This article explores the premise that distinguished speech patterns can help determine the sex orientation of an individual. According to the authors of the article, popular culture disposes some individuals to use certain patterns of speech that might be expressive of their sexual orientation. The authors of this article are Benjamin Munson, a professor at the University of Minnesota and Molly Babel, a PhD candidate at the University of California’s linguistics department.
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The article offers a literature review of materials that investigate whether speech patterns can convey sexual orientation. Some of the reviewed studies indicate that some individuals tend to speak in a manner that hints about their sexual orientation to their prospective listeners. Nevertheless, the article notes that the phonetic tendencies that are associated with sexual orientation are not fool proof. In addition, the article asserts that speech patterns alone cannot be determinants of sexual orientation. This article reviews studies that touch on the topics of speech patterns and sexual orientation. The article continues by discussing the implications of the authors’ literature analysis on various topics such as language analysis, sociolinguistics, and language acquisition.
The article begins by noting that speech patterns are rarely investigated. Most of the social discussions concerning speech occur in informal arenas such as social media platforms. Most of these discussions try to track the origins of speech variations. According to the article, the research concentrates on portrayals of sexual orientation and conversational pragmatics. The conversational pragmatics that are addressed by the study are limited to auditory and ‘articulatory’ word utterances and sound characteristics. On the other hand, the study’s sexual orientation discussion is limited to bisexuality, homosexuality, and heterosexuality.
Transgender and transsexual sexual orientations are not covered in this study. The article explores gay, lesbian, or bisexual (GLB) orientations. Furthermore, the authors limit their study to lose interpretations of the connection between speech patterns and sexual orientation and not complex theories on the subject.
According to the article’s analysis, there are various stereotypes that are associated with regional dialects. However, portrayals of speech among members of the GLB are closely related to the stereotypes propagated by popular media. It is noted that gay characters are often portrayed using female-styled voices. In addition, the study notes that there are two common representations of gay male characters; the frivolous stereotyped characters, and the good-looking, calm, and collected characters.
The most popular characteristic of gay speech is the ‘gay lisp’ and it is exemplified by a slightly high-pitched S-sound. The speech patterns associated with gay men are classified into two according to one of the reviewed studies, masculinity-rejecting and masculinity-accepting men. The authors also note that other studies have explored various angles of the sexual orientation perceptions such as their relation to authority figures, different genders, and social settings. Nevertheless, the article notes that there are few studies that investigate listeners’ perceptions of LGB speech patterns. The article also notes that the current research reveals that GLB speech patterns are acquired and consequently socially and culturally accepted by the society.
The article’s explores various studies that directly touch on speech patterns and sexual orientation. The authors break down the review into three parts; speech production, perceptions of speech and orientation, and contribution of the reviewed materials to research. This section of the article begins by outlining the concept of speech production. It is noted that talkers can raise and lower the pitches of different sounds for their listeners’ benefit. Next, the authors explore studies that focus on different genders’ interpretation of speech production patterns. According to the authors, several studies indicate that “women have higher fundamental frequencies and higher resonant frequencies than men”1. Other studies indicate that women’s speech is more intelligible than men’s especially in constrained listening scenarios. The article then moves on by exploring studies on differences in speech patterns between LGB populations and other populations. The authors provide an example of a study targeting eight men of different sexual orientations where it was found that the men who were gay produced higher-pitched voices.
However, the article points out that few studies examine pitch variations between lesbian and straight women. While one study found differences in pitch variations between lesbian and straight women, another one found no discernable variations. The article also investigates studies that examine the different listening perceptions between men and women when it comes to sexual orientations.
The authors of the article note that research on sexual orientation and speech patterns is in its infancy and requires a lot of follow up research. New research on the subject should focus on how speech patterns relate to sexual orientations across different languages, dialects, and cultures. The results of the study indicate that children may be learning GLB-specific speech patterns early on in life. Furthermore, the article reveals that the study on listeners’ perceptions on LGB-specific speech is wanting. The article concludes by noting that “GLB speech variants are not imitations of the speech patterns of the same sex, but are likely to be learnt culturally”2.
Munson, Benjamin, and Molly Babel. “Loose lips and silver tongues, or, projecting sexual orientation through speech.” Language and Linguistics Compass 1, no. 5 (2007): 416-449. Web.
1 Benjamin Munson, and Molly Babel, “Loose lips and silver tongues, or, projecting sexual orientation through speech,” Language and Linguistics Compass 1, no. 5 (2007): 434.
2 Benjamin Munson, and Molly Babel, “Loose lips and silver tongues, or, projecting sexual orientation through speech,” Language and Linguistics Compass 1, no. 5 (2007): 447.