Gendered body language in children’s literature over time

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Čermáková, Anna 
Mahlberg, Michaela 

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.

body language, children's literature, fiction corpora, gender, characterisation
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Language and Literature: International Journal of Stylistics
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SAGE Publications
European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Nº749521)