Age-Telling in Intergenerational First-encounter Talks between College Students and Older Adults in Taiwan: A Gerontological Sociolinguistic Study

Chin-Hui Chen, Yu-Ting Hong, Yen-Ju Chen


This study extends gerontological sociolinguistics by investigating how older Taiwanese adults disclosed their age and the relevant conversational sequences around their age-telling behaviours in first-encounter talks with college students. The 13-pair young-old conversational data were coded using Coupland, Coupland, Giles and Henwood’s (1991) six age-telling strategies, and 70 age-telling utterances were identified. Frequency analysis of the age-telling utterances indicated that the older participants mostly constructed their older-age identities by referring to age-related roles and to historical changes they had witnessed. Conversation analysis suggested that both of these age-telling strategies could endow older people with greater power by casting them in roles such as information-givers or proud grandparents, and ascribe positive qualities to their age group. However, the data raised concerns that age-telling conversations could also sometimes be disenfranchising and the younger interlocutors’ minimal responses to such talks were common. Wider implications of the findings for intergenerational communication are discussed in the conclusion.

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