Deborah Tannen

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Deborah Frances Tannen (born June 7, 1945) is an American academic and professor of linguistics at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.. She has been McGraw Distinguished Lecturer at Princeton University and was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences following a term in residence at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ.


Tannen graduated from Hunter College High School and completed her undergraduate studies at Harpur College (now part of Binghamton University) with a B.A. in English Literature. Tannen went on to earn a Masters in English Literature at Wayne State University. Later, she continued her academic studies at UC Berkeley, earning an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Linguistics.

Writing career[edit]

Tannen has lectured worldwide in her field, and written or edited numerous academic publications on linguistics, discourse analysis, and interpersonal communication. She has written and edited many books including Conversational Style: Analyzing Talk Among Friends, Talking Voices: Repetition, Dialogue and Imagery in Conversational Discourse, Gender and Discourse, and The Handbook of Discourse Analysis. Her major theoretical contribution, presented in Talking Voices, is a poetics of conversation. She shows that everyday conversation is made up of linguistic features such as repetition, dialogue, and imagery, that are traditionally regarded as literary.

Tannen has also written several general-audience books on interpersonal communication and public discourse. She became well known in the United States after her book You Just Don't Understand - Women and Men in Conversation was published in 1990. It remained on the New York Times best seller list for nearly four years (8 months at No.1) and was subsequently translated into 30 other languages. She has written several other general-audience books including That's Not What I Meant!: How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationships, Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work, and The Argument Culture: Stopping America's War of Words, I Only Say This Because I Love You: Talking to Your Parents, Partner, Sibs, and Kids When You're All Adults. Her two most recent books, You Were Always Mom’s Favorite! (about sisters) and You're Wearing THAT? (about mothers and grown daughters) were also New York Times best sellers. Among her 19 other books, The Argument Culture, received the Common Ground Book Award, and I Only Say This Because I Love You: Talking to Your Parents, Partner, Sibs, and Kids When You're All Adults, received a Books for a Better Life Award.


Deborah Tannen's research began when she analyzed with her friends while working on her Ph.D. Tannen's focus is on the expression of interpersonal relationships. This illustration on relationships is related to gender in both home and work life. Tannen works with 'dual-culture' tradition. This tradition argues that men and women speak differently because they are from different cultures. Gender-specific communication styles come from boys and girls playing in same-sex groups when growing up. This results in men and women having trouble communicating with the opposite sex later in life. Deborah Tannen has done extensive research on this topic; however, feminist linguists argue against Tannen's claims. [1]


  • I Only Say This Because I Love You: Talking to Your Parents, Partner, Sibs, and Kids When You're All Adults (Ballantine, 2001, ISBN 0-345-40752-0)
  • You're Wearing THAT?: Mothers and Daughters in Conversation (Ballantine, 2006, ISBN 1-4000-6258-6)
  • You Were Always Mom's Favorite!: Sisters in Conversation Throughout Their Lives (Random House, 2009, ISBN 1-4000-6632-8)


  1. ^ "DEBORAH TANNEN." Key Thinkers in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language. Edinburg: Edinburgh University Press, 2005. Credo Reference. Web. 01 October 2012.
  • "Biography", Faculty Page for Deborah Tannen, Georgetown University.

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