Deviant Women: Transgressing Interactional Rules

Jennifer J. Peck


Everyday conversation appears to proceed unproblematically: the rules of interaction are taken for granted and shared by participants. This paper examines data from same- and mixed-sex conversations which show that linguistic practices are constantly at play in interaction, asserting that there are rules and controlling transgressions from implicit norms. Covert features such as silence, interruption and overt criticism are revealed as powerful strategies for determining who will speak and to imply stylistic value. The paper discusses the enactment of micropolitical social practices in informal talk, and argues that these practices may function to maintain a dominant status quo.

Some theories claim that the styles of talk of women and men differ, with women’s talk featuring shared floors and men’s sole-speaker floors. This stylistic difference has implications for the meanings of overlapping speech, with overlap being preferred in female, but not in male speech. The data show that transgressions of dominant discursive rules are negatively sanctioned, with censure resulting in silence or withdrawal from the speaking floor.

The analysis and discussion draw on theories from linguistics, ethnomethodology and sociology, commenting on seminal work and ongoing debates and demonstrating the value of a critical interdisciplinary approach.

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International Journal of English Linguistics   ISSN 1923-869X (Print)   ISSN 1923-8703 (Online)

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