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Gay lisp: Wikis


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Gay lisp is a stereotypical, non-natural speech attribute sometimes used by gay males in English-speaking countries.[1][2][3] It is not a technical lisp. The phenomenon of "gay lisp" and its study are poorly understood similar to other secondary external attributes or verbal and non-verbal mannerisms of both gay and straight people. Like most stereotypes they have dubious utility and undefined social meaning. Not all gay men lisp and some only use it in certain situations. These attributes have proven difficult to define and quantify but seem somewhat independent of other variables in the phonology of the English language, such as accent and register. The gay lisp stereotype has never been substantiated in an experimental study.[4] Two studies (Linville, 1998; Munson et al, 2006) did find that a subset of gay men produce /s/ distinctively; however, the way in which /s/ was pronounced—with a high peak frequency and a highly negatively skewed spectrum—made it more distinctive from other similar sounds, rather than less. That is, this was arguably a hyper-correct /s/.[5][6]



Several speech features are stereotyped as markers of gay male identity: careful pronunciation, wide pitch range, high and rapidly changing pitch, breathy tone, lengthened fricative sounds, and pronunciation of /t/ as /ts/ and /d/ as /dz/ (affrication).[1]

The "gay sound" of some, but certainly not all, gay men seems to some listeners to involve the characteristic "lisp" involving sibilants (/s/, /z/, /ʃ/, and the like) with assibilation, sibilation, hissing, or stridency.[1]

Professors Henry Rogers and Ron Smyth at the University of Toronto investigated this.

According to Rogers, people can usually differentiate gay- and straight-sounding voices based on certain phonetic patterns. "We have identified a number of phonetic characteristics that seem to make a man’s voice sound gay," says Rogers. "We want to know how men acquire this way of speaking."[7]

A study at Stanford University involving a small sample group investigated claims that people can identify gay males by their speech and that these listeners use pitch range and fluctuation in deciding.[8] Results were inconclusive:

Although he found that listeners could distinguish gay from straight men, he failed to find any convincing empirical differences in pitch between these two groups. [...] This study is representative of others that have failed to find concrete differences in the speech of gay and straight men.[9]

In a similar study of female speakers, it was found that listeners could not tell lesbian speakers from heterosexual speakers. Other studies of lesbian identity do make references to voice use by lesbians typically using lower pitch and more direct communication styles.[10]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Beyond Lisping: Code Switching and Gay Speech Styles
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ [2] Examples of LGBT writing in which "gay lisp" used as a general term for the sound of gay male speech
  4. ^ Munson, B., & Zimmerman, L.J. (2006b). Perceptual Bias and the Myth of the 'Gay Lisp'. Poster Presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Miami, FL.
  5. ^ Linville, S. (1998). Acoustic correlates of perceived versus actual sexual orientation in men's speech. Pholia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica, 50, 35-48.
  6. ^ Munson, B., McDonald, E.C., & DeBoe, N.L., & White, A.R. (2006). The acoustic and perceptual bases of judgments of women and men's sexual orientation from read speech. Journal of Phonetics.
  7. ^ Researchers examine patterns in gay speech
  8. ^ Gaudio, Rudolph (1994) "Sounding Gay: Pitch Properties in the Speech of Gay and Straight Men." American Speech 69: 30-57.
  9. ^ Gayspeak.
  10. ^ Atkins, Dawn (1998) "Looking Queer: Body Image and Identity in Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, and Transgender Communities"

Further reading

External links

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