Language and gender in political debates in the House of Commons

Shaw, Sylvia (2002) Language and gender in political debates in the House of Commons. PhD thesis, The Institute of Education, University of London. [Thesis]


This thesis investigates the linguistic practices of politicians in one of the oldest and most powerful of all British Institutions: the House of Commons. After the general election of 1997 record numbers of women were elected to parliament. This rapid increase in women’s representation led to much speculation in politics and the media about how new women MPs would adapt to and change British Politics. At the same time it is clear that men and women MPs are not treated equally. Women are marginalised by sexist barracking within the chamber, portrayed negatively by the media, and are assigned to portfolios and topics stereotypically thought of as ‘women’s’ topics.

This thesis draws upon theoretical and methodological insights gained from gender and language research to explore whether this inequality extends to the differential access to and use of linguistic resources by women and men in the debating chamber. I undertake a description of the interactional norms of the House of Commons as part of the ethnographic approach to this research. Then the ways in which women and men MPs take, hold and yield turns in debates are analysed using transcripts made from a sixty-hour corpus of video recordings of debates. In order to assess the extent to which women and men MPs use an adversarial style in debates I then identify adversarial linguistic features in parliamentary question time sessions. Then I analyse the use of these features by women and men. Gendered linguistic practices such as filibustering and joke telling are also identified and analysed. Finally, a comparative study is undertaken with the Scottish parliament. I describe the parliamentary procedures and historical development of the Scottish parliament before analysing floor apportionment, the use of adversarial language, and gendered linguistic practices in this debating chamber.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Research Areas: A. > School of Media and Performing Arts > Media > English Language and Literature
Item ID: 9965
Depositing User: Sylvia Shaw
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2013 11:13
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2021 16:45

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Activity Overview
6 month trend
6 month trend

Additional statistics are available via IRStats2.