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A study of hedges and related phenomena in the speech of some public women and men
2000 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year))Student thesis
Abstract [en]

The notion of hedges is maybe not a well-known phenomenon to the average speaker, in any language. Nonetheless, we all use hedges every day, probably without being aware of it. What, then, is a hedge? According to The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics (1997) a hedge is, ”any linguistic device by which a speaker avoids being compromised by a statement that turns out to be wrong, a request that is not acceptable, and so on.” For example, instead of saying ‘Freddie Mercury is the best singer in the world’ one could use a hedge and say ‘Freddie Mercury is probably the best singer in the world’. Some claim that the use of hedges is a sign of weakness and that women tend to make use of hedges more frequently than men. These claims made me curious and thus led me to investigate whether the claims were true or not. This essay, A Study of Hedges and related phenomena in the Speech of Some Public Women and Men, compares the use of hedges between women and men. It also tries to determine whether some hedges tend to occur more often with women than with men and vice versa. In addition, it tries to identify the function of hedges in discourse. I have added the term ‘related phenomena’ (George Lakoff 1973:473) to the heading, because as the investigation proceeded I noticed that it is not entirely correct to label all expressions, commonly referred to as hedges, as hedges in the sense that is stated in The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics (1997). This investigation is based on two episodes from the British talk show Hard Talk and one episode from the American talk show Larry King Live. The study was made on VCR recorded material. If we look at the total number of hedges in both Hard Talk and Larry King Live, this investigation, generally, confirms the assumption that women use more hedges than men. However, the hedges and related phenomena used in this study do not seem to indicate weakness. Rather they indicate communicative competence with the person using them. This investigation also shows that there does not seem to be a bias for some hedges to occur with women or for some to occur with men. The most common hedge in this study is I think. One important function of some hedges seems to be to state that what you are saying is your personal opinion and not ”the truth”. Another function is to hedge out of politeness, that is, you do not want to appear too self-assured, so by hedging you may win confidence and by that you are using your communicative competence. I hope that my findings have contributed some to the study of hedges and thus will inspire other people to further investigate this vast and interesting area of hedges and related phenomena.

Abstract [en]

The notion of hedges is maybe not a well-known phenomenon to the average speaker, in any language. Nonetheless, we all use hedges every day, probably without being aware of it. What, then, is a hedge? According to The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics (1997) a hedge is, ”any linguistic device by which a speaker avoids being compromised by a statement that turns out to be wrong, a request that is not acceptable, and so on.” For example, instead of saying ‘Freddie Mercury is the best singer in the world’ one could use a hedge and say ‘Freddie Mercury is probably the best singer in the world’. Some claim that the use of hedges is a sign of weakness and that women tend to make use of hedges more frequently than men. These claims made me curious and thus led me to investigate whether the claims were true or not. This essay, A Study of Hedges and related phenomena in the Speech of Some Public Women and Men, compares the use of hedges between women and men. It also tries to determine whether some hedges tend to occur more often with women than with men and vice versa. In addition, it tries to identify the function of hedges in discourse. I have added the term ‘related phenomena’ (George Lakoff 1973:473) to the heading, because as the investigation proceeded I noticed that it is not entirely correct to label all expressions, commonly referred to as hedges, as hedges in the sense that is stated in The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics (1997). This investigation is based on two episodes from the British talk show Hard Talk and one episode from the American talk show Larry King Live. The study was made on VCR recorded material. If we look at the total number of hedges in both Hard Talk and Larry King Live, this investigation, generally, confirms the assumption that women use more hedges than men. However, the hedges and related phenomena used in this study do not seem to indicate weakness. Rather they indicate communicative competence with the person using them. This investigation also shows that there does not seem to be a bias for some hedges to occur with women or for some to occur with men. The most common hedge in this study is I think. One important function of some hedges seems to be to state that what you are saying is your personal opinion and not ”the truth”. Another function is to hedge out of politeness, that is, you do not want to appear too self-assured, so by hedging you may win confidence and by that you are using your communicative competence. I hope that my findings have contributed some to the study of hedges and thus will inspire other people to further investigate this vast and interesting area of hedges and related phenomena.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2000. , 41 p.
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-53931Local ID: ENG D-7OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-53931DiVA: diva2:1102491
Subject / course
English
Available from: 2017-05-29 Created: 2017-05-29

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  • apa
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  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
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More styles
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  • de-DE
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  • en-US
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  • nn-NB
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