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Thread: Speech inflections/patterns (of various subcultures)

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Speech inflections/patterns (of various subcultures)

    So what's up with that whole lisp thing you hear some gay males do? It seems to be a way to draw attention to the fact one is gay? If so, doesn't that kinda shoot holes in the whole idea of 'gaydar' existing? (otherwise why would it be necessary?)

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    Last edited by Maister; 15 Apr 2011 at 5:03 PM.

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    So what's up with that whole lisp thing you hear some gay males do? It seems to be a way to draw attention to the fact one is gay? If so, doesn't that kinda shoot holes in the whole idea of 'gaydar' existing? (otherwise why would it be necessary?)
    It's not really a lisp, which is a speech defect, but an inflection. My theory is that its just one way to identify that they're part of a larger community.

    I've met several heterosexual men who speak with the inflection, but all were quite involved in stage acting and live theater. One of my good friends majored in theater in college. He went in without the inflection. After he graduated, his voice was fah-laming, despite being solidly hetero; he was in an LTR with a woman, and eventually got married. No, not in Massachusetts.

    Discussed less often is the lesbian inflection, which I hear a lot in this GLBT-friendly town. It sounds dry, for lack of a better word, with a slight lilt towards the end of sentences. Not a monotone, but not as much variation in tone as for a peer heterosexual woman.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Discussed less often is the lesbian inflection, which I hear a lot in this GLBT-friendly small town. It sounds dry, for lack of a better word, with a slight lilt towards the end of sentences. Not a monotone, but not as much variation in tone as for a peer heterosexual woman.
    I guess I've never heard it - or at least not enough to recognize the pattern. And I tend to think I'm more observant than most. Are you sure?

    Where's TS when you need her?

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    Cyburbian Plus dandy_warhol's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Where's TS when you need her?
    Perhaps avoiding posts that stereotype?






    *adjusts cranky button*

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by dandy_warhol View post
    Perhaps avoiding posts that stereotype?






    *adjusts cranky button*
    This has nothing to do with stereotyping. It has to do with observing human behavior. Who else around here than TS would be more knowlegeable about this sort of thing, I ask?


    *dials up own cranky button*

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    Cyburbian Plus dandy_warhol's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    This has nothing to do with stereotyping. It has to do with observing human behavior. Who else around here than TS would be more knowlegeable about this sort of thing, I ask?


    *dials up own cranky button*
    IMO, I think it is a fine line when people start attributing certain behaviors to groups. "Homosexual males sound like this, lesbians sound like that, Jewish people do this, Mexicans do that."


    *adjusts PC dial*

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    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    I guess I've never heard it - or at least not enough to recognize the pattern. And I tend to think I'm more observant than most. Are you sure?

    Where's TS when you need her?
    In Seattle, I'm stalking her.

    But actually I sort of agree with Dan. Sure not every gay male or woman has those speech inflections, but I have noticed it from some of my lesbian friends. Its more subtle than the gay male inflection and of course completely different, but it happens. I have always wondered why the speech thingies.
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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by imaplanner View post
    In Seattle, I'm stalking her.

    But actually I sort of agree with Dan. Sure not every gay male or woman has those speech inflections, but I have noticed it from some of my lesbian friends. Its more subtle than the gay male inflection and of course completely different, but it happens. I have always wondered why the speech thingies.
    I suspect Dan is correct when he suggested the speech pattern is adopted to create identity with a subculture.

    I'll wager most of us have encountered the gay male speech (of course not all gay males speak that way - it's a learned behavior) pattern many times, but I confess I've never heard of any lesbian speech patterns. Not saying it doesn't exist, just that I've never heard it. I wouldn't find it a bit surprising, though, to hear that one exists - after all, lots of subcultures have their own speech patterns.

    Quote Originally posted by dandy_warhol
    I think it is a fine line when people start attributing certain behaviors to groups
    I think it's important we walk that fine line at times in order to better understand things.

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    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    Any speech patterns people displayed around me growing up were seriously diluted by our intense Chi-caaaaaaaa-go accents.
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

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    Cyburbian Planit's avatar
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    If you want some speech inflections, I can take you to a couple rural areas around here where I can't even understand what language they are attemping to speak. When they ask a question, my response is usually a blank stare.
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    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by dandy_warhol View post
    IMO, I think it is a fine line when people start attributing certain behaviors to groups. "Homosexual males sound like this, lesbians sound like that, Jewish people do this, Mexicans do that."


    *adjusts PC dial*
    I think they were observing that some gay males sound like this, some lesbians sound like this. I don't think they were meaning to imply that everyone in those groups sounded the same way. I have two gay friends and they don't really have the inflection. But then again, they don't hang out in the theater community and in the gay community. They spend a lot of time in the "Republican community" and hanging out with their straight friends like myself.

    So, I think Dan brings up an interesting observation. That's not to say that all people involved in the theater community or gay community will have an inflection, but I think a fair percentage might. I think it's good to observe, wonder, and ask questions.
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    Cyburbian Plus dandy_warhol's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by illinoisplanner View post
    I think it's good to observe, wonder, and ask questions.
    I agree. I also think it is good to consider how members of those groups might feel about being observed, wondered about, and generalized.

    Co-cultural groups have verbal signifiers. IMO, it has potential to be viewed as un-PC when you identify it in a historically marginalized group.


    *hops off pc-soapbox*

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    I'll wager most of us have encountered the gay male speech (of course not all gay males speak that way - it's a learned behavior) pattern many times, but I confess I've never heard of any lesbian speech patterns. Not saying it doesn't exist, just that I've never heard it. I wouldn't find it a bit surprising, though, to hear that one exists - after all, lots of subcultures have their own speech patterns.
    Even, as I bought up in the past, certain professions. Witness many airline pilots, police officers, truck drivers, and therapists, at least in the United States.

    Anyhow, on one message board I belong to, whenever topics like this are discussed, there's always a very vocal crowd that will label the observers of certain patterns in a culture as bigoted or racist. Others will inevitably chime in with a contrary observation; e.g. none of their female friends hover over the toilet seat in public restrooms. However, all cultures and are not the same. That's what makes them cultures. They'll have traits that may be unique or prominent among the group to a greater extent than among other groups. To deny that is just as extreme and closed-minded, in my opinion, as unyielding belief in the most unfounded and ridiculous stereotypes.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    Anecdotally (which doesn't mean much, I suppose) I have several gay friends and a couple lesbian friends. Only one of my gay friends has a VERY slight lisp in his speech that's hard to notice unless you are listening very closely but none of the rest speak any differently than myself or any of my straight friends. Even my most "stereotypically" gay friend who lives in SF and sings in a gay men's choir has no accent or stereotypical gay speech pattern.
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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Even, as I bought up in the past, certain professions. Witness many airline pilots, police officers, truck drivers, and therapists, at least in the United States.

    Anyhow, on one message board I belong to, whenever topics like this are discussed, there's always a very vocal crowd that will label the observers of certain patterns in a culture as bigoted or racist. Others will inevitably chime in with a contrary observation; e.g. none of their female friends hover over the toilet seat in public restrooms. However, all cultures and are not the same. That's what makes them cultures. They'll have traits that may be unique or prominent among the group to a greater extent than among other groups. To deny that is just as extreme and closed-minded, in my opinion, as unyielding belief in the most unfounded and ridiculous stereotypes.
    Having a background in anthropology, my threshold for being willing to comment on pattern recognition where human behavior is concerned, is probably lower than the norm. It has gotten me into trouble before.

    I was serious about wanting Terra Sapient's (or any other openly gay person for that matter) input on this phenomenon.

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    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by dandy_warhol View post
    I agree. I also think it is good to consider how members of those groups might feel about being observed, wondered about, and generalized.
    Well, short of conducting a survey of how people might feel, I'd wager to say the responses would range from some people being absolutely cool with it to feeling deeply offended.

    Co-cultural groups have verbal signifiers. IMO, it has potential to be viewed as un-PC when you identify it in a historically marginalized group.

    *hops off pc-soapbox*
    I know a little bit about sociology, but I'm not an expert at it. And so fully understanding these things such as voice patterns within and among different social groups does not begin until one starts observing and asking questions. Anything can be labeled as un-PC and offensive, but IMO, in order to better human knowledge and understanding, it is better to not come to those hasty conclusions right away.
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    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Having a background in anthropology, my threshold for being willing to comment on pattern recognition where human behavior is concerned, is probably lower than the norm. It has gotten me into trouble before.

    I was serious about wanting Terra Sapient's (or any other openly gay person for that matter) input on this phenomenon.
    I also have a background in anthropology. My wife's background is in linguistics. Sometimes we have some great dicussions along these lines, but we haven't hit on this one yet. I will have to engage in this.
    Children in the back seat can cause accidents - and vice versa.

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    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Has anyone noticed how neoconservatives talk? I would like to see an anthropologist look at that subculture.

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    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mike gurnee View post
    Has anyone noticed how neoconservatives talk? I would like to see an anthropologist look at that subculture.
    Well, I do have to say you'd probably have a lot easier time studying that, since it isn't considered "un-PC" to analyze neoconservatives.
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    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mike gurnee View post
    Has anyone noticed how neoconservatives talk? I would like to see an anthropologist look at that subculture.
    I haven't but I am intrigued.
    Children in the back seat can cause accidents - and vice versa.

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    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    To begin with an observation, I do notice that many neoconservatives talk with somewhat of a drawl and can be quite bombastic and enthusiastic, especially when trying to make a point. I've also noticed a trend among some neoliberals having a crisp, sophisticated tone to their voice. A little bit more monotone. Sometimes even soothing...think NPR.
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    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by illinoisplanner View post
    To begin with an observation, I do notice that many neoconservatives talk with somewhat of a drawl and can be quite bombastic and enthusiastic, especially when trying to make a point. I've also noticed a trend among some neoliberals having a crisp, sophisticated tone to their voice. A little bit more monotone. Sometimes even soothing...think NPR.
    interesting analysis. I will have to pay more attention
    Children in the back seat can cause accidents - and vice versa.

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    I don't think conservatives and liberals have different inflections because of their political orientations, but rather due to an upbringing, education, interests or career that might have some correlation with political orientation.

    * There are more political conservatives in the Southern US. Therefore, a larger percentage of conservatives will have Southern accents compared to liberals. That doesn't mean being conservative will give you a Southern accent.

    * There is (I think) a disproportionately larger percentage of those working in the social services professions that are liberal than conservative. Therefore, a disproportionately large number of people with the counselor/sensitive new age inflection will be liberal. That doesn't mean being liberal will give you a hippy dippy accent.

    Tuning through the radio dial, I can always peg a Christian station even if the announcers aren't using a Southern accent and talking about Jesus at the time. The on-air staff just have a certain sound about them.
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    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Tuning through the radio dial, I can always peg a Christian station even if the announcers aren't using a Southern accent and talking about Jesus at the time. The on-air staff just have a certain sound about them.
    I agree and I think it has more to do with the style of oration - the cadence, the use of dramatic pauses, etc. - than with pronunciation, accent or inflection. I have heard people preaching evangelical-style in other languages and its still pretty obvious they are talking about the Big Guy and his Son. I think Glenn Beck uses a bit of this oratory style as well, which may be part of why he resonates with certain viewers - his "revelations" sound a lot like Revelations....

    I have noticed another oratory style peculiar to AM talk radio. So many of them have a Paul Harvey quality to their speech.

    I have a great fascination with regional accents in the US. In all the different places I have lived, there has been at least one distinct accent unique to the area along with great local phraseology. I love it! - New Mexico, Philadelphia, Santa Cruz (CA), Austin. And yet its all American English.
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    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    I have to admit that I am pretty bad at picking up accents (I've been told I really don't have too much of a discernable accent myself, but maybe I just haven't met enough people outside my bubble!)

    When I first moved to KC, I was expecting to hear a lot of southern style accents. I've noticed now, that despite there being a bit of a twang to the way people speak here, there really isn't that much of a difference (I'm comparing this to accents I know from Illinois, Chicago mostly). I think I actually noticed accents that sounded what I would consider "Southern" in parts of central Illinois far more than I do here. So, to me this means there is a very complex pattern taking place in the way accents develop. Regionalizing people was always the way I originally looked at it, but there's clearly a lot more going on, making much more difficult to clearly describe.

    I used to have a roomate who was a linguistics major. I lot of the things he studied went over my head because he was focused on arabic, but interesting material nonetheless.
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

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