First Advisor

John Hellermann

Term of Graduation

Fall 2019

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages


Applied Linguistics




Electronic discussion groups, Discourse analysis, Gays, Speech, Sociolinguistics, Sexual minorities – Identification, Reddit (Firm)



Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 115 pages)


In the last decade, there have been a number of public discussions about "gay voice" and "sounding gay." These two phrases often serve as a shorthand for the belief that a listener can determine the sexuality of a speaker based on phonetic qualities found in a speaker's vocal output. However, these expressions are more accurately described as "catch-all" terms for speech that may contain features associated with non-gender conforming stances and personae. Notions about gender and sexuality could be intertwined in complicated ways in this language ideology. Investigating popular discussions of gay-sounding voices could provide information on what people are trying to convey when they use this phrase and the relationship between social categorization and language-based stereotypes.

This study examines discourses surrounding the phrases "gay voice" and "sound/sounds/sounded/sounding gay" (i.e. "sound gay") in conversations found on the popular U.S.-based online forum Reddit. A statistical technique known as topic modeling is used to identify salient topics from a corpus of text to meaningfully sample a subset of online discussions for discourse analysis. I perform this research to understand the ways in which discourses about gender and sexuality constitute what it means to sound gay. The study found that there are two main reasons that Reddit users discuss "sounding gay": (1) to gain insights about its origin and cross-linguistic occurrence, and (2) to discuss the sociosexual capital of having a "gay voice" and ways to change one's own voice to conform more closely with normative ideals. Conversations revolving around the first theme are found in subforums for a general audience, while dialogues about the second theme occur in LGBTQ+-related subforums (i.e. askgaybros, ftm). Discussions across both topics tend to rely on a gender inversion theory of non-normative sexualities, even as some users seek to denaturalize the idea that a person can have a "gay voice." These findings suggest that essentialist ideas about gender and sexuality inform what it means to "sound gay."


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