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Say what you mean, mean what you say-An ethnographic approach to male and female conversations

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  • Middlesex University Business School
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Abstract

The fact that people use language in quite different ways and to mean different things has been discussed over the past 500 years or more, across several disciplines, including philosophy, psychology, sociology and linguistics. More recently it has been suggested that there are clear differences in the way men and women use language: the same words can have quite distinct meanings according to the gender of the speaker and the listener. If so, this could have serious implications for market research: we know what people say, but what exactly do they mean? Our exploratory study used ethnographic techniques to examine the different ways in which men and women conversed, and the conversational strategies they employed. We suggest that there are clear differences, although we find that age and social class may also have a bearing on how we use language socially.

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... In contrast, Tannen (1990Tannen ( , 1996) understands that men and women belong to two subcultures, and that their linguistic behavior shows some idiosyncratic characteristics (e.g., males' tendency to report vs. females' tendency to rapport), which does not mean that one must prevail over the other. This is the main tenet of the difference approach (Baron & Kotthoff, 2001; Cameron, 2007; Crawford, 1995; Croft, Boddy & Pentucci, 2007; Fox, Bukatko, Hallahan, & Crawford, 2007; Holmes, 2009; Jinyu, 2014; Murphy, 2010). Instead of talking about male and female language, Maltz and Borker (1982) make reference to two communicative styles: the cooperative and competitive. ...
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... Most attempts at understanding precisely what people communicate by WOM rely heavily on a posterior analysis of what has already been said (Patti and Chen, 2009; Wangenheim and Bayon, 2004). This could include analysis of online blogs and chat rooms, surveys with prior students, and evaluation of other records of interpersonal communications (Croft, Boddy and Pentucci, 2007; Patti and Chen, 2009). While such research is useful for understanding how consumers have behaved in the past, it is not necessarily useful in understanding WOM behaviour in the future. ...
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