Race and gender govern politicians speech patterns

January 14th, 2009 - 1:11 pm ICT by ANI  

Barack Obama

Washington, Jan 14 (ANI): Analysing the speech patterns of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other politicians, scientists have concluded that race and gender greatly influence the way politicians speak, which is not always to their advantage.

The study by Camelia Suleiman from Florida International University and Daniel OConnell from Georgetown University in the US, compared the language of male and female, and black and white politicians to determine if ethnicity and gender play a role in the way they speak.

The researchers examined transcripts of interviews between Larry King on CNN TV and Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice.

They specifically focussed on how the politicians speech was constructed: the number of syllables spoken, the use of interjections, interruptions, self-referent I, non-standard English such as gonna, y know, and laughter.

The findings revealed that language reflects a social hierarchy that is not explicitly acknowledged.

They found that the subordinate roles of black race and female gender are reflected in speech patterns with dominant white males. And they are expressed differently in conversations with a white female, a black male and a black female.

Thus, the very people who oppose these societal attitudes reproduce a degree of racism and sexism.

Looking at Barack Obamas language, in particular, the researchers found that his presentation of himself is nothing like the traditional black political orator Martin Luther King or Jesse Jackson.

Barack Obama does not deliver the poetic sermon of a past generation of African American leaders.

On the other hand, just like Condoleezza Rice, he displays self-confidence and serenity and remains calm and composed under stress. He stays focused and does not communicate obvious emotion.

The authors said that both Obama and Rice are accomplished models of a new generation of African American leaders.

It seems that they need to be even more careful about what they say than their white political colleagues, because they are judged on the use of their language differently than their white counterparts.

The study is published online in Springers Journal of Psycholinguistic Research. (ANI)

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