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Cultural Difference or Male Dominance?: (Re)adjusting the Lens on the Maternal Image in Language Socialization Practices

Delprete, Donna

It is not uncommon for doctoral students to experience some sort of intellectual turning point in the course of our studies. At this juncture a light bulb may go off, allowing us to experience an “Aha” moment (Tannen, 1984) with regard to a particular issue. This leads us to re-examine some of our most deeply ingrained beliefs about a particular research area. We stroll down new paths, explore new territories, and find new spaces to ponder our questions. One such exploration began for me in the spring of 2005, while I was enrolled in Interactional Sociolinguistics with Dr. Leslie M. Beebe. This course not only exposed me to a discourse analytic approach that would be foundational to my future dissertation work, but it also provided me with a new and expanded perspective on discourse and gender. Course readings led me to ask new questions and to examine existing debates in language and gender research through various lenses. The course was indeed an intellectual turning point in my life that began when I examined the debate surrounding cross-gender (mis)communication, and then came full circle when I discovered an interest in family discourse and the maternal figure—an outgrowth of a Linguistic Anthropology course also taught by Dr. Beebe the following term.

Dr. Beebe encouraged me to examine cross-gender (mis)communication with two distinct lenses: cultural difference and male dominance. As my research interests grew to include family discourse, I discovered how the dichotomization of cultural difference and male dominance also presents two distinct lenses for viewing the maternal image in language accommodation practices. While one of these lenses is constructed around traditional patriarchal assumptions, the other views mothers’ accommodation practices from a cultural and socio-educational angle. I will now peer into these lenses to show how the socio-political lens of dominance and patriarchy extends beyond issues of cross-gender (mis)communication to societal perceptions of mothers and their role in language accommodation practices.

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Working Papers in Applied Linguistics & TESOL

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