Gendering politeness : speech and act among Zulu second language speakers of the English language on the Durban campus.
In this thesis. I have moved away from the general question of 'How do women and men behave linguistically?, (Sing and Bergvall. 1996:19) and have turned to investigate in particular how the speech act of apologies contributes to the production of people as 'women and men' (Sing and Bergvall, 1996:19). In other words, the investigation focuses on the effect of politeness strategies on the construction of gender identities. Using poststrucluralist feminist theory as developed primarily by Weedon (1987), this thesis investigates the politeness strategies employed by some Zulu students at the University of Natal, Durban, in their English-medium interactions with African international students. The speech act of apologies is the area of language investigated, with data being collected primarily by means of role-plays and focus groups. The focus of the analysis is limited to the performance of apologies towards non-Zulus by 12 Zulu male and female students. To this end, the various strategies employed by the respondents were analysed according to the framework developed by Holmes (1989, 1995). In addition, information gathered in the focus groups revealed to what extent politeness strategies are still being transferred from Zulu to English. The strategies employed by these men and women are considered as revealing some of the ways by which politeness contributes to the construction of gender identities, in the University context. On the basis of this limited sample, it is argued that traditional Zulu male masculinity, while still dominant, is now being contested in the University context by some students favouring a less tradition-oriented identity. The strategies employed by the female respondents, on the other hand, suggest that Zulu women students may be beginning to reject traditional Zulu femininity in favour of more westernized identities.