Sociophonetics of Gender and Sexuality

Rob Podesva – Stanford University
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 11:00 am – 12:50 pm
2330 Mason Hall

See Course Description

This course examines the role of phonetics in the construction of gender and sexuality.  We begin with the premise that phonetic material carries a range of social meanings that themselves are constitutive of gender and sexuality.  Our goals are to review techniques for acoustically quantifying the phonetic characteristics of vowels, consonants, prosody, and voice quality, with an emphasis on those that are used to distinguish speakers on the basis of gender or sexuality; survey classic and current literature on the sociophonetics of gender and sexuality; and unpack the ideological processes that enable language users to forge indexical connections from phonetic forms to gender and sexuality.  In addressing this last issue, we will consider a range of issues, including the following: sounding gay, and as a point of contrast, sounding lesbian; the role of phonetics in constructing transgendered identity; intragender phonetic difference; and the pathologization of young women’s voices in the media, with a focus on the creaky voice (or vocal fry) phenomenon.

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