Language and Power in Politics: A Gender Stereotype Game

Sarah Thomas, Emma Greene, Cameron Brewer, Jamie Dela Cruz

With 2020 fast approaching, everybody has their eyes on the many candidates running for president, calling into attention how they frame particular issues to gain public support. The mixed-gender debates within the Democratic party raise the question of how this new dynamic will affect future political conversations. However, it’s no secret that women have a harder time making themselves heard, with their gender inspiring the public to maintain traditional stereotypes about them.

Existing gender inequalities, or sexism, persist in language, and can be maintained through the speaker and their audience (Suleiman & O’Connell 2008). In this context, the relationships with a candidate to other candidates and the public reflect a power dynamic that women must handle to assert their own place in the political sphere. To understand how these candidates navigate mixed-gender debates, we looked at one of the Democratic primaries, paying special attention to what language tactics they used.

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Exploring the Difference in Filler Word Frequency between Non-Native English Speakers and Native English Speakers

Clayton Puckett, Nicole Fonacier

Typically, when thinking about filler words, the immediate interpretation is that they’re a result of bad habits. Yet the purpose of filler words differs depending on the setting, and its frequency varies from speaker to speaker. In both informal and formal speech, filler words can be used to begin or continue streams of thought, assuage discomfort in silence, and allow time to process information. If filler words are used excessively, it can either negatively impact the credibility of the speaker or it can help string together words. This raises the question of why we use filler words, who is more likely to use them, and whether or not using them is indeed such a horrible thing to do. To answer these questions, we conducted a study focusing on the differences in filler word frequency between non-native and native English speakers. Participants were asked to answer a series of questions that would encourage the usage of verbal fillers through memory recollection and impromptu thinking; the conversations were recorded and the number of filler words used were then tallied as a proportion to the number of total words spoken. We hypothesized that non-native English speakers will use filler words less frequently in their responses due to a more conscious awareness of fluency. The results from our data supported this hypothesis: on average, native English speakers used about 4 more filler words for every 100 words spoken when compared to the non-native English speakers in the study. This suggests that the frequency of filler words could possibly be influenced by comfort levels in practicing a language and whether that language is the individual’s native language.

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Feminine Stereotypes: a Closer Look at The Princess and the Frog

Tasha Bierling, Sophia Maxson, Angela Ramirez, and Daniel Walsh

The Princess and the Frog, the diversity jewel in Disney’s crown, might not be as progressive as you’d think. Pink frilly dresses, big blonde hair, bows and sparkles, and an over-the-top, ditzy personality–it’s a stereotype we’ve all seen before in movies and tv. The creators of The Princess and the Frog took this well-known “dumb blonde” stereotype to another level with the character Charlotte La Bouff, and in doing so, perpetuated a stereotype to their viewers, many of whom tend to be very young.

It’s clear from her appearance that the New Orleans princess enjoys the feminine things in life. Charlotte visibly conforms to many misogynist stereotypes in both her appearance and her viewpoint. However, the focus of our research is to investigate whether her over-the-top feminine portrayal carries through in her speech as well. We have identified several linguistic features through other research that sound stereotypically feminine: uptalk, repetition, interjections, and rapid speech.

If Disney has employed these markers in the stereotypical portrayal of a female character, then they have presented a platform for impressionable youth to internalize these unsaid judgements. We are curious as to whether these aspects are more common in Charlotte’s speech than in that of the other main characters, Tiana and Naveen, whose presentations are less traditionally feminine.

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Freshmen versus Transfer Students: Who’s More Sociable?

Zilana Aikebaer, Monica Campbell, Jenny Kim and Roselinda Kuoch

The study was performed in hopes to explore the difference in the function and purpose of the usage of phatic talk, especially in the aspect of socialization during interaction amongst two large new streams of populations at UCLA: Transfer and Freshmen students. The sample population was randomly selected at the study lounges where the two groups are most concentrated and interviewed students from each group with the same set of questions that allows enough flexibility for the students to express their feelings, opinions, or to interact with the interviewer as in day-to-day conversation. The interview was recorded to further perform statistical analysis on turn-taking, time taken with each question, and of other stylistic aspects of the interviewee’s talk. Results show significant differences and there can be many potential explanations and causations for the differences. The analytical results could reflect the difference in the sociability of the two groups and the likelihood for students of one group potentially use phatic talk as a tool to build their social networks while the other group demonstrates less tendency for such behavior. Although there is no clear evidence for such correlation, possible connections between phatic talk and sociability for the two groups are revealed in the results of our study.

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Queer Speech: Real or Not?

Samantha Dao, Audrey Harrison, Sonia Hauser, Elizabeth Rutkevich

Have you ever thought, “Wow. That person sounds so gay.”? Maybe it’s because of the way the person speaks –his/her pitch is higher/lower than a straight person’s, the pitch at the end of his/her sentence is higher than the rest, or they have a melodious/creaky voice. But is there actually a difference between the way queer and straight people speak or is it just a stereotype? Is language used as an identifier of sexuality?

We were interested in these questions, but specifically if there’s a difference between queer and straight women’s speech. Therefore, we did an experiment, in which we asked 20 women, 10 straight and 10 queer, to tell us about a time in which they almost died and analyzed their speech to determine if a difference exists.

Our hypothesis was that there would be no significant differences in the phonetics, or in the way sound in speech is produced, except that queer women would have a bit more roughness or creakiness in some parts of their casual speech. We also believed that queer women would speak at a lower pitch than straight women. However, after getting the results, we found that our hypothesis wasn’t entirely correct. Can you guess what part of our hypothesis was proven wrong?

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How Do Different Genders Speak in The Office?

Chelsea Gleason, Priscilla De Luna, Kat Dang, Briana Tena

Do males and females speak differently in a professional setting? If so, does this cause any implications? In this study, we look at the different language patterns in the popular TV show, The Office, a comedy show following the lives of workers at a desk job.

The aim of our research was to see if differences in speech establish a power hierarchy between genders in the workplace. This research was motivated by the growing number of women in higher skilled professions compared to previous decades. Thus, we developed a coding system to study the frequency of rise in pitch and use of interruptions among the characters in this TV show. We then analyzed the data and found that the speech patterns did contribute to a power hierarchy, however it was represented through men establishing dominance over other men, rather than men establishing dominance over women.

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Media Depictions of African Americans in Incidents of White-on-Black Violence

Faith Ngo, Madyllen Kung, Melissa Aguirre, Sabrina Huang

Racial inequalities have been a fundamental aspect of the underlying fabric of the United States since its conception almost 250 years ago. From brutal incidents of racialized violence to educational disparities that have continually oppressed communities of color, inequities rooted in the throngs of racism have persisted and accumulated over time. An example of such racial inequities is violent incidents in which white police officers shoot and kill unarmed African American individuals. Proof that discriminatory biases still exist today, these events have become fuel for groundbreaking social movements that are centered on uplifting the voices of oppressed communities and challenging hegemonic ideologies. 

Over the last ten weeks, we have learned about the vital role language plays in constructing and maintaining identity. Through stereotypes and “otherizing,” which have amplified the perceived differences between social groups and intensified the already vast racial boundaries, language can codify and perpetuate discriminatory biases.

As we started our project, we asked ourselves, would articles dehumanize African Americans or would they place blame on the white police officer? Would race be a salient aspect? Would there be a notable difference in the styles of language across different social identities? Or would we find a difference between various news outlets?

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I Am Who You Are Not: Insults in Films

Anthony Waller, Avery Robinson, Nicole Rasmussen, Jun Jie Li

Creativity and complexity are not often two factors that are considered when we insult; we typically go to our personal shelf of offensive phrases and let our selections do their damage. When we look at high school oriented films, however, we see that insults are a means of identity negotiation and employ creative and complex techniques that serve to compound the effect and project a strategic process of identity projection and negotiation. In this article, we will be examining how films act as a social mirror by reflecting a description of contemporary teenage culture. Specifically, we will be considering two factors that we believe to have had a significant impact on the motivation of portrayals: gender and time. Looking at several classic selections that spans the decades of the 80’s through the 00’s, we utilized a nexus and inductive approach in isolating specific linguistic elements of insults that appear most salient to our research. We conducted a series of comparative analyses of creativity and complexity parameters and extrapolated a loose correlation between gendered insults and the passage of time. From there, we will be discussing some implications of this correlation and how insulting is a process of identity prioritization and constructivism through self-isolation.

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“Language 1, Language 2, and The Ol’ Switch-A-Roo” Mix & Match: Bilingual Edition

Language preferences and code-mixing among UCLA bilinguals in different social settings

Shiqi Liang, Leen Aljefri, Yingxue Du and Tianyi Shao

Here at UCLA, we have a diverse student body coming from many different backgrounds, which means we do have a sizable bilingual population on campus. Bilinguals and multilinguals often find themselves navigating through different social settings that require them to speak different languages. As bilingual speakers, switching between languages is quite common for us that it almost becomes a daily routine. However, when we really carefully think about that daily routine, there are so many questions we want to ask. Do we have a preference of one language compares to the other? Do our preferences vary? How do they vary? Do we mix languages? If so, how and why do we mix languages? Do bilinguals here at UCLA have a specific language preference when it comes to discussing fluid dynamics or gossiping about the latest juicy drama? Based on our study of 47 questionnaire responses collected from UCLA bilinguals and multilinguals, we arrive at the conclusion that among them, English is predominantly preferred in academic and professional related settings as well as social settings. At the same time, non-English languages are preferred in family settings and are present in social settings as well. We observed that code-mixing, the practice of mixing different languages together, is generally avoided, except when it is used as a tool for clarification.

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The Language of Good and Evil in the Disney Universe

Wendy Barenque, Maria Martignano Cassol, Kelli Sakaguchi, Sophia Siqueiros, Ellis Song

Every year Disney and Pixar release blockbuster hits watched by millions of children. Disney and Pixar characters have a huge impact on how children learn to view people in real life through the use of regional and foreign accents categorizing intrinsic “goodness” or “badness” (Lippi-Green, 2012). Recently, there has been a rising trend in the usage of “switch characters” in the Disney and Pixar cinematic universe. “Switch characters” are characters who are able to fake membership in the “good” character category and later reveal to not belong to this category. In this research, accent along with other linguistic variables such as pitch and creaky voice were tracked to determine if correlations exist between these linguistic variables and “switch characters” portrayals of “goodness” and “badness.” Does a “switch character” use a linguistic variable differently when portraying themselves as good rather than bad? For example, if linguistics changes do occur, do audiences begin to associate a certain pitch, accent, or creaky voice with “good” or “bad” categories of people? Specifically, we examined how the language aspects of “switch characters” changed between pre- and post- revelation scenes in nine Disney and Pixar films such as Frozen and Zootopia. Ultimately, we found a linguistic trend that may affect the audience’s perspective on movie characters. Keep on reading to see the effects these movies may unconsciously have on your associations of “good” and “bad” people!

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