Current Institutional Affiliation
Senior Lecturer in Linguistics, School of Languages, Linguistics and Film, Queen Mary College, University of London

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2005
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Linguistics, New York University (NYU)
Language, Ideology and Gay Identity in Israel

The project I propose here is a sociolinguistic and ethnographic inquiry into how Israeli gay men perform their social identities, and how language is used to negotiate a social space for this emerging category in Israeli society. I focus on prosodic characteristics, such as pitch, intonation and voice quality, and examine how these features are used by Israeli men to portray a gay identity. In this research, I am attempting to unite two traditions within sociolinguistics, namely research on performance and research on perception, by investigating the extent to which Israeli gay men's perceptions of certain speech styles affect their own performances. To do so, my research plan adopts methodologies from sociolinguistics, anthropology and social psychology. First, a detailed ethnography of approximately fifty gay men is undertaken. These men are observed and recorded, alone and in groups, in a variety of situations, generating a diverse corpus of their naturally occurring speech. This corpus is then quantitatively analyzed to determine how these men are using salient linguistic features to present gay identities. Following this observation and recording, the subjects take part in subjective salience tests, which are designed to gage their ideological, or attitudinal, reactions to those very same linguistic features that the subjects themselves were shown to utilize. Correlation analyses are then conducted between the results of the subjective salience tests and the results of the analysis of the performance data. This step links the examination of performance and perception, and allows me to ascertain how the two may be working together and/or in conflict in the formation of a gay Israeli identity. Examining this relationship stands to benefit sociolinguists, anthropologists and others by providing a model for understanding the social and ideological motivations that underlie sociolinguistic practice.