The Origins of Queer Speech

    • Présentatrice(s) ou présentateur(s)
      • Maya Keshav, Étudiante au baccalauréat, Université McGill

    Systematic differences have been observed between the speech of some
    straight people and some queer people, including phonetic, prosodic, and
    lexical differences. However, the origins of these differences are unclear.
    Researchers usually assume either the biological view, in which biological
    sexual orientation causes distinct speech, or the social view, in which
    individuals use distinct speech to display their orientation. Either
    assumption has enormous consequences for methodology and relevance
    of findings. However, little research has tackled the problem directly.

    I review previous definitions of the queer speech community,
    examinations of the contexts in which queer speech is used, and
    explanations of how queer speech is acquired. I then propose a study to
    determine if the biological or social view is more accurate. It is necessary to
    study those who are included in the biological definition of the community,
    but excluded from the social definition: those who are queer, but deny or
    hide it. If they show queer speech, then the biological view is more
    accurate; if not, then the social one is. Other results may lead to an
    interaction of biological and social factors.

    Practicality makes directly recruiting these individuals impossible.
    However, since many will eventually accept and display their orientations, a
    longitudinal study could compare their speech before and after coming out.
    A survey of the phonetics and prosody of a large number of teenagers, for
    example, could be followed by a survey of the same people ten years later.
    The findings would be critical for future queer linguistics research, as well
    as all sociolinguistics concerned with the intersection of identities and the
    difficulties of defining a speech community.


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