A Linguist’s Intellectual Journey with Deborah Tannen – Conversations with History

– Welcome to A Conversation with History I’m Harry Kreisler of the Institute of International Studies Our guest today is Professor Deborah Tannen She is visiting the Berkeley campus as the 2017 Hitchcock Lecturer Since 1979, Tannen has been on the faculty of Georgetown University’s Department of Linguistics And, since 1991, has held the rank of university professor A prolific scholar, Tannen has written critically praised books for both scholarly and general audiences Her books include the number one, four year New York Times Bestseller You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation Her most recent book is You’re the Only One I Can Tell: Inside the Language of Women’s Friendships Professor Tannen, welcome to Berkeley – So nice to be here Be here again – Yes, welcome back, I should say Where were you born and raised? – I was born in Brooklyn, New York Raised in Brooklyn, New York And I have my PhD from Berkeley – And, looking back, how did your parents shape your thinking about the world? – You know, the very first book that I wrote in linguistics, actually was edited, was about spoken and written language Orality and Literacy And I dedicated it to my parents And I said who taught me about orality and literacy respectively (laughter) My mother being the orality My father being the literacy Yeah, my parents were born in Europe My father in Poland My mother in Russia They came to this country, my father in 1920 And that’s very significant That was the last year that there were no limits on immigration from that part of the world My mother had her father and some siblings already here Tried to come in 1921 And they had already instituted quotas So, they had to hang out in Poland They had escaped from Russia over the border They had to hang out in Poland for about two years till they were able to come in 1923 And that was the last year that anyone could come By ’24, the quotas were so high no one could come So, they had that background from Europe They did not graduate from high school, either one of them But my father did do high school equivalency at night while he was working in the factory Became a lawyer by attending law school at night Earned a master’s degree in law the same way – That background suggests that you became conscious of conversation comparing what was being discussed at home and the way it was discussed versus the public schools Is that fair? – You know, I trace my interest in language to my father He was very gifted in language, both speaking languages, picking them up, and writing And he was the one, after people had left and we would sit around in the evening, he was the one who would say, “Did you notice when she said this and she said it this way? And what did that mean?” That was really from him My mother was very verbal and storied Talked about people, told stories Also very interested in people, their relationships I actually have a BA and MA in English literature So, my decision to get the PhD in linguistics was not an obvious one I was 30 I had lived in Greece And this was also a large part in my interest in different, what I call, conversation styles Having lived in Greece where the ways of speaking were somewhat different And so, I think I might have gone into law, as my father had done Although I didn’t really want to have to wear what I thought of as lady’s shoes and go on the subway every day But, really, I was just bored and wanted something that would be intellectually engaging And the kind of linguistics that I do, which Fortunately, I attended a linguistic institute in 1973 The Linguistic Society of America has these, at that time, every summer Now every other summer And I didn’t really know what linguistics was,

but I was curious – This was when you were an undergraduate? – [Deborah] I am now 30 – I see – Had lived in Greece, so I had that interest in cross-cultural communication Had a BA and MA in English literature I was teaching remedial writing at the City University of New York at Lehman College And I was just bored and I wanted to be intellectually engaged again I was really thinking more of being a student again than I was of a career goal And I went to a Linguistic Institute and I was just so fortunate that, that summer, the topic was language in context It was 1973 I think there was a zeitgeist at the time Many fields were turning to everyday interaction And that was the case with linguistics I took a course with Robin Lakoff who had just joined the faculty at Berkeley And was just fascinated by her schema for understanding a face to face conversation And other courses that I took, as well, really inspired me that way All those talks that were being given that summer where all the people who became giants and were, although I didn’t realize they had giants, in the field of turning to the analysis of language in everyday interaction So, it brought together my father’s love of language and his skill at language with my mother’s interest in people and her facility with everyday conversation – Is the Linguistics Institute here at Berkeley? – [Deborah] It was at the University of Michigan – I see But then Robin Lakoff came to Berkeley or was she already here? – I think it was the summer between her leaving Michigan and coming to Berkeley So, I then applied to and came to Berkeley because she was here – Did your background as an English undergraduate help you in linguistic studies or was that just a passing fad? – You know, it’s so interesting you say that There are some of us in linguistics, again, the kind that I do, with this English literature background So, it was not just my BA, but also my Master’s in English literature And I had actually published a couple of papers One on Yeats and one on Joyce And I’m sure that helped my application But, yeah, I believe that my love of and sensitivity to literary language has been key One of my books that is published that I wrote for scholarly audiences was published by Cambridge University Press It’s called Talking Voices: Repetition, Dialogue, and Imagery in Conversational Discourse Actually, my title for it was Conversational and Literary Discourse And the theme of that book is that the figures, the ways of using language that we think of as being quintessentially literary, patterns of repetition, patterns of sound, using dialogue that is taking the voices of the people that are speaking, and details and imagery, all these things are thought of as literary, appreciated in literary language But my point there is that they are the fundamental building blocks of everyday conversation So, you could say that all my work in linguistics builds directly on my background in literary criticism I’ll just add quickly – Yes? – I actually had written a book of literary criticism It’s analysis of the work of a modern Greek writer Her name is Lilika Nakos She’s not translated – What did you do your dissertation on here at Berkeley? – My dissertation was called Conversational Style: Analyzing Talk among Friends But it was a comparison of what I call conversational style, ways of speaking, ways of using language, that were typical of New York Jewish speakers on the one hand and California non-Jewish speakers on the other I did not set out to look at New York versus California ways of speaking My goal, my intention, had been simply to take a real conversation, microanalysis of real everyday conversation, and describe the conversational styles of each person in that conversation There were six And the effects of those conversational ways of using language on each other and on the conversation Three of the six people were New York Jews I was one, my best friend, and his brother Three of us I’m from Brooklyn They were from the Bronx And then, two of his friends and his former wife She was British and the two friends had grown up in California

I discovered, in analyzing the conversation, that the New York speakers were able to express our ways of speaking in a way that the Californians could not Because it was hard for them to get the floor (laughter) So, I ended up doing a study, really, of New York conversational style and the different effect that it had in the interactions among the three of us, those who shared that conversational style, and how different an effect it had in the interactions with the Californians and the British woman – I like to ask my guests how they would advise students who want to prepare for a career in the field that the guest is in Linguistics, what do you see is the skills and temperament involved in mastering that work? – You need to be compulsive, but then, most of us academics are compulsive (laughter) Enormous patience to look at the nitty gritty You have to be kind of picky I spent two and a half months transcribing that two and a half hour conversation I timed the pauses Now, a lot of that can be done computationally I transcribed it in a way that showed whether t-h-e meant the or whether it represented the I used a capital E So, that kind of patience to look in great detail at the tiny, tiny bits of language, I think, is something that you need to be a linguist – Listening to you and reading several of your works Listening is very important So, a person who’s gonna do linguistics has to be good at that – I’m amused by your saying that because so few people listen (laughter) Including linguists But I think, yes, that is very helpful Being an observer We describe our field, linguistics, as descriptive, not prescriptive And that’s one of the things that distinguishes us from, for example, people in the field of English literature English teachers We would never say, “You’re using that wrong.” We would say, “Isn’t that interesting? You used it that way Why are you using it that way? Who else uses it that way?” So, yeah – In reading, again, your works, you have to be a people person That’s my conclusion But, in the sense that, in a way, you’re being nosy about the way they talk, so you have to be able to deal with them So, your analytical skills do not upset them So, therefore you have to be a people person to make them feel good Is that – I’m fascinated by your saying that When I was deciding which program to go to, one that I considered was the University of Pennsylvania where a leading sociolinguist was of the time, William Labov The kind of work he does is rather different from mine, but I did go to meet with him and talk to him And he said, “You have to be comfortable going out and talking to strangers, because that’s how we record their talk that we need in order to analyze So, if you’re not comfortable doing that, this is not for you.” In the end, I did something different But I think it happens to be the case that many academics are shy They’re introverts They’re happier alone in their study with their computer screen than they are out talking to people And there are many successful discourse analysts The kind of work that I do would now be called discourse analysis Discourse being the language as it’s used in interaction There are many who are quite introverted, quite shy and are not comfortable interacting with people But that’s okay They get their recordings or maybe they look at written language Maybe they look at something they heard on television Or maybe they just take time and are able to get close enough to people to record their conversation – Hey, help us understand what conversational style is – Yes, thank you for asking that Conversational style is my main point, you might say, of everything that I do Let me explain it this way When I am asked by people in the real world, journalists or interviewers on television, they’ll always say, “Wouldn’t this be a better world if everybody just said what they meant?” And I often respond, “We do say what we mean, but we say it in our own conversational style.” We have in mind what we want to say, what we want to accomplish in this interaction, but we have to make decisions How loudly or softly to speak What specific words to choose How relatively direct or indirect we’re going to be

If I want you to close the window, am I going to say “Close the window” or am I going to say “It’s kind of cold in here” and hope you’ll conclude that you should close the window? A whole range of features that Decisions that have to be made when you take your ideas and emotions and put them into words There are people who, when they’re angry, will get very loud and yell There are people who, when they’re angry, will get silent All these differences in conversational style Are you gonna show interest in somebody by asking questions? Or is it rude to ask questions? Back off They’ll tell you what they want you to know And I have applied this in a huge range of contexts It comes up with my starting point, different regional backgrounds, different ethnic backgrounds, different class backgrounds, individual personality, generation, sexual orientation, all these influences on our style and, of course, gender differences, which is the topic of the book You Just Don’t Understand, which is the one that got the most attention of my books written for general audiences But I would say conversational style is all the linguistic elements that make up how you say what you mean And they differ by all these influences If you talk to someone whose conversational style is relatively similar to yours, chances are your conclusions about what they mean and what they intend and their inner abilities will be relatively accurate But, to the extent that the person you’re speaking with has a different conversational style, it’s quite likely that your conclusions about their abilities and their intentions and their conclusions about yours may not be accurate – Also, I want you to explain the difference between a communication and a metacommunication ‘Cause I think that’s central to your analysis – It is These are terms that I borrowed from the anthropologist Gregory Bateson And he pointed out that anything anyone says and any gestures they make, as well, has a message and a metamessage So, the message is the meaning of the words The metamessage is how you should interpret those words What you think you’re doing by saying these words in this way at this time And, in so many of the books I’ve written where I have examples from real people in their real lives, they’re arguing about the message, but it was really the metamessage that got their goat So, when you Again, take a simple example This was a real conversation that I observed walking along campus with a female colleague Male colleague appeared It was a brisk fall day Kind of chilly And we greeted each other and she said to him, “Where’s your coat?” And he said, “Thanks, mom.” (laughter) So, what was the metamessage of “Where’s your coat?” To her, it was simply friendly, a greeting To him, it was “I’m speaking to you as a parent would to a child.” And they’re both there – So, the metamessage is really about the structure of the relationship, which is hidden in a way – Well, I would say it’s everything about how you mean what you say So, it’s what you think of the relationship It’s also the implications So, I gave the example of “It’s cold in here” as a way to get someone to close the window You could say the metamessage is “Please, go close the window.” Or you could just say the metamessage is “I don’t want to impose on you I don’t want to force you to close the window So, I’m being considerate of you.” It’s everything about how you mean what you say and what it says about the relationship at the time that you say it It’s interesting you say it’s hidden All the books I’ve written I have examples of message and metamessage And it’s so important, because, so often, people are frustrated from their conversations And they say, “Why did you say that?” Take mothers and daughters where daughters frequently felt that their mothers were critical Criticizing, especially, the big three, hair, clothes, and weight And how they raise their children, if they have children And so, the mother would Give you my own example My mother once said to me, “Do you like your hair that long?” Her metamessage, what was it? I mean, for many people, it would be “Your hair’s too long.” And, as a matter of fact, later on, she laughed At the time that she said it to me,

I laughed and I said, “You know, so many women tell me that their mothers criticize their hair.” She said, “I wasn’t criticizing.” But then, later, I said, “Mom, what do you think of my hair?” And she said, “I think it’s a little too long.” So, I picked up that metamessage that she’s saying something critical about my hair Mothers typically felt their daughters were so sensitive I can’t “She takes everything as criticism I’m concerned I’m showing my caring I want the world to appreciate her to see how wonderful she is I want things to go as well as they can for her So, if she had a better haircut, things would go better for her.” So, which is it? Which metamessage is accurate? And I think it’s so crucial to realize the metamessage somebody picks up may not be the one you intend So, each one, the mother, the daughter, feels the metamessage I perceive or I intend is the real one “I’m not criticizing I’m showing I care.” “You’re criticizing.” And so, it’s very crucial point that I make in so many of these is that they can both be true – I also like to ask my guests about creativity And it strikes me that a source of your creativity is your interest in everyday conversation and your capacity to apply the theory of linguistics that was already there or that you developed – Thank you That’s absolutely right And, as I said, I think 1973, the year that I went to the institute and then ’74 to ’79, when I was in grad school at Berkeley, there was a turn toward applying various theories to everyday interaction So, we saw it in philosophy There was someone named H.P. Grice who developed the schema logic of conversation He said you could take these formal schemas of logic and apply it to everyday conversation There was a field called conversation analysis in sociology Sacks, Schegloff, Jefferson And it’s interesting My understanding is that they took conversations simply because it was something form everyday interaction you could pin down by transcribing it and showing that it was rule governed and that it was orderly And then there was the work of Robin Lakoff, who I mentioned, of John Gumperz, who was on the anthropology faculty at the time, and of Wallace Chafe, who was in the linguistics department, as well All of them turning their interest to the language of everyday interaction And so, yes, that has always been my passion And I think that’s my contribution And I brought all their theories together I don’t know how much detail you want to go into How I did that And then added, of course, my own take on it Maybe this sensibility of literary criticism that I brought, as well as showing how all these things came together – My goal is to make the audience interested enough in you to buy all those books Which I’m sure you want You write about a lot and, in fact Were you surprised when your book You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation became a four year New York Times Bestseller? – Of course A four year bestseller? That doesn’t happen Everybody would be shocked by that But that it became a bestseller at all? Not only was I surprised, my publisher was surprised There was a period of several months when they refused to print enough books to fulfill demand They just didn’t believe it was happening It seemed so unlikely I’ll tell you something that’s kind of funny I had ambitions for the first book that I wrote for general audiences That book was called That’s Not What I Meant And it took all the basic ideas of conversational style and conversational interaction It was a slim book Very understandable Full of anecdotes and examples from real interactions Just like all my books for general audiences have been That was the one for which I had ambitions It’s gonna change the world People are gonna see that they think everything is in terms of psychological interpretation I felt psychologists had been so much better at communicating to the general audience than linguists had been That was the one for which I was ambitious The book did okay Not that great A friend of mine who is also an author, someone I had met that way, commented, he said, “You just want your books to do well enough that they’ll let you write another one.” I thought, you know, that makes sense And I scaled back my ambitions And so, when I wrote the book You Just Don’t Understand,

it was with that scaled back anticipation of how well it might do And it was quite shocking – Well, one of the things, when I read it for the first time in preparation for this, is, “Oh, my,” as you go over the interactions between a husband and wife You say that communication between a man and a woman is cross-cultural communication Why do you say that? – Yes – [Harry] It’s true – Yeah, yeah, yeah Of course, it’s a metaphor And, I have to say, I still It just happened last night when I was giving a talk here at Berkeley People will come up to me and say, “That book changed my life That book saved my marriage That book gave me a way to understand what was happening in my life that I couldn’t understand before.” So, that’s been a real gift But, yeah, I say it’s cross-cultural communication because I’m using the model that I developed based on New York versus California ways of speaking Girls play with girls Boys play with boys They are treated differently growing up They learn ways of using language among their same sex peers They bring those ways of using language to conversations with men and women they’re close to And I use this metaphor, too, sometimes, that women expect their husbands, their boyfriends, their male partners, if they’re heterosexual, to be a new and improved version of a best friend And they’re frustrated when it doesn’t work out that way and it can come down to these different conversational styles I can give you two key examples that turned out to be kind of like what I think of as the greatest hits from that book One is a conversation, takes place when you’re riding in the car And the woman says to the man, “Are you thirsty, dear? Would you like to stop for a drink?” And he isn’t, so he says no And then, later, it turns out that she had wanted to stop And this was told to me by the man and he said, “Why does she play games with me? Why did she want me to be a mind reader? Why didn’t she just tell me she wanted to stop?” And my comment was probably she didn’t expect a yes/no answer She probably expected something like, “I don’t know How do you feel about it?” And then she could say “I don’t know How do you feel about it?” And then they could talk about how they both feel about it and come to a decision taking everybody’s preferences into account So, again, we have message and metamessage When she asked, “Are you thirsty? Would you like to stop for a drink?” She’s sending a metamessage “I want to know what you want I’m not gonna impose what I want on you.” And, when he says no, she hears a metamessage “I don’t care what you want We’re gonna do what I want.” This may come up later when he says “Why didn’t you tell me?” And she says, “We always do what you want, anyway.” (laughter) So, it becomes a metamessage about caring And that is so much the case in close relationships And I wanna be so clear here Most people are inclined to think one way is good and the other is bad So, there are those who think, “Of course she should say what she means I hate this indirectness It’s passive aggressive.” And there are those who think, “Of course it would be rude to say, ‘I want to stop.’ That’s terrible You have to start vague and find out where everybody is and make a decision taking everybody’s preferences into account.” Either one works well – What was the second example? – Okay, this is a conversation where the end of the day, say, and the woman is telling a man about a problem and he tells her how to fix it And she’s frustrated The comment I made at the time was she didn’t want a solution She wanted to talk about it And he’s frustrated because why would you want to talk about it if you don’t do anything about it And I do trace this to ways of speaking that are quite typical for women and men And it’s so important for me to say I can’t say this enough We’re talking about tendencies, typical, many, most We’re not saying all Because there are so many other influences, like culture But the tendency is that, when women might say to a friend about a problem, the friend might say, “Oh, I don’t think he said that.” And then “What did you say?” And then “What do you think you could have done?” And “What do you think he’ll do if you do that?” You ask all these questions and you do work your way around to giving advice But you need all that information to know what advice to give But, again, message and metamessage Being willing to engage in an extended conversation about the problem that someone you care about is experiencing that in itself sends a metamessage of caring

And so, the frustration, I think, is less she didn’t want a solution than she didn’t want it right off the bat And the solution cuts short the conversation So, starting the conversation was probably her motive – Everybody has to go out and read this book ‘Cause it’s mind opening Especially a husband and wife But maybe also others In a nutshell, ’cause we had I want to go on to political stuff that you’ve written That you talk about the difference in wanting solidarity versus somebody wanting power And you have a set of adjectives and descriptive statements Women versus men And man, through socialization and their childhood and other factors, essentially are interested in hierarchy They’re interested in power They’re more focused on “I’m up and you’re down.” Whereas women, as we said earlier, are into solidarity Caring about the other, bringing everyone along in the circle – Yeah, so glad I’m you brought that up But I wanna say, right off the bat, it isn’t as absolute as that Every interaction is a matter of balancing a hierarchical dynamic, that is, who’s up, who’s down, and a closeness distance dynamic Is this way of talking bring us closer or pushing us farther apart? And we’re both, women and men, and all individuals Always interested in all these levels But it’s very common for a woman and a man to walk away from the same conversation One having focused on the question “Does this put me in a one up, one down position?” And the other having focused on the question “Does it bring us closer or push us farther apart?” And, again, it’s important to say tends to, common, often, not everybody, and not always But the example I gave earlier is a perfect example of that The question “Where’s your coat?” If you focus on the closeness-distance, I’m being friendly, showing you that I care about you The hierarchical dimension is “Thanks mom.” You’re the mother talking to the child Just a very few quick examples Women, a man These are all real examples that I encountered and that I give in the book Man tells his wife, “Hey, I got a call from my high school friend He’s gonna be in town Friday I’m gonna have dinner with him.” And she feels hurt “You shouldn’t present this as a fete complete, we should discuss it Maybe I had plans for Friday night You know, we’re in this together.” And he said, “I can’t tell my friend I need to ask my wife for permission.” So, is checking with her asking for permission? That’s the who’s up, who’s down Is it showing caring? “We’re involved Our lives are wrapped up together There’s somebody who’s going to be impacted if I make a decision to have dinner with you.” So, it’s just which one you focus on And I have many other examples like that – Maybe I should develop an app as a wedding planner and make your book available as a part of the gift package Now, I want to actually move to a different area, which is about civic discourse, politics today, and how some of your analysis might apply And let me ask, in researching for this interview, I found a book that you had written on a critique of America’s argument culture And the book was published in 1999 Very prescient Tell us about your idea there – Yes, the book is called The Argument Culture: Stopping America’s War of Words The hardback subtitle was moving from debate to dialogue The idea was that we are approaching I say we, our American culture, but, maybe more broadly, world culture, certainly European culture We are approaching more and more things in an adversarial spirit It’s an overapplication of the assumption that the best way to come to truth is debate That means find two people as opposed as possible, the most extreme ends of the continuum as possible, and let them fight about it And this brings us to all the aspects of the press that I write about One is the tendency to approach everything as two sides in a debate Whereas most things don’t have two sides They have many sides The other is the valuation of attack And we have seen this more and more

That journalists see as their responsibility to attack, to find what’s wrong, to write negative stories If you were to write a positive story, that’s a puff piece And they’re embarrassed to do that It wouldn’t be respected by their colleagues So, that’s the press And I also wrote about politics There was so much evidence at the time that I wrote it and there’s more now that, whereas in the past, the two parties could work together, at least to some degree That it had become so polarized that there was no meeting ground at all And, of course, it’s the Republicans, we might as well just say it out there, because it’s true, that the Republicans have decided that the path forward is to oppose anything the Democrats want And it may be what they wanted before, but now the Democrats want it, so they’re just gonna stop it And so, the press, politics, and academia And that’s kind of where I started with all this That many people feel the way to start an article in an academic article Say what’s been done before and what’s wrong with it So that you can be right and they can be wrong But that isn’t the way we’re gonna come to understanding Yeah, sometimes it’s great to say, “Read this article Tell me what’s wrong with it.” But there are other things you can do, too “Read this article and see what you can use in it.” Things you don’t agree with, where did it come from? Maybe it comes out of a different intellectual tradition How was it related to things we’ve read in the intellectual tradition we prefer? – So, synthesis and integration and respectful reading of those you oppose, in a way – Yes, you’re right to use the word respectful, but I think some people would see the oppositional discourse as respectful And, in fact, they might think that, if you don’t attack and ask critical questions, that’s a lack of respect So, what I’m trying to call attention to there is something a little bit different That we should realize this is not the only way to truth and that it has many negative consequences And what I had in mind there, among others, was ways that it obscures truth And, goodness, we are seeing this in the current environment If journalists are gonna put everything into One example of this is the idea that everything is opposing camps You end up with this false equivalence I have to have two sides to every debate So, if I’m gonna write about climate change, I need to say something about the people who oppose, who say there’s no such thing as climate change But the fact is there’s only a few people who say that and they’re all the same ones And they were funded by the fossil fuel industry And yet, there they were, over and over, again, back in the late ’90s, being cited as if this were really two sides of a debate I use the example of the Holocaust The United States, in the United States, Holocaust deniers have had more success than any other country And I was able to show that the reason was that here they could masquerade as the other side in a debate And there’s no better example that there are some situations where there is no other side There’s truth – You wrote this in the ’90s, 1990s It’s gotten much worse And you talk about the factors that influence the conversational style And we’re seeing stark inequality City-rural divide Cosmopolitanism versus provincialism So, I guess, what we’re witnessing now is two tribes, basically, where there’s an enormous amount of miscommunication, as you talked about with regard to men and women But it’s social, in a rather stark and terrifying way – You’re absolutely right And I’m gonna give a shout out now to another book that was just recently published It’s called One Nation After Trump And it’s by three very gifted political scientists, E.J. Dionne, Norm Ornstein, and Thomas Mann, who’s right here in Berkeley And they are so convincing and significant, I think, in what they point out how did we get here And they point out that Trump being I won’t say being elected But becoming president is the culmination of forces that can be traced very clearly to Newt Gingrich in the Republican Party and his decision that the way for Republicans to gain power was to

oppose everything that the Democrats do and to demonize government Make government into the enemy And to demonize journalists Make them the enemy And they show in this book how this has been incremental, but it didn’t just come out of nowhere And so, you could say that some of what they’re describing there is what I described in the book The Argument Culture The valorization of attack as a mean to an end – Let’s look at the two candidates in our last presidential election We were left with Trump for various kinds of reasons that defy conventional political wisdom But it’s as if Trump now, as president, is an extreme version of a style of conversation that emphasizes power, hierarchy, and a dismissiveness that’s really quite extraordinary – Yes, well, for one thing, it breaks all the norms of political discourse Something, again, that Ornstein, Dionne, and Mann write about in their book It’s normalizing a kind of discourse that, in the past, you would have seen only in the street It was not in the public domain So, sending out these tweets, insulting people, saying things that are completely untrue, and, because you say them and you say them again, some people will believe you I think all of this is breaking all the norms of political discourse and that’s partly what’s happening with Trump And this is, in a way, again, it’s the culmination of something that we’ve been building toward for a while And that is what would have been just in the conversational everyday domain moving into the public domain So, whereas before And I’ve sometimes traced this back to Ronald Reagan He was called a great communicator He was not a great orator But he was able to make his public speeches sound conversational And that isn’t a malign, in itself I mean, Clinton was great at that And I think he used it to good effect But I wanna say something I think is so important here A lot of people are asking how did Trump become president? How did so many people vote for Trump knowing what we knew about him? I think it’s equally important to ask how did so many people not vote for Hillary Clinton given all the excellent things we knew about her? Given her vastly superior experience? Her vastly superior fitness for office? And I think there are two explanations And one is the argument culture From the time that she entered the public stage, way back, 1992, she was the wife of a candidate in the Democratic primary I wrote an op-ed called The Hillary Factor Whatever she did she was slammed Her hair in the beginning was very simple She kept it back with a headband She was ridiculed for that She had it styled and colored She was ridiculed for that She’s having a makeover She’s manipulative She was thought to be childless, which is quite stigmatized for women That was because they kept their daughter, Chelsea, out of the public eye So, they made it known that they had a daughter She was accused, in Time Magazine, for yuppie overdoting on her daughter I mean, these are kind of simple examples, but whatever she did she was slammed for and accused for And I think much of it was a very knee jerk response on the part of journalists that they really felt it’s their job to always write negative things And this had So, there’s a number of ways that this played out in this last election One is we had been hearing terrible accusations of her for decades And so, there’s a smoke, there’s fire feeling to it She must have done something in Benghazi She must have done something in Whitewater It turned out she didn’t All those years of Whitewater investigations showed there was nothing No wrongdoing But the smoke is left And so, there’s a feeling that she’s been criticized so much And, again, Ornstein and the others make this point Trump had done so many things wrong that every day there was a new scandal

There was so little to say against Hillary There was just emails, which, by the way, again, I believe was mostly fabricated A fabrication of how serious this error was But you read about emails every day, because they had to attack her, too And so, people ended up thinking this email stuff was huge and forgetting about all these things that they read about him So, that’s one thing I think the argument culture All those years of attack And the other is what I write about as a double bind that faces women in positions of authority – And you wrote this in the 1990s – That’s right, 1992 – In a collection of writers talk about Hillary – Yes, yes, yes, I have an article called The Double Bind And it’s in a book 13 Ways of Looking at Hillary Yeah, so, just very briefly A double bind is a situation where you have two requirements you must fulfill But anything you do to fulfill one actually violates the other When women are in positions of authority, they have requirement be a good woman and requirement be a good leader Our expectations of a good woman and a good leader are at odds So, to be a good woman, you should be self-deprecating You shouldn’t seem too sure of yourself You shouldn’t put yourself forward You shouldn’t talk about what you’re good at If you’re a good leader, you should put yourself forward You should seem confident You should downplay anything you did wrong and play up everything you’ve contributed And so, women are in a double bind If they fulfill our expectations of a person in authority, then they’re respected, but they’re not liked If they fulfill our expectations of a woman, they’re liked, but they’re underestimated And I came upon this observation and this way of looking at things in research I did on women in the workplace And that was a book called Talking From Nine to Five That’s where I first wrote about that Where women in positions of authority in the workplace faced this double bind and still do But it clearly was going on with Hillary And I believe that that played a huge role in all the people who would say things like “I don’t know I just don’t like her Why is she shouting?” She didn’t talk any more loudly than Bernie Sanders did, but, when a man shouts, he’s addressing thousands of people, you have to shout That felt okay But you hear a woman shouting, it rubs you the wrong way – There’s another element in this that I wanna ask you about ‘Cause you have an interest in communication on different platforms Trump was the first to effectively use Twitter in a political campaign What do you have to say, as a linguist, about that Because it’s really become an important element of communicating He is in your face I’m the man I’m the boss Hierarchical way of thinking that is so dismissive of anything that tries to achieve solidarity, asking people what they think, and so on – Well, there’s a number of things we could say about using Twitter in this way First of all, it goes directly to people It cuts out all the middlemen in the past that would have been a filter And sometimes that’s good I mean, it’s a little bit You could say an extension of what Roosevelt did with fireside chats Go right to people Because of its brevity, it becomes epithets You don’t have to explain what you’re saying Just throw something out And he uses language that is completely Again, about breaking norms Completely inappropriate to public discourse and to diplomacy and to any sense of the dignity of his office It’s kind of like what you would say in the street when you’re were mad at somebody and you wanna cast aspersions on them But that is perfectly suited to Twitter And so, people that are his fans pick this up and it’s great They got their whole story They don’t want the backstory They just get this little bit and it resonates with them “He’s insulting somebody I like that I insult people I think those people are pretty crummy, too.” And so, it’s satisfying, I think, in a way that can be very politically effective in a very dangerous, of course, way – Does a linguist have anything to offer about how we transcend these tribal divisions? It’s cross-cultural communication now

The world we’re in What can we do about that? – I’m asked this all the time And I so wish I had an answer I do believe that what we’re dealing with is way deeper than just ways of using language Language is always a huge part of things I wish I could say if we talk this way, we’re gonna bridge those divides The problem is that there are people who want these divides They’re finding it useful And they are gonna continue to try to stoke the flames of division And so, given that, what can we, as the people who want the divisions bridged, what can we do? I mean, if it’s helpful to understand what your enemies think, yeah, you could listen You could try to get to the bottom of what’s motivating them I think that’s always a good thing to do I think talking, personally, to people who disagree with you is always a hugely useful thing to do Both to understand what motivates them And, maybe, eventually, to try changing their minds a bit And there, certainly, the first thing to do is to listen Don’t start right out trying to tell them why they’re wrong and you’re right And maybe find some common ground that you could build on to offer another perspective that they might consider But the broad forces that we’re up against The position that the Republican Party has taken And they’re one of the two parties running our country That’s very challenging And I’m not sure that I have anything that I can recommend in terms of language that could work against that But I think trying to change it in our personal lives is certainly something worth doing When we feel ourselves responding to others in a really corrosive way “You’re evil I’m good.” To maybe try to temper that and reframe it in some way – After reading your books and your papers, I’m struck by, also, it’s possible relevance to this free speech debate And I have a question for you, which is, especially at Berkeley, free speech meant something And we now have new actors who are changing the conversation about free speech, because, really, their metacommunication is not “What I have to say is important.” But, rather, how can what I say disrupt the context in which the conversation is happening? – This is becoming extremely complicated I think, at one time, that Berkeley Free Speech Movement, back in the ’60s, was clear “The bad guys wanna suppress our speech We’re the good guys We have a right to speak.” Now, that was pretty easy Maybe not easy to achieve, but easy to feel clear on We now have people pointing out that, if you allow people to speak and what they’re speaking is hate speech and encouraging others to demonize people who are different And it’s true A lot of this is reminiscent of times in the past when speech that demonizes people you disagree with has led to violence And there’s plenty of evidence that it does You know, you’re out there saying you hate immigrants and then someone goes and beats up an immigrant Or shoots them So, it’s very complicated Especially, I think, for people who see themselves as liberal Who are inclined to be, perhaps, free speech extremists Everybody should be allowed to speak I think there are people who would see us liberals And I say us, because, perhaps, at one time, I would have been in that camp As part of the problem Because we are trying to make it easier for people to speak in a way that is going to incite violence and lead to real, minimally, discrimination and worse So, I think it’s pretty It’s become much more complicated an issue than it seemed to be in the ’60s – Professor Tannen, I want to thank you very much for joining us today It was a very informative conversation And I recommend that the audience go about and buy, if not one, several of your books Thank you very much – Thank you It’s been a pleasure – And thank you very much for joining us for this Conversation with History