Gendered body language in children’s literature over time

Cermakova, Anna and Mahlberg, Michaela (2022) Gendered body language in children’s literature over time. Language and Literature, 31 (1). pp. 11-40. ISSN 0963-9470

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In this paper, we study gendered patterns of body language descriptions in children’s fiction. We compare a corpus of 19th-century children’s literature with a corpus of contemporary fiction for children. Using a corpus linguistic approach, we study gendered five-word body part clusters, that is, repeated sequences of words that contain at least one body part noun and a marker of gender. Our aim is to identify and describe differences between the description of male and female body language across both corpora. We find that in the 19th century, there are not only fewer clusters for female characters, but the functional range of these clusters is also limited. The contemporary data suggests a trend for male and female clusters to become more similar with the clusters illustrating an increasing range of options for the description of female characters and their interactional spaces.

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Journal Article
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Language and Literature
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26 Apr 2022 15:35
Last Modified:
22 Nov 2022 11:24