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Categories, stereotypes, and the linguistic perception of sexuality

  • Erez Levon (a1)
Abstract

This article examines how social stereotypes influence listeners' perceptions of indexical language. Building on recent developments in linguistics and social psychology, I investigate the extent to which stereotypical attitudes and beliefs about categories of speakers serve to enable the association of linguistic features with particular social meanings while simultaneously blocking others. My arguments are based on an analysis of listener perceptions of the intersecting categories of gender, sexuality, and social class among men in the UK. Using a modified matched-guise paradigm to test three category-relevant variables (mean pitch, spectral characteristics of /s/, and TH-fronting), I demonstrate how the perception of social meaning is governed by a combination of both attitudinal and cognitive factors. This finding is important because it illustrates the listener-dependent nature of sociolinguistic perception. Moreover, it also provides further empirical support for an understanding of social meaning as an emergent property of language-in-use. (speech perception, attitudes and stereotypes, sexuality, phonetic variation)*

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Language in Society
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