Expressing Gender and Queer Identity with Intonation: Variation Amongst Masculine, Neutral, and Feminine Aligning AFAB Queer Speakers in DC
Many sociolinguistic studies have examined how language use can express gender and sexuality in talk. (Lakoff 1973; Tannen 1994; Murray 1999; Bucholtz, Liang & Sutton 1999; Eckert & Rickford 2002; Hellinger & Bußmann 2001; Eckert & McConnell-Ginet 2003; Bucholtz & Hall 2005; Eckert & Wenger 2005; Podesva 2007) However, much of this research only considers binary cisgender male and female identities, and does not include non-binary, trans, or other genders and queer identities in the conversation. From a poststructuralist/constructivist Queer Linguistics (QL) perspective (Motschenbacher 2011; Eckert 2014), I argue that intonation is a language feature that can be used to convey gender expression alignment and queer sexuality. Through quantitative sociophonetic analysis following ToBI guidelines (Beckman & Ayers Elam 1997), I analyze intonation use in the speech of ten AFAB (assigned female at birth) queer people in Washington, DC, of which three are masculine aligning, three neutral aligning, and four fluid neutral → feminine aligning in their gender expression. I found that the masculine aligning group uses the most falling intonation, which I argue is evidence supporting my hypothesis that falling intonation is used by this group to convey masculinity. I also argue that the overall preference for plateau intonation and greater dis-preference for high rising intonation by all participants is evidence that this intonation pattern is being used to convey queer identity in speech.
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