Language in Society



Male voices and perceived sexual orientation: An experimental and theoretical approach


RON  SMYTH  a1, GREG  JACOBS  a1 1 and HENRY  ROGERS  a3
a1 Departments of Linguistics and Psychology, University of Toronto, 130 St. George St., Toronto, Ontario M5S 3H1, Canada, smyth@utsc.utoronto.ca
a2 Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics, York University, Toronto, Ontario
a3 Department of Linguistics, University of Toronto, rogers@chass.utoronto.ca

Abstract

This article describes the development of a data bank of 25 male voices spanning the range from very gay-sounding to very straight-sounding, according to listener ratings. These ratings allowed the researchers to examine the effects of different discourse types (scientific, dramatic, and spontaneous) and listener groups (gay males vs. a mix of males and females of unknown sexual orientation) on how listeners perceived the voices. The effects of lexical and pragmatic content were explored by a comparison of spoken and written presentations of the same spontaneous speech samples. The effect of asking participants to rate the voices using different constructs (e.g., masculine/feminine vs. gay-sounding/straight-sounding) is discussed. The ultimate goal of this research program is to examine correlations between these ratings and a range of phonetic variables in order to shed light on the specific features to which listeners attend when judging whether a man's voice sounds gay or straight.

(Received October 9 2001)
(Accepted March 14 2002)


Key Words: Gay men; homosexuality; phonetics; sexual orientation; voice.


Footnotes

1 We regret to inform the sociolinguistics community that Greg Jacobs passed away suddenly on October 4, 2002. His commitment to research on gay men's speech and language has helped shape the direction the field has taken, and he will be sorely missed.



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