The truth behind the talk

// 31 July 2007

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Have you ever been told that you ‘sound gay?’ Or have you ever been in the company of a person who has been subject to the same observation? It’s likely that the vast majority of people have experienced this in one way, shape or form, and although we have been conditioned to distiguish the pronounciation, lilt and intonation that would warrant such a comment, it’s still difficult to understand why we think this is so.

It’s not suprising then that, according to a report by The Guardian, the academic world has endeavoured to determine if indeed there is a correlation between sexual orientation and speech development:

According to research at Northwestern University, for example:

“Differences in the acoustic characteristics of vowels were found as a function of sexual orientation. Lesbian and bisexual women produced less fronted /u/ and /[open aye]/ vowel sounds than heterosexual women. Gay men produced a more expanded vowel space than heterosexual men. However, the vowels of gay, lesbian, bisexual speakers were not generally shifted toward vowel patterns typical of the opposite sex.”

In some respects, however, what theses studies have shown is that the cultural stereotyping of the homosexual man speaking in a way that is considered to be feminine, and the lesbian sounding more masculine than her heterosexual counterparts apprently does hold water to an extent. These findings, however, are not applicable to every gay man or woman, and the research in itself demonstrates a that the homosexual is still unfairly considered an enigmatic being, the subject of research and investigation.

Photo by Phineas H, shared under a Creative Commons License

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