Agency and the norm. A linguistic discourse analysis of the cultural meanings of voluntary childlessness

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

Wetteri hall (IT115)

Topic of the dissertation

Agency and the norm. A linguistic discourse analysis of the cultural meanings of voluntary childlessness

Doctoral candidate

Licenciate in Philosophy Leena Raitala

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Humanities, Languages and Literature

Subject of study

Finnish Language

Opponent

Professor Anne Mäntynen, University of Helsinki

Second opponent

- -, -

Custos

Professor Jari Sivonen, Languages and Literature

Add event to calendar

Agency and the norm. A linguistic discourse analysis of the cultural meanings of voluntary childlessness

This study examines how voluntarily childless people speak about their way of life: What does voluntary childlessness mean for them? What kind of linguistic choices and discourses are used to build the agency of childless persons? The study analysed focused interviews in which young and old, single and partnered men and women described their experiences of voluntarily childlessness.

The theoretical basis of the study is the idea of reality as a social construction, in which meanings are seen as relationships produced by discourses, culturally established manners of speaking. The research combines the methods of linguistic discourse analysis and cultural research.

Voluntarily childless people give their way of life meaning that creates a sense of satisfaction and freedom. They use descriptive complements and particles to indicate their way of life is a self-evident truth – permanent and certain. The manifestation of voluntary childlessness and the refusal to have children produce a dynamic agency by using e.g., dynamic modal verb processes.

The research shows that the norm for an adult heterosexual person to have children remains strong in Finnish culture. The reinforcement of reproductive norms was an unexpected result as it was not explicated in the interview. Voluntarily childless people tend to create cultural correctness by commenting on their own culturally incorrect remarks about reproductive and family norms, revealing the boundaries of culturally correct speech.
Last updated: 1.12.2022