First Advisor

Susan Conrad

Term of Graduation

Summer 2020

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages


Applied Linguistics




Buffy, the vampire slayer (Television program) -- History and criticism, Dialogue in television programs -- Sex differences, Corpora (Linguistics)



Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 70 pages)


Media representations of gender often reflect normative societal beliefs about gender and have the ability to both reinforce and subvert those beliefs. The current study examines the linguistic characterization of male and female characters on the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a series with an overt feminist message. Previous studies of gender variation in dramatic dialogue have found that female characters tend to be portrayed as using more linguistic features associated with an interpersonal and emotional focus (involvement), while male characters are portrayed as using more features centered on the transfer of information. Previous research has also found that female writers show a stylistic preference for more interpersonal, involved speech, while male writers show a preference for more informational speech. The goal of this thesis was to determine whether female and male dialogue on Buffy differed in terms of the use of the features of involvement and whether female and male scriptwriters portrayed female and male characters in different ways. A corpus of dialogue from the show was compiled for this study and analyzed using multi-dimensional analysis, a technique within corpus linguistics that allows researchers to examine multiple linguistic features simultaneously. The results of the analysis revealed that female language on the show used significantly more features of involvement than male language and that female and male scriptwriters portrayed the characters highly consistently. Interestingly, the use of features of involvement was often portrayed on the show as a powerful form of self- expression, confidence, and empathy that corresponds with the show's main theme of female empowerment. Although there were strong patterns, there was also variability within the female and male dialogue that corresponded to the context of interactions and the social relationships between characters. The results highlight the need for more studies of gender representation in the media that focus on language use and the importance of curricula that help learners develop the ability to critically evaluate popular media.


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