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Skip to 0 minutes and 12 seconds OK, I have an example here for you and also a question that you might like to think about. Can you tell the gender of speaker 1 in this particular dialogue that was taken from the British National Corpus. At this stage, you might like to pause the video and think about this dialogue.

Skip to 0 minutes and 34 seconds OK. Have you thought about the gender of speaker 1? If you guessed that speaker 1 is a female speaker, you were right. But what are the reasons for guessing this? One of the features that I highlighted here is the frequent use of personal pronouns and all the personal pronouns are underlined in the dialogue. Of course personal pronouns are used by both genders. We couldn’t put a sentence together in an informal discourse if we didn’t use personal pronouns. But it is about the tendencies and the frequencies with which these are consistently used more often by female speakers than male speakers. And when we look at the overall pattern from the Corpus, these are hundreds of speakers put together.

Skip to 1 minute and 29 seconds We can see the males on the left and the females on the right. In the 1994, the blue bar and in the 2014 Corpus, the orange bar. What we can see is that there’s a clear distinction between male and female use, but we can also see that there’s a distinction between the 1994 use, which is higher overall, than 2014 use. If we dig deeper and look at some of the statistical techniques, such as the 95% confidence intervals around the mean for each of these groups, we can observe a statistically significant difference both between the male 1994 and female 1994 group but also the male 2014 group and the female 2014 group.

Skip to 2 minutes and 22 seconds So there’s a clear pattern and enough evidence in the Corpus data that the two genders use personal pronouns with different frequencies. Well, it’s however also very interesting when you look at the male 1994 Corpus and the female 2014 Corpus is that they actually use the personal pronouns with similar frequencies because there’s this sort of overall drop in the frequencies of personal pronouns. Again, we would have to investigate why this is the case– look at the individual context. But this is a very interesting initial observation that we can actually explore further using the Corpus techniques.

PART 2: Case study 1. Gender and personal pronouns

Vaclav Brezina presents a small case study on the use of personal pronouns in Spoken BNC1994 and Spoken BNC2014.

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This video is from the free online course:

Corpus Linguistics: Method, Analysis, Interpretation

Lancaster University