Queer Speech: Real or Not?

Samantha Dao, Audrey Harrison, Sonia Hauser, Elizabeth Rutkevich

Have you ever thought, “Wow. That person sounds so gay.”? Maybe it’s because of the way the person speaks –his/her pitch is higher/lower than a straight person’s, the pitch at the end of his/her sentence is higher than the rest, or they have a melodious/creaky voice. But is there actually a difference between the way queer and straight people speak or is it just a stereotype? Is language used as an identifier of sexuality?

We were interested in these questions, but specifically if there’s a difference between queer and straight women’s speech. Therefore, we did an experiment, in which we asked 20 women, 10 straight and 10 queer, to tell us about a time in which they almost died and analyzed their speech to determine if a difference exists.

Our hypothesis was that there would be no significant differences in the phonetics, or in the way sound in speech is produced, except that queer women would have a bit more roughness or creakiness in some parts of their casual speech. We also believed that queer women would speak at a lower pitch than straight women. However, after getting the results, we found that our hypothesis wasn’t entirely correct. Can you guess what part of our hypothesis was proven wrong?

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