Gender, politeness and confrontation in Tenejapa

Brown, P. (1990). Gender, politeness and confrontation in Tenejapa. Discourse Processes, 13, 123-141.
This paper compares some features of the interactional details of a Tenejapan (Mexico) court case with the features of social interaction characteristic of ordinary, casual encounters in this society. It is suggested that courtroom behaviour in Tenejapa is a very special form of interaction, in a context that uniquely allows for direct face-to-face confrontation in a society where a premium is placed on interactional restraint. Courtroom speech in Tenejapa directly contraverts norms and conventions that operate in other contexts, and women’s conventionalized polite ‘ways of putting things’ are here used sarcastically to be impolite. Thus, in this society, gender operates across contexts as a ‘master status’, but with gender meanings transformed in the different contexts: forms associated with superficial cooperation and agreement being used to emphasize lack of cooperation, disagreement, and hostility. The implications of this Tenejapan phenomenon for our understanding of the nature of relations between language and gender are explored.
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