In Memory of Professor Tony Mulac

It is with a heavy heart that we mourn the loss of our dear colleague and friend, Anthony Mulac (1937-2017), after courageously battling severe illnesses for the past two years or more.  Tony came to UCSB with a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1968 and was one of the architects of our Communication Program that split off from Speech and Hearing in 1984.  His legacy to interpersonal communication research is enormous, studying as he did the role of gender in shaping communicative practices. 

Early work in this genre pointed to the existence of a distinct “women’s language” that was deemed to be more hesitant, indirect, emotional, and uncertain than men’s, whose manner of communicating was claimed to be more dominant, direct, and controlling.  Such differences were then interpreted as reflective of the relative status and power of men over women vis-a-vis sex-role theory, and any differences between the genders were reckoned to pale in comparison to their similarities.   Tony and his associates stepped in, provocatively given conventional wisdom, by examining combinations of language features instead of isolated language markers (as had been the case in prior research), and discovered what he termed the “gender-linked language effect” (GLLE).  Programmatically, he showed, in dozens of evaluative studies of spoken and written language transcripts, that girls and women were consistently rated higher in Socio-Intellectual Status and Aesthetic Quality, whereas boys and men, in contrast, were rated higher in Dynamism.   The GLLE was evident in coding public speeches, problem-solving interactions, and essays from ages 12 to 70, with specific gender-preferred language features associated with it; females, for example, used more emotional words and hedges, while males adopted more quantity words and “I” references.

Retiring in 2005, he still remained active in research, presenting his work at the 2010 NCA in San Francisco, and publishing significant papers in 2012 & 2013 wherein he introduced (and tested) a general process theoretical model of the cognitive schemas that were proposed to be responsible for the GLLE.  Tony’s scholarship, charm, and collegiality will be sorely missed by the Department and his collaborators elsewhere, and we convey our deep and sincere condolences to his daughter, Sabrina and to his wife, Jo Anne, for their loss.

Professor Anthony Mulac