Guest post by Dr. Howard Giles, University of California, Santa Barbara
It is with a heavy heart that we mourn the loss of our dear colleague and friend, Anthony Mulac, after courageously battling severe illnesses for the past two years or more. Tony came to UCSB with a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1968 and was one of the architects of our Communication (then Program) that split off from Speech and Hearing in 1984. His legacy to interpersonal communication research is enormous, studying as he did the role of gender in shaping communicative practices.
Early work in this genre pointed to the existence of a distinct “women’s language” that was deemed to be more hesitant, indirect, emotional, and uncertain than men’s, whose manner of communicating was claimed to be more dominant, direct, and controlling. Such differences were then interpreted as reflective of the relative status and power of men over women vis-a-vis sex-role theory, and any differences between the genders were reckoned to pale in comparison to their similarities. Tony and his associates stepped in, provocatively given conventional wisdom, by examining combinations of language features instead of isolated language markers (as had been the case in prior research), and discovered what he termed the “gender-linked language effect” (GLLE). His work was significant because it added empirical data to claims that argued, often with little or no data, gender influences language. Programmatically, he showed, in dozens of evaluative studies of spoken and written language transcripts, that girls and women used language subtly differently than boys and men. Moreover, girls and women were consistently rated higher in Socio-Intellectual Status and Aesthetic Quality, whereas boys and men, in contrast, were rated higher in Dynamism. The GLLE was evident in coding public speeches, problem-solving interactions, and essays from ages 12 to 70, with specific gender-preferred language features associated with it; females, for example, used more emotional words and hedges, while males adopted more quantity words and “I” references. The GLLE was perhaps one of the most consistently and thoroughly demonstrated effects in language and gender research.
As a mentor, Tony encouraged his graduate and undergraduate students to engage in research and ask meaningful questions. He collaborated with countless undergraduates, working with them as coders for his GLLE research, many of whom worked with Tony as their first experience with empirical research. He challenged the assumptions of gender stereotypes in his teaching and research. Not surprisingly, Tony also promoted diversity and acceptance in his scholarship, classes, and departmental searches. He was also devoted to teaching. Tony was instrumental in the creation of our introductory statistics course, and he loved to explain to undergraduates how to interpret research findings. He was also responsible for the Teaching Assistant training program in the department – and inspired numerous cohorts of graduate students to become excellent instructors.
Retiring in 2005, he still remained active in research, presenting his work at the 2010 NCA in San Francisco, and publishing significant papers in 2012 & 2013 wherein he introduced (and tested) a general process theoretical model of the cognitive schemas that were proposed to be responsible for the GLLE. Tony’s scholarship, charm, and collegiality will be sorely missed by the Department and his collaborators elsewhere. The campus flag was at half-mast April 5 in honor of Tony’s achievements and contributions to UCSB. At a well-attended Memorial service of family, colleagues, and friends on April 8, his excelling in so many diverse activities – in singing for the Chicago Symphony chorus, as church organist who made such instruments, to winning debating and regatta awards – were highlighted as extraordinary complements to his being a pioneering scholar. UCSB Communication conveys our deepest and sincerest condolences to: his former wife Torborg, daughter Sabrina, sister Pam and husband George, his step-daughter Lynne Sutherland and her children Ava and Wyatt, and to his wife Jo Anne Larkin (to whom he was devoted and cherished) and her brother Robert, for their great loss.
Howie Giles, UC Santa Barbara