What gay sounds like: The linguistics of LGBTQ communities

June 11, 2012

By Tricia Bobeda

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(Duncan/Flickr)

There are no language markers common to all homosexual or same-sex identified individuals. But just as ethnic communities have ways of using language that tie them together, so too do many in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) communities.

Many also find it beneficial to code switch - adapt the way they speak and the language they use - depending on their surroundings.

William Leap, an anthropology professor at American University in Washington, D.C., coined the term "Lavender Linguistics" to describe the study of language used by LGBTQ speakers.

He is one of the organizers of an annual Lavender Languages and Linguistics Conference on the subject of how sexuality and gender identity relate to language.

Host Richard Steele interviewed Leap last week about who decides what gay sounds like and why the words we use to identify ourselves and others are so important.