Gender Differences in Emoticon Use and Creative Writings on Instant Messaging

  • 林 冬青

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


In the field of sociolinguistics, many studies have been done about the different conversational styles between men and women in face-to-face communication. They proved that different genders have developed their conversational patterns. Compared with face-to-face communication, the rapid growth of computer-mediated communication has established its own culture and linguistic practices and thus has made it a new field for studies. With the transportation from face-to-face spoken conversations to written contexts on the computer, we observe the adoption of emoticons and new creative writing forms, such as Zhuyin Wen, Taiwanese and Taiwan Guoyu features on Instant Messaging. When we communicate on the Net, we either communicate with the same or the opposite gender. If we can have more understanding about the language practices between genders, we will have more chance to build a rapport and successful communication. Therefore, the primary goal of my study aimed to find out whether there is different use of emoticons and creative writings between genders on Instant Messaging. More specifically, the possible factors affecting the use of them will be discussed.
Thirty-three inter-sex dialogues, made by sixty-six subjects, thirty-three male and thirty-three female regular Instant Messaging users, are analyzed in my study. The data are written discourse of the talk made by the subjects and their interlocutors. The variables I code in this study are the use of emoticons and creative writings. To analyze the collected data, I compare the raw scores of emoticons and creative writings by different genders. I study the percentages and types of the variable as a basic analysis of the differences between women’s and men’s talk on Instant Messaging.
The main findings of this study are summarized as follows
1.Males are found to use more emoticons in total (male 63
instances versus female 43 instances) without
considering the contexts where the emoticons appear.
2.Men are more expressive than women in displaying unhappy
emotions with non-smiling emoticons (male 75.4 %versus
female 24.6%).
3.Among the six categories of contexts, women use most
emoticons in the contexts to express friendliness
(34.9%) while men to flame (27.0%).
4.Men use more of the three creative writings than women
in total (male 96 instances versus female 48 instances),
in Zhuyin Wen (male 67.7% versus female 32.3%), in
Taiwanese (male 71.4% versus female 28.6%), and in
Taiwan Guoyu (male 76.5% versus female 23.5%).
From the findings above, it shows that there do exist differences between genders on emoticon use. The possible factors that influence the differences may be the gender roles that they are expected. Women tend to adopt language forms that are more polite and friendly while men are not afraid to use language forms that may threaten others’ face. The findings of creative writings also show that men and women may possess different attitudes on the new linguistic writing systems on Instant Messaging, These creative writing systems are recently developed and have not been acknowledged as standardized language variants by all Instant Messaging users. Therefore, before the standardization, women are found to use these creative writings less than men do. Although many studies have been done about the linguistic practices on the Internet, they are done in the contexts of English. Different societies have their own cultures, and these social factors may cause various language practices. The emoticon use between genders I examined in my study may have different explanations from those in the previous studies because the Instant Messaging users are observed in the contexts of Taiwan-based society. Moreover, we can observe the use of creative writings like Zhuyin Wen, Taiwanese writing, and Taiwan Guoyu writing only on the Internet in Taiwan. It is a new field to discover, and the reasons that cause these findings may be interesting and worth to be well discussed.
Date of Award2008
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMei-Hui Tsai (Supervisor)

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