Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Language, gender, and uncertainty in writing about sex identification in Maya bioarchaeology

Language, gender, and uncertainty in writing about sex identification in Maya bioarchaeology

Ashley Johnson

The long-stigmatized language use of women is finally being studied under the third wave of feminism in the United States. The influence of feminism on academia has encouraged those of all genders to look critically at stereotypes thought to belong to each of the genders’ use of academic language. I seek to contribute to this ongoing movement through my own work. My project aims to discover if men and women use different writing styles in academic literature, specifically whether they express their uncertainty differently. Demonstrating uncertainty in academia can be a difficult task. I worked to understand whether men and women discuss differently their sex determination of skeletal individuals from Mayan populations due to its well-studied nature. To conduct this study, I performed a discourse analysis. Several papers on Mayan bioarchaeology were placed into categories based on the authors’ genders. Then, number of hedges were counted as a basis for the study, but all recognizable patterns were discussed. I determined that men and women use hedges at an equal rate and in similar fashions. And, that the overall patterns in language were less related to gender and more related to the audience and the subject. Instead of expressing uncertainty, both genders used a method of blame displacement that allowed their uncertainty to transfer to those who created the methodology they used, which was often Jane Buikstra and Douglas Ubelaker. Overall, men and women both expressed uncertainty on their sex determination of Mayan individuals equally and similarly, proving that perhaps language differences between genders does not exist as intensely as previously speculated.

April 2, 2018 - Posted by | abstract

1 Comment »

  1. I am extremely interested in reading this article. While this article focuses on academic linguistics, it adds to the corpus of literature focused on gender, linguistics, and society.

    Comment by Jami | April 8, 2018 | Reply

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