Gendered body language in children’s literature over time

Michaela Mahlberg, Anna Cermakova

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Abstract

In this paper, we study gendered patterns of body language descriptions in children’s fiction. We compare a corpus of nineteenth 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, i.e. 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 nineteenth 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. Over time, the clusters illustrate an increasing range of options for the description of female characters and their interactional spaces.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLanguage and Literature
Early online date18 Jan 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Jan 2022

Keywords

  • children’s literature
  • fiction corpora
  • body language
  • gender

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