Date of Award

Fall 2020

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Tracey L. Weldon-Stewart


Gay African-American men hold membership in at least three groups – Gay, Black, and Male – that are grounded in ideologies and which provide linguistic resources that are complex and potentially conflicting. As such, these men exist at the cross-section of socio-cultural groups whose perspectives and presentations are often framed in opposition to one another. This dissertation seeks to explore the ways in which such complex identities are created through the use of language. Specifically, this project will investigate how a Gay Black man (GBM) constructs his complex identity over the course of several interviews/conversations in which topic and interlocutor shifts require shifts of orientation and alignment practices. By examining how a single speaker manipulates multiple varieties in this way, I seek to better understand the social meanings indexed by and linked to each variety in the speaker’s repertoire and ultimately understand why and how varieties are chosen and managed at the level of the individual speaker.

In this project, I will investigate how a single individual, who has full command of both African American Language (AAL) and Gay Male Speech (GMS), manipulates these varieties according to the effects of topic and addressee, and the extent to which such intraspeaker variation challenges and/or complicates circulating narratives about these varieties and about the nature of intraspeaker variation, more generally. The focus of this project will be an African-American male who identifies as gay and lives in the metropolitan Atlanta area. In addition to AAL and GMS, I will also consider the use (or lack thereof) of White women’s speech as described by Robin Lakoff (1975) and as it is associated in the speech of drag queens by Barrett (1999) by the subject in this study. This approach will allow me to observe the extent to which style shifting/switching is motivated by addressee and, more specifically, by the effects of race, gender, and sexual orientation, as they are perceived by these interlocutors.

Included in

Linguistics Commons