This dissertation, "Perception in Debates: an Investigation of ''women''s Language'' and Speech Rates in Hong Kong" by Suk-yin, Li, 李淑賢, was obtained from The University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong) and is being sold pursuant to ...
Author: Suk-Yin Li
Publisher: Open Dissertation Press
Category: Language Arts & Disciplines
This dissertation, "Perception in Debates: an Investigation of 'women's Language' and Speech Rates in Hong Kong" by Suk-yin, Li, 李淑賢, was obtained from The University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong) and is being sold pursuant to Creative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License. The content of this dissertation has not been altered in any way. We have altered the formatting in order to facilitate the ease of printing and reading of the dissertation. All rights not granted by the above license are retained by the author. Abstract: Abstract of thesis entitled Perception in Debates: An Investigation of 'Women's Language' and Speech Rates in Hong Kong Submitted by Li Suk Yin for the degree of Master of Philosophy at The University of Hong Kong in August 2004 In the English as A second language (ESL, hereafter) debating situation in Hong Kong, female ESL debaters tend to outnumber male ESL debaters and hold most of the senior positions in debating teams. When previous studies often condemn female speakers as weak language users who are perceived as less competent, credible and attractive (Wright and Hosman, 1983; Bradley, 1980), why can female ESL speakers still be so dominant in the debating situation? In view of such a contradiction, this thesis asks two questions: 1) if female ESL debaters are more preferred in Hong Kong and 2) if the negative language stereotypes towards women are less negative in Hong Kong. When answering the questions, the power of English in Hong Kong is also discussed as its powerful status in Hong Kong may be the reason why the status of the female English speakers in Hong Kong differs from those found in the native English speaking communities. To answer these two questions, this thesis carried out two perception studies on two sets of language features which tend to bring negative evaluations on women. One is a study of "women's language" (Lakoff, 1973), which refers to a special style of speech used more often by women than by men, and another, of speech rates, which tests whether women are perceived as speaking slower, as is often the case. If people in Hong Kong do prefer female ESL speakers, the negative perceptions towards these two linguistic features may be less negative. Hence, in this project, participants had to listen to debating speeches of varying frequency of "women's language features" (WLF) as well as varying speech rates before they judged the ESL debaters. The results showed that female ESL speakers are really more preferred than male ESL speakers. This can be shown when the participants judged the female ESL speakers as more credible and attractive than male ESL speakers no matter what frequency of WLF they adopted. That female ESL speakers are more preferred can also be shown from people's positive perceptions towards rapid speech rates and their perceptions that female ESL speakers speak faster than their male counterparts. Female ESL debaters are preferred possibly because they have higher English proficiency (Chavez, 2001), which is perceived by many people as necessary to be successful in the society. Moreover, the results indicated that the negative stereotypes towards the female ESL speakers were less negative in Hong Kong. Participants only perceived users of WLF as being not credible and attractive and female ESL speakers were not perceived as particularly incredible and unattractive despite their use of WLF. This shows that the negative stereotypes associated with "women's language" are less prevalent in Hong Kong. This point can be further substantiated when female ESL speakers are not perceived as slow speakers as found in the studies in the native English speaking communities. What was found in this thesis revealed that language stereotypes might not be universal. A language stereotype found to be negative in the native English speaking community might turn out to be positive in the ES