Elderspeak – continued
I would like to supplement some of the ideas about “elderspeak” already discussed on this blog.
Last weekend I had the privilege to be at a seminar presented by a eminent founder and researcher of gender inequalities in everyday language, Senta Trömel-Plötz (she had to emigrate to the United States three decades ago because German universities closed the doors in her face, she now lives and works in Lancaster, Pennsylvania). A group of fifteen women worked on everyday examples and we analysed a videotape of a talk show on Swiss television from 1983 where the status of the participating women (she was the most accomplished among them professionally and academically) was already constructed as “low” by the introduction alone by omitting her title, her publications and her positions. We were left to judge if things have changed since then. The intention behind this “status construction” became clear very quickly once pointed out and thus “readable”.
Professor Trömel-Plötz (1) drew our attention to speech-act theory (2), explaining illocutionary force. This is the “very act of speaking (or writing) which rhetorically presupposes an intention…..”. If the recipient understands our intention….we can say we have communicated”. And as any action, this can have a profound impact on the recipient. So what are the intentions behind speech act such as:
* Using a singsong voice, changing pitch and tone, exaggerating words.
* Simplifying the length and complexity of sentences.
* Speaking more slowly.
* Using limited vocabulary.
* Repeating or paraphrasing what has just been said.
* Using terms like “honey” or “dear.”
* Using statements that sound like questions.
…and others committed by “Elderspeak”?
And shouldn’t we rename “Elderspeak” into “Ageist Jargon?”
2) Speech Acts, 1969: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language
Cambridge University Press