Academic journal article K@ta

The Choice of Topics in Male, Female and Mixed-Sex Groups of Students of Petra Christian University in Their Chatting

Academic journal article K@ta

The Choice of Topics in Male, Female and Mixed-Sex Groups of Students of Petra Christian University in Their Chatting

Article excerpt

Abstract: This study analyzed some conversations in the male, female and male-female groups of some university students. Using McCarthy's classification of topics, the results show that 'Persons' is the typical topic in the female group, while 'Objects/ belongings' is the most favorite topic in the male group. In the mixed-sex group, it is interesting to see how both sexes negotiated the topics by proposing the typical topics of the other sex group.

Key words: conversation, chatting, topic of talk, conversation, men's language, women's language, opening, topic boundary, topic shifts.

Doughty et al. (1971) says that chatting is one of the fundamental aspects of social relation in which people interact to one another based on trust, solidarity, respect, and openness. Chatting occurs when two or more people gather up into one group and make small and relaxed conversation. In chatting, the conversation tends to be more interactional than transactional, because the sharing of feelings to enhance relationship is much stronger that exchanging news or information.

Quite a few people think that chatting is of no use, meaningless and wasting time. Others also think that chatting is not worth observing because every participant talks freely without structure. However, a number of studies showed that observing chatting is interesting. It is true that participants in a chatting do not plan ahead or structure their talk and turns as in formal communication, but outsiders or observers of a chatting may be able to identify that indeed there is a pattern or structure of the conversation without the interlocutors realizing it.

Although there is no moderator in a chatting, it in fact provides a good example of how conversation is governed, topics and turns negotiated, and conversational markers signaled and understood. This study looks into the topics that occurred in chatting of male, female and mixed-sex groups of college students.


In Webster's Dictionary (1983), chatting is defined as "a kind of light talking that is done in informal manner and the way people try to get relaxed by making a small conversation" (1983). According to Jones (1990), chatting is a kind of mutual self-disclosure and a transaction. This means that in chatting people can be themselves, open and share their feelings and at the same time give information and receive feedback from the other participants. Goffman (1969) suggests another understanding of a chatting,

When a set of persons are on familiar terms and feel that they need not stand on ceremony with one another, then inattentiveness and interruption are like to become rife, and talk may degenerate into a happy babble of disorganized sound (p. 103)

In chatting, the role as a speaker and a listener can change among the participants very easily. Coulthard (1978) notes that the basic rule in conversation is that only one speaker talks at a time. So, whenever two or more participants are talking at the same time, it can be sure that one of them will be inactive immediately and take the role as a listener, who may resume to take the speaking turn afterwards (Siegman and Feldstein, 1979).


When a group of people is involved in a conversation, there must be at least one interesting topic which enables them to keep the conversation going. One of some definitions of topics that was used in this study is the one proposed by McCarthy (1991). McCarthy defines topics as the domination of utterances marked as relevant to one another by the participants in a talk. He believes that topics are the reason for people to talk and these topics still exist because people are still talking.

Further, McCarthy divides topics into two categories. The first is by simply looking at the topic from a pragmatic view, which is based on relevant criteria. The second is by using semantic field that is based on the 'headline' of the conversation. …

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