Research on the acoustic correlates of sounding gay has underexamined the role of regional accent features like vowel quality. This article explores the potential connection between the California Vowel Shift (CVS) and gay identity by investigating intraspeaker vowel variation in the speech of one gay man from California (Regan). An acoustic analysis reveals significantly more shifted variants of four components of the CVS (fronting of BOOT and BOAT, raising of BAN, and backing of BAT) when Regan is speaking with friends than when talking in other situations. Regan's use of advanced variants of the CVS furthermore correlates with nonheteronormative prosodic patterns in voice quality and intonation. Based on these patterns and an analysis of the contexts in which they are produced, it is argued that Regan is constructing a gay “partier” persona. One component of this persona is the set of social meanings indexed by the CVS (e.g., “laid-back,” “fun”), meanings that find roots in the stereotypical character types (e.g., surfer, valley girl) that led to the enregisterment of Californian speech styles. These meanings can be recruited in constructing particular brands of gay identity, such as Regan's “partier” persona. The analysis crucially leaves room for regional accent features to index identities, including sexual identities, which may have little to do with geographic region.
Robert J. Podesva; The California Vowel Shift and Gay Identity. American Speech 1 February 2011; 86 (1): 32–51. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00031283-1277501
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