Language and sexuality

Just arrived in the mail, the book

Language, Sexuality, and Power: Studies in Intersectional Sociolinguistics, ed. by Erez Levon & Ronald Beline Mendes. Oxford Univ. Press, 2016.

Interactions of sexuality, gender, social class, social status, race, ethnicity, nationality, rurality, context, and more in linguistic usage. An introduction by the editors, and ten chapters located in an admirable assortment of places around the globe: Hong Kong, South Africa, Japan, Denmark, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Hungary, smalltown California, Thailand, and Israel.

The interaction of features is very important, and many of these studies are able to take advantage of large collections of data and sophisticated methods of analysis to tease out interactions, rather than having to rely on essentialist views of categories (which treat groups like “men” and “women” as wholes).

Some long-known associations — like the association of non-standard usages, local variants, informal variants, and casual speech variants with higher masculinity in men (and the opposed association of standard, general, formal, and careful/precise variants with femininity, homosexuality, and or effeminacy in men), or the association of fronted variants of /s/, with their higher F2 perceived as higher pitch, with (again) femininity, homosexuality, and/or effeminacy — continue to stand up, broadly, but can now be seen as specific to certain contexts of use and certain communities of users (and, in judgment studies, the sociocultural characteristics of the judges).

The book is clearly aimed at an academic audience, and its cost ($40 for the paperback, $100 for the hardbound edition) reflects that.

This is an announcement of the book, not a review, since so far I’ve only been able to riffle through the book and sample little bits of it.


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