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LINGUIST List 23.3225

Sun Jul 29 2012

Diss: Phonetics/ Sociolinguistics: Zimman: 'Voices in Transition...'

Editor for this issue: Lili Xia <lxialinguistlist.org>

Date: 28-Jul-2012
From: Lal Zimman <zimmancolorado.edu>
Subject: Voices in Transition: Testosterone, Transmasculinity, and the Gendered Voice among Female-to-Male Transgender People
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Institution: University of Colorado at Boulder
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2012

Author: Lal Zimman

Dissertation Title: Voices in Transition: Testosterone, Transmasculinity, and the Gendered Voice among Female-to-Male Transgender People

Linguistic Field(s): Phonetics

Dissertation Director:
Kira Hall

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation is based on a long-term ethnographic and
sociophonetic study of 15 transgender people on the female-to-male
(or transmasculine) identity spectrum. The focus of the study is the way
these individuals' voices change during the first 1-2 years of
masculinizing hormone therapy, which brings about a drop in vocal
pitch along with other salient physiological changes. Based on regular
recordings of participants during a one year period, the analysis tracks
changes in fundamental frequency as well as formant frequencies and
the acoustic characteristics of [s], each of which has a different place in
biology-driven theories of gender and the voice. In addition to
ostensibly hormonally driven changes to speakers' available
fundamental frequency range, I present evidence that these speakers
are engaged in various types of articulatory shifts as part of their
gender role transition, which affect both formants and [s]. However, I
argue that changes in all three of the phonetic domains examined here
must be situated in both sociocultural and linguistic context, even
where biology appears to play a significant role. The analyses
presented, which include attention to both intra- and inter-speaker
variation, draw on a multilayered understanding of gender derived from
transgender people's own distinctions between gender assignment,
gender role, gender identity, and gender presentation. My speakers'
metalinguistic commentary on gender and the voice further elucidates
the constellations of phonetic features that combine to create their
cohesive gendered speaking styles. Ultimately, I focus on the ways that
changes in one phonetic variable, like pitch, can recontextualize other
elements of a speaker's linguistic style, like the acoustic spectrum of
[s]. This connection drives home the necessity of considering the
relationship between linguistic characteristics, rather than treating them
as entirely separable variables. Attention to stylistic wholes, over
individual variables, points us toward the notion that transmasculine
individuals do not engage in across-the-board masculinization, but
rather bring together acoustic characteristics acquired from disparate
sources in order to construct phonetic styles that reflect their complex
affiliations with manhood, maleness, and masculinity.

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