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Language, Literacy, and Technology

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Academic Paper


Title: Sexuality in context: Variation and the sociolinguistic perception of identity
Author: Erez Levon
Email: click here TO access email
Homepage: http://homepages.nyu.edu/~eml246
Institution: Queen Mary, University of London
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics
Abstract: This paper illustrates the use of an empirical method for examining the perceptual identification of gayness in male speakers. I demonstrate how by digitally manipulating the speech of isolated individuals, it is possible to obtain reliable evidence that pitch range and sibilant duration may act as indexical of a gay male identity. Further scrutiny of this result, however, illustrates that linguistic indexicality is not as straightforward as it originally appears. Subsequent analyses of the data highlight the ways in which the perceptual evaluation of sexuality is a highly contingent process, dependent upon a variety of sociolinguistic factors. An envelope of variation in listeners’ affective judgments of a speaker is shown to exist, and I argue that research on the perception of identity must go beyond identification of salient features, and also consider when and why these features are not salient.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Publication Info: Language in Society 36 (forthcoming), 2007


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