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Language and Identity in an LGBT Community of Practice

Santiago, Marina Jean (2011)
Honors Thesis (61 pages)
Committee Chair / Thesis Adviser: Tamasi, Susan L
Committee Members: Pak, Marjorie ; Freeman, Carla
Research Fields: Language, Linguisitcs
Keywords: linguistics; sociolinguistics; queer; community of practice
Program: College Honors Program, Linguistics
Permanent url:


This study examines how members of a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) student community use terms of self-identification to describe their gender identity and sexuality. In this study I propose that the students form a social circle that utilizes specific linguistic practices to reflect their group and individual identities. These practices include linguistic awareness, avoidance, and the use of several distinct but mutually intelligible definitions of the word queer. The semantic value of queer depends on the social context of the utterance as well as the speaker's position within the community. In order to test my hypothesis, I conducted ethnographic work and semi-structured interviews. Through these observations and interviews, I gathered data on the way in which members of LGBT student groups linguisticaly perform their identities.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Introduction/Literature Review______________________________________________1
LGBT Language Research Background ______________________________________5
Language, Dominance, and the Normalization of Gay___________________________8
Community of Practice__________________________________________________10
Queer Ethnography_____________________________________________________ 12
Language and Identity___________________________________________________13
Phase One____________________________________________________________15
Phase Two___________________________________________________________18
Unspoken Identities____________________________________________________31
Normal Gay/Deviant Queer______________________________________________33
Conclusions and Limitations_______________________________________________36
Appendices ____________________________________________________________41
A. Glossary of Terms___________________________________________________43
B. Speaker Information/Demographics_____________________________________45
C. Transcripts_________________________________________________________46
D. Phase Two Results___________________________________________________48
E. Queer Reported Usage/Actual Usage____________________________________49


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