Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Linguistic Norms and Expectations in Gyms with Different Social Spaces

Linguistic Norms and Expectations in Gyms with Different Social Spaces

Ashlee Jed

Linguistic norms and expectations create unique environmental settings in gyms. Marketing language used in gyms and their materials create linguistic norms that structure what language and action is appropriate and inappropriate to say or do when training in particular gyms. This is an understudied area of inquiry. Three locations of three gym companies (nine gyms total) with differing fitness missions are explored and analyzed. The first gym, Life Time Fitness, focuses on extreme weight loss, body building, and lifestyle changes. The second gym, Fit Zone for Women, provides a space for only women where fitness and attitudes regarding female body image are focused on. The last gym, Planet Fitness, claims to be a judgement-free and commitment-free zone. Through the use of ethnographic research, the collection of written materials, and linguistic theory, it is evident that gym companies, such as Planet Fitness, attempt to directly control gym member language behavior by targeting human feelings and emotions. This method of linguistic monitoring is not used in Life Time Fitness or Fit Zone for Women. In turn, Planet Fitness has to enforce more rules than any other gym, and they need to be more forceful about them. However, the written material found throughout each Planet Fitness location enforcing these rules creates an unintended judgmental and hostile reaction. Further research would include studying the same nine locations over a longer period of time with the consideration of investigating how host communities might play a role in shaping linguistic monitoring and how violations of linguistic norms and expectations are treated under these culturally shaped linguistic norms and expectations.

April 11, 2016 - Posted by | abstract


  1. This would be interesting to understand how the different use language to get across the message and goal of the gym. What would also interesting would be the word choice associated with such goals and how they reinforce it with messaging throughout the gym.

    Comment by D Castagna | April 19, 2016 | Reply

  2. It is interesting to see the differences among all the gyms. I wonder if there is a difference between the different areas of the gym such as the pool compared to the weight area.

    Comment by A. Golembiewski | April 27, 2016 | Reply

  3. I think this topic is so incredibly relevant to American culture. You see so many advertisements on television and ads promoting gym’s. I think this topic is interesting because you never really realize the way they use language to market and run their gyms will target human feelings and emotions. It would be intriguing to see future research with the same gyms or even looking at other gyms to see if the research continues to be the same or if it changes in the future.

    Comment by Kristy Estabalaya | April 29, 2016 | Reply

  4. Great topic! I have been to many different gyms and never thought about the language use specifically. I do find it very interesting that Planet Fitness advertised a judgment-free zone but with strict dress codes and what they describe as a “Lunk Alarm” they are greatly have the opposite affect. Would be interesting to see how they contradict this claim in other ways.

    Comment by Mallory Moore | May 4, 2016 | Reply

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