Japanese Lesbian Speech: Sexuality, Gender Identity, and Language
Committee ChairJones, Kimberly
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation examines the relationship between gender and language in Japanese through the often ignored lens of sexuality. Although linguists are increasingly examining these issues for American gay, lesbian, and bisexual speakers, little similar research has been done in Japan. Lesbians, in particular, are relatively invisible in Japanese society. Examining these women, who do not fit neatly into the hegemonic gender ideology, illuminates how speakers can project a specific identity by displaying or rejecting prescriptive gender-specific linguistic norms of Japanese.I analyzed data recorded from interviews with both Japanese lesbian/bisexual and heterosexual women, looking for differences in frequency and range of use of pronouns and sentence-final particles and for phonetic differences in terms of average pitch height and width. I also considered the results of a perception experiment undertaken to investigate the effect of pitch height and width on Japanese speakers' perceptions of sexuality.Although Japanese speakers were generally unable to identify a cohesive lesbian stereotype, especially in terms of language use, the perception experiment indicated that both average pitch height and width significantly affect judgments on whether a voice sounds lesbian or heterosexual. Tokens judged to be lesbian were also judged to be more masculine and less emotional than those judged to be heterosexual. Analysis of the interview data showed that lesbian participants produced an average pitch height that was significantly lower than that of heterosexual participants. In terms of gendered morphemes, lesbians were significantly more likely to use masculine morphemes than heterosexual women, both for sentence-final particles and first-person pronouns, and were significantly less likely to use the feminine first-person pronoun atashi. Finally, correlations showed that speakers who instantiate gender through the use of gendered-morphemes also do so through manipulations of pitch.Although Japanese lesbians are still fairly closeted and interviewees maintained that there are no cultural stereotypes for this group, significant differences in pitch and gendered-morpheme usage were still apparent. These lesbian/bisexual women did not appear to be mimicking men's language, but instead seemed to be rejecting hegemonic femininity and many of the cultural and linguistic stereotypes that accompany it.
Degree ProgramEast Asian Studies