LINGUIST List 23.3225

Sun Jul 29 2012

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

Editor for this issue: Lili Xia <>

Date: 28-Jul-2012
From: Lal Zimman <>
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                             Sociolinguistics
Dissertation Director:
Kira Hall
Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation is based on a long-term ethnographic andsociophonetic study of 15 transgender people on the female-to-male(or transmasculine) identity spectrum. The focus of the study is the waythese individuals' voices change during the first 1-2 years ofmasculinizing hormone therapy, which brings about a drop in vocalpitch along with other salient physiological changes. Based on regularrecordings of participants during a one year period, the analysis trackschanges in fundamental frequency as well as formant frequencies andthe acoustic characteristics of [s], each of which has a different place inbiology-driven theories of gender and the voice. In addition toostensibly hormonally driven changes to speakers' availablefundamental frequency range, I present evidence that these speakersare engaged in various types of articulatory shifts as part of theirgender role transition, which affect both formants and [s]. However, Iargue that changes in all three of the phonetic domains examined heremust be situated in both sociocultural and linguistic context, evenwhere biology appears to play a significant role. The analysespresented, which include attention to both intra- and inter-speakervariation, draw on a multilayered understanding of gender derived fromtransgender people's own distinctions between gender assignment,gender role, gender identity, and gender presentation. My speakers'metalinguistic commentary on gender and the voice further elucidatesthe constellations of phonetic features that combine to create theircohesive gendered speaking styles. Ultimately, I focus on the ways thatchanges in one phonetic variable, like pitch, can recontextualize otherelements of a speaker's linguistic style, like the acoustic spectrum of[s]. This connection drives home the necessity of considering therelationship between linguistic characteristics, rather than treating themas entirely separable variables. Attention to stylistic wholes, overindividual variables, points us toward the notion that transmasculineindividuals do not engage in across-the-board masculinization, butrather bring together acoustic characteristics acquired from disparatesources in order to construct phonetic styles that reflect their complexaffiliations with manhood, maleness, and masculinity.

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