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It is the last frontier, as it were, of inveterate, unreasonable, hatred. Bowen, C. This article, written in by Caroline Bowen is about code switching, gay speech styles, and speech characteristics including lisping. One of the most prominent search words for this site is 'lisp'.

Typical search questions include 'Why do gay people talk with a lisp? Fascinated by the sheer volume of such searches, and the interest people have in the connections between gay speech styles and lisping, I did a few searches on the topic myself. Although I found very little material written from a linguistics or communication sciences perspective, there were a few relevant s, such as the article herediscussion hereand some biting satire.

After three years of research, linguistics professors Henry Rogers and Ron Smyth may be on the verge of answering that question. They want to know how men acquire this manner of speaking, and why — especially when society so often stigmatizes those with gay-sounding voices. Rogers and Smyth are also exploring the stereotypes that gay men sound effeminate and are recognized by the way they speak.

They asked people to listen to recordings of 25 men, 17 of them gay. In 62 per cent of the cases the listeners identified the sexual orientation of the speakers correctly. Perhaps fewer than half of gay men sound gay, says Rogers. Her essay provides brief discussion of the stereotypical depiction of a gay man in the television sitcom Will and Grace.

He mainly dresses in pastels and is full of energy. Jack also uses terminology that many might consider to be characterized as 'gay'. This includes words and phrases such as 'That little tartlet! When explanations for lisping in gay men and the lisping gay stereotype are sought, a chicken and egg discussion often ensues. There are also interesting arguments in favour of a genetic explanation.

Whatever the reason, lisping in gay men certainly helps straight people with their gaydar! We are never told directly that the John Inman character is gay. Humphries, although very popular, was and is a controversial character, disliked by many: first of all, many people hated gays in general, and those who were accepting of homosexuals disapproved of the fact that Mr.

Humphries only served to further the stereotypes created by bigoted people.

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Then there were the umpteen wits who asked, 'Whose cruel idea was it for the word "lisp" to have an "s" in it? As well, there has been correspondence from academic researchers in the areas of communication sciences, linguistics and psychology, studying the relationship between human sexuality and speech development, speech patterns, semantics, pragmatics and communicative style or register. Let's look at what some of these terms mean. Using language that 'fits' a particular situation is integral to effective communication. Our words need to be right, our body language, demeanour and behaviour need to be appropriate, and the way we speak - our "register", or communicative style - should reflect our own status and the status of the person we are talking to.

The ability to achieve this balance has much to do with our grasp of the semantics and pragmatics of the language, or languages we speak, and the social situations we encounter. Most of us have an unerring sense of when and how to make what we say sound pleased, respectful, jocular, confidential, sympathetic, hurt, flippant, angry, sad, dissatisfied, mystified, affectionate, incredulous, amused, sceptical or romantic.

We know how to adjust the intensity of what we say to suit the communicative environment; to comment softly to our neighbour during a play avoiding the hostile "Shhh! The particular semantic and pragmatic adjustments we make are largely culturally and linguistically determined.

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Code switching is a term used in linguistics that relates to the adjustments people make to the way they speak when they are moving from one language or language style to another. Sometimes the term "code" is used, and sometimes "register" or "speech style". People who speak more than one language fluently become extremely proficient in code switching or 'language alternation' - that amazing ability bilingual or multilingual people have to flip from one language to another, adjusting much more than simply the words they utter.

Code switching can include 'code mixing' - saying part of an utterance in one language, register or style, and part in another, or combining the grammatical conventions of one language or style with the words of another. For example, Australian aboriginal children may switch between "talking flash" using Standard Australian English and "talking language" speaking an Aboriginal language or creole and speaking Aboriginal English, often mixing the four registers. Code mixing is often a vehicle for humour, as in situations when a 'posh' character utters an uncouth, out of character expression in a 'posh voice', or vice versa.

They have what many people regard as a 'characteristic' lisp. This may involve:. But there is more to 'sounding gay' than simply talking with a lisp. The language that may be used e. The characteristics of gay speech and associated behaviour may include some or all of the following. Many gay men are effectively bilingual, and can elect whether to sound gay or straight, depending where they are or who they are with.

Just as an African-American individual may switch from Ebonics to standard English, or the other way around, gay people can switch from 'straight' to 'gay'. This is an example of code-switching see above. Some gay men code-mix, sounding 'a little bit gay' possibly sending an ambiguous message sometimes, and 'very gay', if I can use that expression usually sending an unambiguous messageat others. There are a of theories and suggestions as to why this code switching occurs, including:.

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Some gay men report code switching to gay production only when they are in the company of other gay men. Indeed, some say that their parents, employers and workmates, for example, have never heard them 'talk gay'. The question of the age at which gay individuals who code switch from straight to gay and gay to straight start to do so remains unanswered in the peer reviewed literature.

The Gay Speech Web Survey, one of the first web based projects of its kind, explored code switching.

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We do know that code switching in general starts very young. Little children will adapt their communicative style, or 'code switch' when they talk to babies or to children whom they perceive to be 'younger'. They learn at a very young age how to sound like a parent as they tuck a baby doll into bed.

Even three year olds will talk in a more 'grown up' way to their peers than they do when they talk to younger children and babies. Typically developing children will code switch and 'talk down' to children that they perceive to be developmentally delayed. The also talk in a special way to pets, and code switch constantly when they provide voices for the characters in their imaginary games. Prior to four and a half at least lisping is age appropriate.

By four and a half most lisps disappear spontaneously as a natural consequence of development. The question, 'do little boys who lisp, who grow up to be gay, seem gay, when they are little? They ask whether there any give-away s in the behaviour of boys who lisp that might lead the SLPs treating them to think that they might grow up to identify as gay? Do you believe that there is a higher rate of femininity than among other boys? My research has shown that there is a recognizable form of gay speech.

Anecdotally, several gay friends told me that they were in speech therapy for lisping as children. His letter touches on a of key issues, explored here from the point of view of a linguistics researcher, speech-language pathologist, and communication specialist who is in no way expert in the academic areas concerned with human sexuality and sexual orientation.

Reports of gay men being treated for childhood lisping might be explained in statistical terms. There is a very high prevalence of speech and language disorders. Ten percent of children entering the first grade in the United States have moderate to severe speech disorders, including speech sound disorders and stuttering. They were all boys like me who kept movie star scrapbooks and made their own curtains. Described by New York Magazine as playwright, author, radio star, and retired elf, Sedaris writes about the fifth-grade experience of homosexual boys forced to conceal their sexuality at school.

At the beginning of the school year, while we were congratulating ourselves on successfully passing for normal, Agent Samson [the speech therapist] was taking names as our assembled teachers raised their hands, saying, "I've got one in my homeroom," and "There are two in my fourth-period math class. Did they hope that by eliminating our lisps, they might set us on a different path, or were they trying to prepare us for future stage and choral careers?

Sedaris' experience of speech therapy for a lisp is from the perspective of a ten or eleven year old boy already aware of his preference for same sex partners. I come to the topic from quite a different perspective. My direct clinical experience of assessing and treating children who lisp is almost exclusively with four-and-a-half to six year olds. The question, Do you believe that there I need car head now or u host m4m a higher rate of femininity than among other boys? There was not a higher rate of femininity among the boys who lisped than among other boys.

However, among both the boys and the girls, there was quite a high incidence of 'babyishness' and 'immaturity', with many of the the children behaving 'young' for their ages. Some charmed their 'audiences' with cute 'baby ways', and some infuriated or worryied their parents with behaviour ranging from refusing to give up their pacifiers, 'unreasonable' separation anxiety, and continuing to have two-year-old tantrums, to thumb sucking, baby-talking on purpose and drinking from baby bottles.

As part of these various pattern of immaturity both boys and girls tended to be very clingy with their mothers and fathers. A ificant proportion of boys and girls between 4;6 and 6;0 who lisp have first degree family members who also lisp: mothers, fathers, and siblings. Treating boys older than 6 who lisp is something I have done very rarely. How would they answer the question:. Do you believe that there is a higher rate of femininity [among boys who are in therapy for lisping] than among other boys? The question suggests that there is a higher rate of femininity among boys who identify, or who later identify, as gay than there is among other boys.

Personally, I have been around so many lisping males of all ages including fathers and sons for so long that I find it very difficult to think of it as a feminine characteristic. Many families and clients stayed in touch with me long after discharge from therapy. Consequently, I know a of young men who saw me regarding their lisps when they were children, who now identify as gay. In every case their lisps were successfully treated. In NONE of these cases was there anything to cause me to think of these young boys as being 'potentially gay'.

The code switchers' behaviour warrants a brief comment. Contrary to what might be expected, they 'talk gay' very easily in my company. I find this interesting as one might expect them to try hard NOT to lisp in the sense that they know I am interested in speech and that I am probably attending to the MANNER of their speech as well as the matter, and in the I need car head now or u host m4m that they might be sensitive to the idea that I might be disappointed that their lisps had 'regressed' given our shared history.

But thankfully, no, they don't go overboard trying to talk 'straight' for their old SLP. They are are comfortable being themselves. Crist, S. Penn Working Papers in Linguistics.

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