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«DOI: 10.1515/jolace-2015-0013 Causative get-constructions in the dialogued passages in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels The Beautiful and Damned and ...»

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Journal of Language and Cultural Education, 2015, 3(2)

ISSN 1339-4584


DOI: 10.1515/jolace-2015-0013

Causative get-constructions in the dialogued passages in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s

novels The Beautiful and Damned and Tender Is the Night as gender-conditioned


Rafał Gołąbek

Kazimierz Pułaski University of Technology and Humanities in Radom, Poland



It goes without saying that in modern sociolinguistics there is a consensus with regard to the fact that the language of males and females differs. The initial sections of the article briefly address the peculiarities of gendered speech as to provide a theoretical background for checking whether the causative get is used similarly or differently by men and women in the two of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels: The Beautiful and Damned and Tender Is the Night. The basic expectation formed is that the motifs for triggering the use of causative get are of social rather than structural nature. Before the analysis is carried out, the group of the English periphrastic causatives are sketchily characterized.

Generally, what has been found is that there is a clear, socially-motivated pattern of how F. Scott Fitzgerald uses the causative get in the dialogued occurrences in his two novels. Get is a characteristic of men’s talk, but it is also the expected form while female characters address male ones - hence the verb is labelled as “masculine” get. Moreover, it has been discovered that there does not seem to be any particular pattern in either the speaker’s mood or the speaker’s attitude expressed that would trigger the use of the causative verb in question. Yet, what seems to be a well-defined tendency, when it comes to the speaker-hearer power relation, is that the speaker usually assumes a more superior position than the hearer when he or she uses the causative verb. The superiority in most cases is strongly associated with masculinity. Hence, what is postulated is that the causative get is labelled not only as “masculine" but also as “superior”.

Keywords sociolinguistics, language and gender, periphrastic causative verbs, causative get, F. Scott Fitzgerald, power-relation, masculinity and superiority Introduction A major topic that has recently been in the focus of the sociolinguistic analysis is the mutual relations between the ways in which particular languages are used and the social roles performed by men and women who use those languages. It has been universally recognized that men and women speaking a given language use it differentl

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Whatever the source of those differences is, we might be tempted to investigate whether in English one can find variation in use, between men and women, in the periphrastic causative verbs such as cause, get, have, let and make. To this end, we shall first briefly present and discuss some views on the mutual bonds between language and gender and subsequently examine the occurrences of the causative get as found in the dialogued passages of the two novels by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned and Tender Is the Night.

Language and gender1 Before we analyse the get-occurrences in the two above-mentioned novels with regard to the gender of the actors involved in communication, we shall briefly discuss the peculiarities of male and female speech. This will serve as a background to our subsequent analysis. It has been noted by numerous scholars that women’s speech differs from the speech of men (for details see, for example, Baron, 1986;

Arliss, 1991; Eckert & McConnell-Ginet, 2003; Wardhaugh, 2006; or Włodarczyk-Stachurska, 2011a and 2011b). Moreover, as Wardhaugh says, there is some kind of bias as far as the language of men and speech of women are concerned. In the words of Wardhaugh (2006, p. 317), “men’s speech usually provides the norm against which women’s speech is judged. We could just as well ask how men’s speech differs from that of women, but investigators have not usually gone about the task of looking at differences in that way.” Tannen (1990, p. 24-25) stresses that in general men tend to be more concerned with power whereas women with solidarity. For men, conversations are negations in which people try to achieve and maintain the upper hand if they can, and protect themselves from others' attempts to put them down and push them around. Life, then, is a contest, a struggle to preserve independence and avoid failure.

In other words, as Grishaver (1997, p. 31) says, “men’s major perceptions, as reflected in their language patterns, essentially involve the making of boundaries, the conquest and defence of territory and the maintenance of a pecking order”. Therefore, the key concept in men’s actions is independence.

In contrast for women, as Tannen (1990, p. 25) says, conversations are negotiations for closeness in which people try to seek and give confirmation and support, and to reach consensus. They try to protect themselves from others' attempts to push them away. Life, then, is a community, a struggle to preserve intimacy and avoid isolation.

Though there are hierarchies in this world too, they are hierarchies more of friendship than of power and accomplishment.

What this means is that women’s main motivations include bringing people closer and establishing and developing bonds with them. Following Tannen’s way of reasoning, an important concept for women would be that of intimacy.

One might ask which other aspects make men’s and women’s speech different. Definitely, there seems to be a lot of stereotypes and false beliefs concerning the female speech. Romaine (1999, p. 167says that “women’s conversations are routinely trivialized with the labels gossip, girl talk, bitching, and so on, whereas similar conversation among men are called shop talk”. Therefore female talk is often looked down on whereas men’s speech is often stereotypically assigned some qualities of a specialized jargon which may pertain to occupational or other specialized issues. Romaine adds that such As Wardhaugh (2006, p. 315) holds, “the current vogue is to use gender rather than sex” as the latter term “is to a 1

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judgments tend to reflect the different social values of men and women that are present in our societies.

According to those judgments, what men do is often more important than what females do.

Furthermore, she mentions that we often associate men’s talk with being serious whereas women’s talk is often stereotypically found to be trivial (ibid.). Yet, as Romaine says (1999, p. 168), Kipers (1987) found that women did not actually talk more than men about topics evaluated as trivial. What is interesting is that Kippers found out that nearly half of all the discussions undertaken entirely by men, entirely by women, and mixed-sex groups regarded topics that had been independently rated as trivial.

Romaine adds that Coates (1996) found that some women were aware of some of the negative stereotypes associated with female speech and therefore often stressed the fact that they did not talk about “domesticky” or “girly” matters.

What is more, Wardhaugh (2006, p. 317) denies that women’s speech is “gossip-laden, corrupt, illogical, idle, euphemistic, or deficient (…); nor is it necessarily more precise, cultivated, or stylish – or even less profane” than the speech of males. Nor do women gossip more than men do. Apparently, men gossip just as much as females do (for details see Pilkington, 1998), but as Wardhaugh (2006, p. 317) advocates, men’s gossip is different. In his words, male gossip is “a kind of phatic small talk that involves insults, challenges, and various kinds of negative behavior to do exactly what women do by their use of nurturing, polite, feedback-laden, cooperative talk. In doing this, they achieve the kind of solidarity they prize. It is the norms of behavior that are different.” This seems to be in accordance with what Litosseliti (2013, p. 39) claims. She believes that “whereas women may treat gossips as co-operative work that requires a lot of positive feedback and prompting, and avoid indirect disagreement, talk among men tends to contain little feedback and lot of open disagreement or criticism” (for details see also Coates, 1996, and Pilkington, 1998). Furthermore, according to Litosseliti, what the above means is that women prefer to pursue a conversation style based on solidarity, whereas men tend to engage in conversations in which competitiveness plays an important role (ibid.).

Additionally, male speech and female speech definitely differ with respect to vocabulary. Lakoff (1973) claims that women tend to use colour words such as, inter alia, aquamarine, lavender, magenta and mauve but most men do not. She also holds that adjectives such as adorable, charming, divine, lovely, or sweet are also frequently used by females, but are very rarely found in men’s active vocabulary repertoire. Females are also found to have their own lexicon that is used in order to emphasize certain effects on them. Such words and expressions would include, for example, so good, such fun, lovely, divine, adorable, darling, and fantastic. Also Crystal (1987, p. 21) reports that women use intensifiers such as so or such (e.g. It was so busy) more often than men. Moreover, according to Crystal, women are said to use “exclamations such as Goodness me and Oh dear” with a higher frequency than men. The above seems to be confirmed in the words of Salzmann (1993, p. 184), who also claims that certain words in American English are used much more frequently by women than by men. Among such words, he lists “expressive adjectives that convey approval of admiration” such as, inter alia, charming, cute or sweet. Salzmann presents the view that “men are much more likely to phrase their approval or liking for something by using a neutral adjective such as fine, good, or great and reinforcing it, if necessary, with such an adverb as damn” as in „you were damn lucky not to have been killed!’ (ibid.).

We have already referred to certain gender-based differentiations found in English. Let us now add some more characteristics of the male and female speech. According to Ritti (1973) girls are said to use expressions such as oh and wow more often than boys. Brend (1975) maintains that the intonation of men and women vary to some extent, claiming that women, more often than men, tend to use patterns normally associated with surprise and politeness. Lakoff (1973, 1975) characterizes at great length the speech of women. Among numerous peculiarities of women’s speech, the linguist mentions so called “hedges”, that is, lexemes such as well, y’know, kinda. She believes that such hedges are more often used by women than men. He says that

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women’s speech seems in general to contain more instances of “well’, “you know”, “kind” and so forth: words that convey the sense that the speaker is uncertain about what he (or she) is saying, or cannot vouch for the accuracy of the statement (…). (Lakoff, 1975, p. 53-54) Lakoff adds that these words are used “as an apology for making an assertion at all”. Therefore, according to her, women use hedges because they avoid making direct statements. Lakoff also argues that women use “hypercorrect grammar” and more “super polite forms”, (e.g. Would you mind...).

Females also speak in “italics”, that is, they emphasize certain words in order to stress the importance of what they are saying. Italics convey doubt about women’s self-expressions and their fears “that words are apt to have no effect” (Lakoff 1975, p. 56).

Let us add that, as Wardhaugh (2006, p. 324) reports, many researchers agree that in conversations in which both men and women interact, men tend to speak more than women do. In addition, when men talk to men, their discussion often revolves around such topics as competition, sports, aggression, and doing things. In contrast, females talking to females focus mostly on such categories as the self, feelings, relations with others, family and home. What Wardhaugh says seems to be in line with the view of other researches presented above (cf. Tannen, 1990). Moreover, similarly to other researchers, Wardhaugh also reports that women “use more polite forms and more compliments than men. In doing so, they are said to be seeking to develop solidarity with others in order to maintain social relationships. On the other hand, men are likely to use talk to get things done” (ibid., cf. Lakoff 1973, 1975). However, Wardhaugh adds a cautionary note. The above-mentioned claims are only general tendencies. One should not forget that “men also try to bond and women also try to move others to action” (ibid.).

Another trait of women’s speech reported by Lakoff is that they sometimes answer a question with a statement that has a rising terminal which reaches a level higher than the initial parts of the utterance.

Such intonation is usually associated with questions rather than the falling intonation which is normally linked with making statements. She claims that women are more likely than men to use what she calls

an “inappropriate question intonation”, as in the frequently quoted example in which a husband asks:

“When will dinner be ready?”, and the wife replies with a rising intonation: “Oh … around six o’clock…?” Lakoff says that the effect of such intonation is “as though one was seeking confirmation, though at the same time the speaker may be the only one who has the requisite information” (1975, p. 17). According to Lakoff, such intonation patters signal uncertainty or lack of self-assertiveness of the women who use them.

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