This article locates variation in the social practice of a preadolescent cohort as it establishes an integrated status system in the move toward adolescence. Based in an emerging heterosexual market, the status system links gender with heterosexuality and power. It is argued that the emergence of the common female lead in sound change is located in this social moment, as the heterosexual market transforms gender relations, redefining gender around heterosexuality. Heterosexual speech must be studied as an accomplishment and in the context of the power relations within which sexual categories are constructed.

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