Date of Award

12-1-2012

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Applied Linguistics

First Advisor

Fuller, Janet

Second Advisor

Baertsch, Karen

Abstract

This study examines how mock jury members employ linguistic features and strategies to create and perform gendered identities. Sixty-four students enrolled in a Midwestern community college completed a written survey after watching a video of an actual criminal witness testimony of a defendant on trial for killing her husband. Their answers to the survey were analyzed for the following features: hedges, intensifiers and hypercorrect grammar. Hedges were the most widely used variety and hypercorrect grammar the least. Of hedges, `perfunctory hedges' were abundant, and `reflective hedges' appeared most often in female mock juror responses with less usage by male mock jurors. Male mock jurors hedged with the use of `acting', which was used to a lesser degree by female mock jurors. There was overlap in the employment and effects of these language devices, but there were general trends. In constructing identities, some male mock jurors created hegemonic masculinities by incorporating features in a way that come across as confrontational, or challenging. In contrast, some female mock jurors created identities that deferred power and/or authority. The ways in which language is used to conform or differ from stereotypes of masculine and feminine speech are varied and continue to change. Studying these behaviors can help in understanding the impact these decisions and interactions have for varying situations and contexts.

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