Judgments of self-identified gay and heterosexual male speakers: Which phonemes are most salient in determining sexual orientation?

Erik C. Tracy, Sierra A. Bainter, Nicholas P. Satariano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Scopus citations

Abstract

While numerous studies have demonstrated that a male speaker's sexual orientation can be identified from relatively long passages of speech, few studies have evaluated whether listeners can determine sexual orientation when presented with word-length stimuli. If listeners are able to distinguish between self-identified gay and heterosexual male speakers of American English, it is unclear whether they form their judgments based on a phoneme, such as a vowel or consonant, or multiple phonemes, such as a vowel and a consonant. In this study, we first found that listeners can distinguish between self-identified gay and heterosexual speakers of American English upon hearing word-length stimuli. We extended these results in a separate experiment to demonstrate that listeners primarily rely on vowels, and to some extent consonants, when forming their judgments. Listeners were able to differentiate between the two groups of speakers for each of the vowels and three of the seven consonants presented. In a follow-up experiment we found evidence that listeners' judgments improved if they were presented with multiple phonemes, such as a vowel and /s/. These results provide important information about how different phonemes can provide discriminant information about a male speaker's sexual orientation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-25
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Phonetics
Volume52
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Gay and heterosexual male speech
  • Indexical characteristics
  • Sexual orientation
  • Sociophonetics
  • Vowels and consonants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing

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