An analysis of the teacher language used in physical education lessons reveals the influence of many discourses that are current in our culture, including those related to gender. The subtle meanings carried in the linguistic choices made by teachers provide one framework through which girls and boys come to form particular relationships with their bodies. These relationships are culturally constructed and influence the desire to be active and the choice of activities. The process of gender production can be made visible by a comparative analysis of the lexico-grammatical structure of texts from two gymnastic lessons using the systemic functional model of linguistics developed by Michael Halliday (1978, 1985). The most distinctive features that have emerged from the analysis have been the different linguistic choices made by male and female teachers in the grammatical realization of interpersonal meanings. These differences contribute to the construction of a social order for the participants in physical education lessons that mirrors the gender relations in the culture of the larger society. Revealing the way the language works provides for the possibility of different linguistic choices—choices that may constitute a different social reality.
The authors are from the School of Learning Studies in Education at the University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW, Australia 2500.