Elizabeth Peel and Sonja J. Ellis
An aging demographic in Western societies as well as globally has made public health issues, such as dementia, subject to hyperbolic metaphor such as “tsunami” and “time bomb.” This chapter reviews the state of knowledge regarding language, sexualities, aging, and chronic illness. In particular, the discussion focuses on discursive research from across the social sciences that furthers understandings of older people’s lives and experiences. The chapter highlights research that has focused on ageism and chronic conditions impacting older people (specifically, dementia and type 2 diabetes), including empirical research on these conditions, and on manifestations of heterosexism and heteronormativity in these contexts. Using illustrative examples that emphasize the intersection of discourse and issues that relate to aging, the chapter foregrounds this area as an important element of language and sexuality scholarship. Last, future directions for the development of research focusing on these topics are indicated.
Elizabeth Stokoe and Susan Speer
This chapter describes and illustrates a conversation analytic approach to language and sexuality. It begins by exploring contrasts between conversation analytic and other approaches to connecting language as a practice and sexuality as an identity topic. This discussion is set in a broader ethnomethodological context, drawing out key themes and debates that have emerged since the inception of ethnomethodological approaches to the study of gender and sexuality in the 1960s, including notions such as “doing” gender and sexuality and “passing.” The chapter then briefly reviews the controversial debates about the analytic tractability of identity topics, like sexuality and gender, in the conversation analytic tradition. After summarizing conversation analytic work on sexuality specifically, an illustration of what this approach offers to language and sexuality scholars is given, showing the methodological steps involved as well as the possibilities for applying findings in the real world beyond scholarly debate.
Paul Baker and Robbie Love
Corpus linguistics involves the use of computer software to aid the analysis of language data, in some cases up to billions of words of text. Techniques like frequency lists, keyword lists, collocates, and concordancing can be used to identify linguistic patterns that humans might otherwise overlook. This chapter demonstrates how corpus methods have been applied to research on language and sexuality, enabling both examination of language usage and representation of sexual identities and practices. This is followed by a case study that considers changing press discourses concerning a gay professional football player, Justin Fashanu. The study compares two corpora of newspaper articles, collected before and after Fashanu’s suicide in 1998. Analysis reveals the ways in which Fashanu was negatively represented as a result of his sexuality, from a criminal who allegedly “sodomized” a 17 year-old against his will to an emblematic victim of a prejudiced society.
Anthony K. Webster
This article argues for the continuing importance of ethnopoetics/cultural poetics in the work of linguists and anthropologists. A heuristic definition of ethnopoetics (or cultural poetics) is given as the various traditions of such recurrent patternings of linguistic forms (and the thwarting of such expectations of such patternings). The continuing relevance of a Hymesian-inspired anthropological philology is noted. After framing the discussion of poetry and poetics as both linguistic and ethnographic questions, this article engages questions of linguistic relativity and its relationship to poetics, as well as poetry and poetics as social practices. Examples of parallelism and metaphor are given and discussed both in relation to their poetic form and to their social work. A final extended illustration is given concerning Navajo poetry as an example of a cultural poetics informed by both linguistics and anthropology. It is argued that research on cultural poetics/ethnopoetics encourages patience and reflection.
Sex work has long been of interest to a variety of fields, among them anthropology, sociology, public health, and feminist theory, to name but a few. However, with very few exceptions, sociolinguistics seems to have ignored the fact that commercial sex, as an intersubjective business transaction, is primarily negotiated in embodied linguistic interaction. By reviewing publications in distinct social scientific areas that directly or indirectly discuss the role of language in the sex industry, this chapter critically assesses the analytical affordances and methodological challenges for a sociolinguistics of sex work. It does so by discussing the “tricks” played by sex work, as a power-infused context of language use in which issues of agency (or lack thereof) are paramount, on sociolinguistic theory and methods. The chapter concludes that the study of language in commercial sex venues is sociolinguistically promising and epistemologically timely.
This chapter highlights the role of the concept of normativity in language and sexuality studies. It is argued that normativity has played a central role in this field, even if as a largely undertheorized concept. The theoretical discussion of normativity is advanced by conceptualizing norms as discursive formations and by distinguishing prescriptive from descriptive norms as well as normative mechanisms on the social micro-level from those on the social macro-level. Central patterns that are involved in the discursive construction of various sexual normativity types are outlined, namely heteronormativity (i.e., the notion that a particular version of heterosexuality is natural or preferable), homonormativity (i.e., normative notions of how gay men and lesbian women are supposed to be), and other sexual normativities. The concluding section discusses potential agendas for language and sexuality scholars in terms of changes in sexual normativities.
This chapter discusses the relationship between language and sexual politics. It focuses on the ways language is used to police membership in different gendered and sexual groups, to construct self and others along gendered and sexual lines, and to negotiate belonging in different communities and institutions. The first half of the chapter summarizes prominent research in this area. Topics covered include struggles over labeling practices, discursive constructions of sexual authenticities, and the role of language and sexuality in the creation and reproduction of national ideologies. The second half turns to a detailed case study of language and sexual politics among lesbians in Israel. The chapter describes how the women in question use particular linguistic practices to construct distinct sexual selves, and, in the process, challenge prevailing Israeli sexual norms. The discussion also highlights future directions for language and sexuality research, focusing on the importance of an adequate theory of power.
While previous applied sociolinguistic scholarship has addressed language in a variety of medical and disability-related settings, and while there is now a growing body of research on concerns relating to language and sexuality, discussions about language, disability, and sexuality remain underinvestigated. Focusing on breast cancer, an ailment that affects a sexualized body part, this chapter discusses how patient and caregiver narratives (pathographies) around the condition have crucial implications for concerns about sexuality. In particular, the chapter addresses two metaprescriptive utterances (Lyotard 1984) related to the condition—amputation and prosthesis—with a view to showing how these medicalized terms are singularities that have the power to erase individual voices struggling with the disability of a sexualized body part. This chapter offers an exploration of these concerns to nuance current debates about identity shifts in the contexts of disability and sexuality, while also ushering in concerns about (dis)citizenship.
This chapter considers the relevance of cultural discourses to speakers’ indexing of recognizable “lesbian” identities. It begins with a discussion of the ideological discourses that lesbian women have been found to draw upon in their interactions, explaining key aspects of lesbian culture and experience. It then provides a survey of linguistic research into lesbian discourse, offering an account of the mostly Western studies conducted to date. A critical discussion of the prevalence of “butch” and “femme” identities is provided, with the inclusion of data from the author’s ethnographic fieldwork with a lesbian community of practice. The chapter demonstrates that these normative notions carry symbolic value in the construction of some lesbian identities, but also argues—through an account of studies looking at same-sex-identified women who identify with categories other than lesbian—for research that looks beyond the white, middle-class, Western women who so far dominate work in this area.
Rituals, symbols, art forms, and narratives devoted to celebrating and reflecting upon the meanings of romantic love have existed throughout time and across cultural spaces. Deciphering those meanings concerns semiotics, the science of interpretation. This chapter deals with the meanings of love as they present themselves in diverse representational forms across the world in order to understand what they tell us about love as a universal emotional phenomenon. The practices, symbols, and cultural texts derived from the feelings evoked by romantic love suggest, clearly, that it is more than a reaction to sexual instincts and urges. This is perhaps why love-based traditions have brought about social revolutions and have had effects on how we have evolved psychologically and culturally. The actual biological source of love remains a mystery, but we can unravel its raison d’être somewhat by understanding why it is so meaningful for all of us.
Steven P. Black
This chapter provides an overview of research on language and sexual stigma. Sexual stigma is defined as the sociolinguistic and psychological process by which a person or group’s physiological characteristics, cultural and linguistic practices, and/or identities become marked as polluted or taboo. The chapter suggests that sexual stigma tends to target those people or groups associated with practices felt to threaten ideologically normative social reproduction, which is encoded in conventions of linguistic markedness. Sexual stigma is linked to the fluid boundaries between grammatically encoded markedness and discursive indexicality as normative categories emerge in interpersonal encounters. The chapter addresses four key topics in the study of language and sexual stigma: sociolinguistic markedness; taboo and threats to ideologies of social reproduction; avoidance and indirection as strategies of linguistic containment of threats; and emergent sexualities.
This chapter offers a panorama of research on sexuality and translation, a promising field of research still underexamined. Two directions are identified: the translation of sexuality, and the sexualization of translation. The cooperation between disciplines has generated a number of discourses and phenomena—that is, erotic/pornographic literature; (self)censorship in translation; gay/queer translation; as well as the sexualization of translation. These promising lines of inquiry are briefly presented, and a few examples of analyses are added. Though much more work is needed, the critical alliance of translation and sexuality seems to be offering valuable insights into the ideological construction of a given society, particularly into the endless (re)writings of sexual identities, desires, and pleasures. Whether they will constitute a proper interdiscipline—in terms of a common focus or methodologies—remains to be seen.