Introduction to Lavender Linguistics

The field of Lavender Linguistcs and categorizing languages as lavender languages is a rather young subfield of linguistics. The term lavender linguistics was first used in 1951 by Gershon Legman who studied the lexicon of gay men. In the 1990s William Leap, Professor for Anthropology at the University of America, pushed this field of research forward by including a broader range of cultural and gender studies. Lavender Linguistics belongs roughly to the field of sociolinguistics, as it encompasses the study of the language used in LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transsexual, Queer) Communities. Since the colour lavender is associated with these communities this association was taken to describe the use of language within the LGBTQ community. Whereas early research covered lexical properties only, modern lavender linguistics examines phonetic and phonological patterns of spoken language and usage of a community specific lexicon as well. An example for phonetic properties is the so called gay lisp or speaking with a higher pitched voice.

In my talk I will give an overview of the field of lavender linguistics in general and how gay language cannot be compared to female language. I will then put a focus on polari, a secret lexical code used (among others) by gays – nowadays it is also considered a lost language, since the need to hide behind speech has decreased. However, a specific lexical code is still associated with LGBTQ communities, at the end of my talk I will propose some reasons why this code is still needed.

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