Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Power Play: gender, power, and language of nurses and doctors

Power Play: gender, power, and language of nurses and doctors

Stacy F. Markel

Speech is entwined with identities of power, status, class, ethnicity and in particular, gender. This paper will examine discursive strategies indexed by power and gender identities in the specific context of linguistic interactions between doctors and nurses in and out of medical settings. Media, both real life and scripted, is the setting for these interactions. How do doctors speak to each other and to nurses? Does gender matter? Are real life attitudes about gender power relations reflected in discursive practices, both in real life and scripted media? How have these discursive practices changed over time? The media sources used to answer these questions cover a timespan from 1960 to the present day. This paper does not attempt to answer another interesting question: whether these language practices are indexed by ethnicity. That is a question for another paper. This analysis begins with a historical discussion of metalinguistic ideas about gendered language, including myths and facts, and shows how media sources agree with or repudiate these ideas. It also attempts to show how changes in modes of speech are both reflective of, and perhaps shape changing power and gender roles.

April 6, 2017 - Posted by | abstract


  1. This is an interesting topic! I wonder if there is literature on the difference between media portrayals of these interactions and real life workplace interactions between nurses and doctors? While this is off of your topic, it made me curious to know if your findings are similar to the dynamics of these interactions in hospitals and doctors offices in reality.

    Comment by Emily Lock | April 17, 2017 | Reply

  2. Stacy, very important paper topic. I recommend against citing what your paper does not attempt to answer in the abstract as it feels like it undermines the very important subjects you are planning on discussing. Instead, I would mention how your work would help illuminate analysis concerning the way “language practices are indexed by ethnicity” at the end of your abstract and suggest this topic for future research.

    Comment by Kailey McAlpin | April 17, 2017 | Reply

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