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Language And Communication Conference

Language And Communication Conference

An upcoming international conference at Victoria University will focus on how gender and sexuality interact with language and communication.  

Conference speakers will share research into Hilary Clinton’s use of the word ‘girl’, lesbian humour, language use in Sex and the City, and the relationship between sexuality and language.

Experts from around New Zealand and the world will gather in Wellington for the International Gender and Language Association (IGALA) conference which has never before been held outside of the US, UK and Spain.

“This conference promises to be a wonderful, intellectually exciting conference, bringing together scholars from a wide range of disciplines and countries. We are confident it will stimulate new discussions and open up many new avenues of research in the language and gender field,” says Professor Janet Holmes of Victoria University’s School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies. 

Brian King, also from the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies, says the conference is shaping up to be an exciting one for those interested in social research that challenges pre-conceived notions.


“Using language as a point of focus, scholars from around the globe will present studies which trouble taken-for-granted notions about how our use of language affects, and is affected by various gender and sexuality issues,’ he says.


It will run from Thursday 3 July until Saturday 5 July.


Specific topics include:


“Humourless lesbians?” by Don Kulick (Professor of Anthropology at New York University). The entire history of the philosophy of humour – from Plato and Aristotle onwards – has been one long rumination about why certain things are funny. This talk breaks with that long tradition.  It is not about why certain things are funny; it is concerned with the opposite: why certain things are not funny. And the focus is lesbians: why are lesbians considered humourless? The talk will discuss various genres of lesbian humour from the US, the UK, and from New Zealand, and will analyse how a perception of humourlessness comes to be generated and has particular social effects.

Don Kulick is the conference’s opening plenary speaker and a leading scholar in language and gender research. He is in great demand as a speaker and reviewer, and he is extremely prolific in publishing high quality research.


 “I’m your girl” by Tanya Romaniuk (student at York University, Canada). This seminar will discuss various reactions to the world about Hilary Clinton’s use of the word ‘girl’ in her election campaign. This research shows that word choice clearly matters and that linguistic sexism perhaps exists.

“The new girl order and active womanhood” by Dr Judith Baxter (Lecturer, School of Languages & European Studies, University of Reading, UK) and Dr Allyson Jule (Senior Lecturer in Education, University of Glamorgan, UK). Older women are often represented in the media as controllers of their own destinies, and professional and independent beings. This talk will ask whether these representations could be third-wave feminism. The speakers will use analysis of language and other symbols in the final Sex and the City episode, showing how the lead character Carrie negotiates between competing subject positions that are both empowering and entrapping.

‘Sexuality as a factor for sociophonetic variation” by Douglas Bigham (student at University of Texas, in Austin). Sexuality has been largely ignored in research about language variation and sound change, while gender is considered. Douglas’s research on a sample of 35 people shows that a ‘sexuality’ variable can show significant differences regarding vowel variation and provides a new way to view language change.

The conference will be immediately preceded by the Laboratory Phonology conference—another international conference to be hosted by Victoria University this year—from 30 June to 2 July.

Organised by Associate Professor Paul Warren, Head of the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies, this conference will focus on how phonology researchers are using experimental techniques to find out more about the sound systems—such as accents—that are used in language.


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