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The conceptualisation of FEMININITY on English Wikipedia


  • Max Bäckström

Summary, in English

This study undertakes a quantitative and usage-based Cognitive Linguistic study on the representation and conceptualisation of FEMININITY on English Wikipedia. Contemporary information media are changing fundamentally and the place of Wikipedia in the new media space is important not only because of its influence but because it is radically different to traditional media. Unlike news press, the cinema industry or television, the information disseminated by Wikipedia is produced by the audience and this is done so with little or no control over content. That Wikipedia is as balanced and well composed as it is could be argued to be testimony to common sense and good will of humanity. However, little socio-cultural research has been down on exactly what kind of picture is emerging on Wikipedia. This study seeks to address this issue.
The analysis focuses on five lexemes ladylike, feminine, girlish, girly and womanly. 100 occurrences of each are extracted from a ‘dump file’ containing all current articles on English Wikipedia, as of 01-01-2012. Due to the fact that Wikipedia is produced by users from all over the world, the data is made up of what is termed ‘international English’ (Seidlhofer 2001, Brutt-Griffler 2002). The analysis draws on the theoretical work for language evidence for cultural models such as that presented by Wierzbicka (1985) and Lakoff (1987). The sample is treated with multifactorial usage-feature analysis (Geeraerts et al. 1984, Gries 2003, Glynn forthc.). The features considered have been chosen due to their likelihood to provide information on the user-influenced usage of the lexemes and thus the conceptualisation of FEMININITY being presented. Examples of these features being what type of referent the lexeme is used to refer to, the axiology of the usage and commonly occurring collocations. Furthermore, apart from purely linguistic features, the topic of the article in which the lexeme is found is also taken into consideration. The results of the usage-feature analysis are then treated with multivariate statistics to identify and confirm patterns in the representation and the conceptual structure this is argued to represent.
The expected results of this study will show the contributing users’ different representations, relative to theme and lexeme, of FEMINITY on English Wikipedia. This in turn will provide socio-cultural information on the representation of gender on a medium with no major control over user-contributed content. The representation of FEMINITY and gender in general is a likely source of subjective and culturally influenced use of language, therefore, on a medium striving for objectivity, this particular conceptualisation is likely to provide interesting results.







Examensarbete för kandidatexamen


  • Languages and Literatures


  • Conceptual analysis
  • feminity
  • Wikipedia
  • multivariate statistics
  • corpus linguistics


  • Dylan Glynn