Sociolinguistic styles tie linguistic resources together into clusters and link them to social contexts of times, groups, places, and activities. Perceptions of masculinity and sexual orientation represent a well-studied area on sociolinguistic perception, offering many variables with potentially relevant social meanings. This study examines social perceptions of guises created by intersecting three masculinity-relevant variables: pitch, /s/-fronting or backing, and (ING). First, 110 online respondents provided descriptions and naturalness ratings of speech samples that were digitially modified to include the different variants; next, 175 respondents rated the speakers on six-point scales based on the terms “smart,” “knowledgeable,” “masculine,” “gay,” “friendly,” “laid-back,” “country,” “educated,” and “confident.” The results showed that /s/-fronting carries strong social meaning across multiple speakers and other linguistic cues, making speakers sound less masculine, more gay and less competent. As documented elsewhere, use of the (ING) variants -ing and -in made speakers sound more or less competent, respectively. The combination of /s/-fronting and (ING), and, independently, /s/-backing, showed more complex effects, shifting relationships between multiple percepts. Taken together, these results provide some support for style-based sociolinguistic models, but also underline the need for more sophisticated statistical treatments of covariation in social perception.
Kathryn Campbell-Kibler; Intersecting Variables and Perceived Sexual Orientation in Men. American Speech 1 February 2011; 86 (1): 52–68. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00031283-1277510
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