powerful forms of language than would women; and that women would be more likely to use less powerful forms of language than would men, regardless of status. Data from field research of city council and school board meetings over a ten-week period both supported and disproved the hypotheses. Overall, power was a greater indicator of language use than gender. Those in positions of power used more interruptions and more time to talk. The results in terms of gender differences were mixed. However, it was shown that, regardless of level of power, women used more tentative language than men. Further, mechanisms that overtly seemed to promote democracy actually inhibited the democratic process and the result was a "staged democracy" with those in power seeming to use these mechanisms to promote their own interests.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [64]-69)


v, 78 pages




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