Talk: The Prescriptive Nature of 'Should'

How the use of the English modal verb 'should' differs according to the addressee's gender

I'd like to present what I believe to be original research; the use of the common English modal verb 'should' being influenced by the gender of the addressee.
In a study carried out in 2019, I examined every instance of the modal verb phrase 'you should' on Twitter, in tweets to British Members of Parliament (the top three male and female MPs by number of followers) during a 30 day period. The results exposed distinct disparities in the frequency and variety of 'should', dependent on the gender of the MP.

In the study I discuss the epistemic/deontic split, and outline five categories of epistemic meaning where interesting differences can be seen delineated by gender of addressee. For example, the ‘emotional’ category, wherein the ‘should’ refers to an expectation of what the addressee should feel (eg ‘you should feel ashamed’) comprised 39% of all tweets to the female MPs, but only 10% of the tweets to their male counterparts.


Day: 2020-11-20
Start time: 18:00
Duration: 00:30
Room: Ruqaiya Hasan
Track: Sociolinguistics
Language: en



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