Sexuality and Regional Dialects in Southern New Hampshire

—Hayden Stinson (Mentor: Rachel Steindel Burdin)
Hayden Stinson

Social identity is complex and multifaceted. While census-like data has an important place in sociological research, everyone interacts with their social categorization uniquely. To bring this into focus in the field of linguistics, I conducted research on the relationship between regional dialects and gay identity. Using data from interviews that I conducted with two twenty-two-year-old gay men from southern New Hampshire, I followed in a line of research that focuses on the performative nature of social identity. I reached two particularly interesting findings. First, the participants used a “gayer-sounding” /s/ sound in a reading task than in a question-and-answer task. Second, the participants, both of whom grew up in and live in southern New Hampshire, used vowel patterns associated with New York City that aren’t associated with any group in southern New Hampshire. While the former is likely due to the association of gay-sounding speech with ideologies on proper speech and the second likely due to an idea that the participants would be safer expressing their gay identity in New York than they are in New Hampshire, both show that the expression of social identity is a complex, multi-layered phenomenon.

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