Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Fall 2020

Project Type

Senior Honors Thesis

College or School




Program or Major


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

First Advisor

Rachel Steindel Burdin


The study of gay male speech has largely focused on fundamental frequency and various quantifiable aspects of /s/ (Campbell-Kibler 2012, Mack and Munson 2012, Munson 2007, Zimman 2013). In a study of the speech of three gay men from California, however, Podesva (2011) concludes that gay men may utilize salient aspects of regional dialects to express their gayness. The stylistic correlation between gayness and certain regional dialects supports Eckert’s (2008) argument that linguistic styles are centered around ideologies, rather than rigid categorical identities and Podesva (2011) urges that this phenomenon be studied further. Southern New Hampshire provides an ideal landscape to further this study, as the region and its dialect have undergone significant linguistic and ideological changes in recent decades (Stanford et al 2012, Nagy 2001). The current work examines the linguistic relationship between gayness and Southern New Hampshire ideologies in the speech of two 22-year-old gay men who grew up in Rockingham County, New Hampshire. I then quantitatively analyzed the speakers’ use and/or avoidance of phonetic variables (including various vowels and qualities of /s/) that have been shown to be perceptually and/or productively salient in gay male speech or regional dialectology in Southern New Hampshire. The analysis found two significant findings. The first was that the speakers’ /s/ was significantly “gayer sounding” in the reading task than the interview and when talking about being gay than not, showing an ideological link (at least for these speakers) between “gay sounding” speech and “proper” speech in the reading tasks. The second was that both speakers demonstrated a significantly unmerged LOT/THOUGHT, which is a salient feature of the New York City dialect and supersedes Southern New Hampshire dialect norms. Both demonstrate that social identity is a complex and multi-layered phenomenon.